John F. Kennedy photo

Toasts of the President and Prime Minister Ben Bella

October 15, 1962


I want to express our very warm welcome to the Prime Minister and the members of his government. I think that all of us in this country, whatever our political views may be, respect courage. We have in the Prime Minister a man who was imprisoned over 5 years for his country, the Foreign Minister who was imprisoned 3 or 4 years, the Commandant who helped lead the guerrilla forces in the Sahara region, and other members of his government. We have the greatest respect for them. As one who has been especially interested in what they have done, and especially sympathetic to their efforts, it gives me the highest personal pleasure to welcome them here to the White House. I don't suppose that anyone who lives through a very revolutionary period recognizes how extraordinary it is. Here within the last 15 years we have had over 50 countries become independent. I don't think that really in the last 2,000 years have we had such an extraordinary series of events take place, which we take for granted, but which 100 years from now will be regarded as being unprecedented.

We're very glad to have you, Mr. Prime Minister. I regret to tell you that George Washington--who led our revolution, was regarded as first in war and first in peace, and was universally beloved and served two terms as President--could not wait to get back to his farm in Virginia. So I think that in spite of the extraordinary life you've led, and those of your ministers, the real danger is just beginning.

Mr. Prime Minister, as one who has strongly believed that the best solution for a good many of the difficulties of the world is individual liberty and national independence, I must say that I have the greatest hopes for what is to happen in Algeria, the strongest interest, and the strongest commitment.

I think that Algeria has a chance to prove that all those who wanted to hold back the tide of history were wrong. So I hope that all of you will join in drinking with me to the people of Algeria, to the guests who are here, all of whom merit the warmest welcome from the people of this country, and especially to the Prime Minister who has borne heavy burdens and bears them now with distinction.

Note: The President proposed the toast at a luncheon in the State Dining Room at the White House. In his response (through an interpreter) Prime Minister Ben Bella expressed appreciation for the President's tribute to the courage of the Algerian people and of the members of the delegation. He pointed out, however, that political courage as well as physical courage was involved, and .that Atgeria's "solemn consecration to the international scene is something that we share with all who placed confidence in us. It is something to be shared with all of the politicians who assumed the courageous position and who forecast what would happen."

Mr. Ben Bella concluded his remarks by referring to the deeply human character of the experience through which Algeria was passing, and to the magnitude of the burden resting on the shoulders of the President of the United States. He expressed the hope that developments in both countries would "promote the cause of the great universal aim of mankind, mutual understanding, peace, welfare, and true brotherhood."

In the course of his remarks the President referred to Mohammed Khemisti, Foreign Minister of Algeria, and "Commandant" Ahmed Kaidi, a Member of the Algerian Parliament.

John F. Kennedy, Toasts of the President and Prime Minister Ben Bella Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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