Lyndon B. Johnson photo

Toasts of the President and Prime Minister Barrow of Barbados

September 11, 1968

Mr. Prime Minister, Mrs. Barrow, Secretary Rusk, Senator Mansfield, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen:

Mrs. Johnson and I are so pleased that the Barrows could come and bring this good Barbados weather to Washington for a delightful evening here.

The Prime Minister reminded us this morning that George Washington traveled to Barbados in 1751 and he was returning his visit. George Washington was so delighted by what he found in Barbados in 1751 that he wrote a journal about his visit.

I am not making any suggestions, Mr. Prime Minister, and I hope you don't have your pen and pencil with you, but that little book did great things for our two nations.

In fact, Mr. Prime Minister, we may say that the Father of our Country was really the father of your tourist trade. Barbados has become the favorite island under the sun for many Americans. They are called by beauty and tranquility. They go there to seek a rest with you, to refresh their spirits with the joys of nature, and perhaps to recover what they may have lost in the scramble of modern life in the United States.

Mr. Prime Minister, we are very grateful to you and your people for never failing us in our human needs, for always sending us home happier and wiser from even the briefest visit with you.

As I have told your lady this evening, I look forward with pleasurable anticipation to accepting the kind invitation you tendered us earlier today.

But this, my friends, is still only the Barbados of the travel folder. I should like to remind you all that there is still another Barbados.

There are other reasons for gratitude and friendship between our two countries.

There is the Barbados that our fathers turned to when they were framing our Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of our country.

Barbados had its own Declaration of Rights as early as the year 1651 and we Americans were very grateful and very proud then to have drawn upon it in our own documents.

There is the Barbados that sent a message across the seas in the first dark hours of World War II--"Go ahead Britain"--that message said, "Barbados is behind you."

It was a mighty big statement from a mighty little country. But in those days no one laughed. Great Britain was a very little island, too, then. The British people were cheered to know that Barbados stood with them in that trying period against the ugly head of aggression that had reared itself.

They cheered again when the message was followed by a man from Barbados who came to fight with them in the Royal Air Force. That man has been a great champion of freedom ever since. He is our very special guest this evening, the distinguished Prime Minister of Barbados.

There is the Barbados, too, that President John F. Kennedy must have had in mind when once he spoke of the role and the duties of small nations in the world in which we live.

President Kennedy said, "No nation, large or small, can be indifferent to the fate of others, near or far."

He recalled the testimony of history and went on to say, "All the world owes much to the little 'five feet high' nations. The greatest art of the world was the work of little nations. The most enduring literature of the world came from little nations. The heroic deeds that thrill humanity through generations were the deeds of little nations fighting for their freedom. And, oh, yes, the salvation of mankind came through a little nation."

I thought of those words last night, Mr. Prime Minister, when I went across the street to speak to some of my dear friends of the B'nai B'rith, who are the people and the friends of another little nation, Israel.

I also thought of you and your people, sir, because I am proud to know that you share my hopes in this Nation's purpose.

You share our urgent and genuine desire to work with every nation--every nation large or small--for just one thing: the peace and the security of human beings.

It is just as I said last night, we seek a world, we in America seek a world where neighbors are at each other's side and not at each other's throat.

We act in the belief that no nation, large or small, can or should turn its back on another nation that may be the victim or may be unfortunate enough to be assaulted by aggression.

We do not believe from all that we have learned through the years, at such painful cost, that there is ever any such thing, Mr. Prime Minister, as harmless aggression, anywhere or any time.

At all times, we Americans believe that the smallest and the most distant of nations, without ever thinking for a moment that we are the world's policeman--we still believe that all nations have a claim on American concern and American conscience.

Our concern as Americans throughout the years is a long and honored one. It is just as your visitor, George Washington, said, more than 2 centuries ago, "It is mankind's cause."

We are concerned only that mankind lives free and mankind lives without fear, governed only by the independent human spirit. And we want to help all mankind in that quest, although in helping them we are frequently misunderstood at home and abroad.

Barbados is helping us find the way. Your people, sir, have preserved the traditions of a parliamentary democracy and justice now for 3 centuries. Within a few days of winning independence, you, sir, declared your intention to work unsparingly for peace by joining the United Nations and doing your bit in that great forum.

You have become, in a very short time, a very valued member of the Organization of American States.

Next year the ties between our two nations will be strengthened again when we join as partners in one of the most ambitious studies ever undertaken of our air and our ocean environment.

Secretary Rusk tells me that the United States will assign at least eight research ships and a fleet of scientific aircraft numbering more than 20, that will have its survey headquarters where George Washington went to enjoy the sun.

Other nations are being invited to join in that daring and important project. We expect it to contribute greatly to the World Weather Watch program and to the world's knowledge of the waters and the atmosphere, especially of the Caribbean area.

Finally, sir, we have all heard the old saying, "Behind every great man stands a woman." I am sure you will excuse me if I point out that the lovely lady with the Prime Minister tonight, whose company I enjoy, is a native of our own great State, the State of New Jersey.

Mr. Prime Minister, we consider her to be one of America's most talented and most precious gifts to Barbados. We sent to your lovely country our first President and your First Lady.

Ladies and gentlemen, please join me in a toast to Her Majesty the Queen.

Note: The President proposed the toast at 10:11 p.m. at a dinner held in the Rose Garden at the White House. In his opening words he referred to Prime Minister Errol W. Barrow of Barbados, Mrs. Barrow, Secretary of State Dean Rusk, and Senator Mike Mansfield of Montana.

The Prime Minister responded as follows:

Mr. President. Mrs. Johnson, Your Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen:

I can imagine the feeling of some official of the United States Government more than a century ago when he was called upon to move the vote of thanks for the Gettysburg Address. I fear as great a sense of inadequacy on this occasion as the unknown, unsung citizen of the United States may have felt when he was called upon to speak after that other great President of the United States had spoken.

This sense of inadequacy could only be matched by one of the disciples, who was asked to deliver a homily after the Sermon on the Mount.

Without in any way entering into or descending into the political arena on the local scene, I am a disciple of President Lincoln. I am a disciple of Jefferson. I am a disciple of President Kennedy and I am an unrelenting disciple of Lyndon B. Johnson.

I have come to appreciate the President of the United States more since I have been, unfortunately, thrust into the position of being Chairman of the Cabinet of Barbados and leader of the government of my country, than when I was deputy leader of the opposition.

I have never had the good fortune to be a Senate majority leader, but since I have been leader of the Government of Barbados, I have collected a massive file marked "Suggestions on How To Run a Government." I am sure that President Johnson has a library full of suggestions on how to run a government.

I wish the President of the United States to know that although the country over whose destiny I have the good fortune and the misfortune at the same time--from my personal point of view--to preside, that I understand the problems of someone who is President of the greatest nation on earth and the greatest democratic force that exists in the universe today.

I entirely sympathize with him, especially now that he has decided to lay down the burdens of office. As a matter of fact, 6 months after I became Premier of Barbados, I nearly made a similar decision. I am not surprised that after 6 years he feels that he has had enough, because he has been engaged on the field of political battle for almost the whole of my life span and I am a novice yet in this field myself.

I should like to say that I appreciate, Mr. President, all of the kind things you have said about my country. I sat at a gathering just on Saturday evening which detained and postponed my visit to the United States by 24 hours. One of our largest business firms was celebrating its centennial. I said there were too many people who behaved as if every morning was the beginning of creation. What we need in the modern world is a sense of history.

Sir Winston Churchill, when he was delivering a lecture some years ago on the national heritage, said that "If you want to go forward, you have to be able to look back."

I wish to say here this evening that it should be the aim of every democratic society and every democratic government in this Western Hemisphere of ours to have as its motto that if you want the people to look back--and if you do not want them to look back in anger--you have to give them something to look forward to.

This paraphrase, however you may call it, of Sir Winston Churchill's remarks, you will excuse, I am sure. But the United States is a country which is in the throes of social and economic revolution. I think that if the Government of the United States is going to achieve the great ideals which President Lincoln so much desired to be consummated and did not succeed in seeing consummated in his lifetime, that this society will have to give all the people of all races, of all colors, and all religions something to look forward to and then they will be able to look back with pride.

This is what we are trying to do in our small community. This is what I am satisfied, from my examination, my continued interest in the developments of this country, that the President of the United States has been striving throughout his tenure of office to do. I hope that President Johnson will not be the last great President of the United States, and whoever is elected to this high office will carry on the great traditions which have been fostered and developed by his predecessors in office and so ably carried out and continued by him.

Mr. President, I should like to say again that we in Barbados appreciate the honor which you have bestowed not on me, but on our country, on our citizens, those who have stayed at home and those who have immigrated abroad.

I think I mentioned to you this morning, Mr. President, that we have more Barbadians living outside of Barbados than we have living inside of Barbados. So, although geographically we are a country with 106,000 acres--and I understand you have 475,000 acres of land which can be used for urban renewal--we cannot bring some of your land to Barbados, but we can send some of our Barbadians to your land.

I should like to express my appreciation for the liberalization of the policies for the Western Hemisphere countries, which liberalization has taken place within your regime.

No one can quantify or assess accurately what this has done to give hope to the teeming hundreds of thousands of people who are living in the developing countries.

Mr. President, Your Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, I should like to thank you all for doing us the honor of gracing us, the members of my delegation, with your presence here this evening. We look forward to the continued cooperation, and the continued good will of the people of this country.

I should like you all to stand in your places and join me in a toast to the health of the President of the United States of America.

Lyndon B. Johnson, Toasts of the President and Prime Minister Barrow of Barbados Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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