Lyndon B. Johnson photo

Toasts of the President and Prime Minister Holt.

June 29, 1966

Mr. Prime Minister, Mr. Vice President, gentlemen:

It has been said that a poem is like a picture--worth a thousand words of prose. So today I want to welcome you, Mr. Prime Minister, with just a few lines from a grand poem. It begins like this:

"I love a sunburnt country,

A land of sweeping plains;

Of ragged mountain ranges;

Of droughts and flooding rains.

"I love her far horizons,

I love her jeweled sea,

Her beauty and her terror,

The wide brown land for me."

The poem ends:

"Though earth holds many splendors,

Wherever I may die,

I know to that brown country

My homing thoughts will fly."

Any American who read those words would think of our own broad land, the United States. No man from Texas could help think of the sunburnt country, the wide, brown land that we call home.

An Australian, Mr. Prime Minister, what would he think of? Surely of his own homeland. For these words were written by an Australian about Australia. But it speaks from the heart to Americans also about America.

Our countries could hardly be farther apart physically, yet we could hardly be closer in spirit, in tradition, in outlook, in friendship. As our able Ambassador, Edward Clark, has said, we are natural partners. We are, both of us, an immigrant people, men and women who crossed wide oceans to form a new world.

We found rugged and largely empty continents. But we poured ourselves into the land. We emerged as great nations.

Our nature is to work hard and to build high. Our nature is to prize the individual as our foremost national treasure. Both of us believe in government as the servant of the people. Ours is a heritage of human rights and of responsibility. Our highest hope is peace in the world.

But when duty summons us, we are there. We have become accustomed, when duty calls, to be there together--as we were in North Africa together, in New Guinea together, at Cebu Island, in Korea, and as we stand today shoulder to shoulder in Vietnam.

Every American is grateful for the truth that so many men of peace have spoken: When a fight comes looking for you, it is good to have Australians standing and fighting by your side.

So today in your capital of Canberra, our ministers are meeting as partners in SEATO. Tomorrow they will be meeting as partners in the ANZUS Treaty. In these, as in most other enterprises that occupy us, we are closely working together. So, pray God, shall it always be.

Mr. Prime Minister, it gives us a great deal of pleasure and happiness to welcome you back to the United States. It is a pleasure to have you come here in the first house of the land to meet with some of our most distinguished leaders in Government, business, and agriculture as the leader of the Australian people and the Australian Government, as a staunch partner in the common cause of peace with justice, and always as our very good, warm, and cherished friend.

We ask you to remember us to one of the great friends of the United States, one of the world's leading statesmen, your predecessor, Prime Minister Menzies. He has thrilled us in this room on many occasions with his eloquence.

A very wise man once said, "A faithful friend is the medicine of life." So, Mr. Prime Minister, we fear no illness.

Gentlemen, I should like for you, my friends, to join me in a toast to the distinguished Prime Minister of the Commonwealth of Australia--Mr. Holt.

Note: The President spoke at 2:18 p.m. in the State Dining Room at the White House. In his opening words he referred to Prime Minister Harold E. Holt of Australia and Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey. Later he referred to Edward Clark, U.S. Ambassador to Australia.
Prime Minister Holt responded as follows:

Mr. President and your many distinguished guests:

This is a memorable moment that no man who is not completely insensitive to human affairs could either forget or erase as a recollection moving to himself, and an occasion which will be received with pride by my own country.
This company around us contains people whose names are international words, words of distinction, meaningful names contributing to the American democracy which, in these difficult times, has been called upon to give leadership to the free people throughout the world.

It is a difficult world. There are many complex and difficult situations. In the democratic society which we share as inheritors of a great democratic tradition, it is good that people should express themselves articulately. But finally there is a point of responsibility in which experience, judgment, and, we hope, wisdom can come together to accept the responsibility of leadership which a democratic people have entrusted to the head of the nation.

You, sir, carry that responsibility in this, the greatest power, economic and military power, that the world has ever known. I carry it in respect of a small community of people, but occupying an area of land about the same as the United States of America--if we leave Alaska out of the picture. I don't know why we should leave Alaska out of the picture, but it spoils my illustration if I can't. But at least there is still a lot of country left to the two of us.

I want to say a word or two about that, if I may. Before doing so, Mr. President, I have mentioned that I have looked around this room and have seen many friends and many notabilities. One of the closest friends is seated at your table.

You did great service to Australia when you selected Ed Clark to be your representative. He has endeared himself to all with whom he has come in contact there. I felt that I should start paying the Department of State a monthly amount for the meals that I have been consuming there. At one stage they were so frequent I suggested he might install me in one of the back rooms to save the running time going backwards and forwards.

In addition, I see those great astronauts that you sent out as ambassadors for your country. I have one of them here at the table with me. In my office in Canberra at this time there is a picture of the two of them fitting a space helmet onto my grandson. It is one of my most treasured possessions.

Sir, you mentioned a little earlier today your visit of 25 years ago. The Australia of that time compared with the Australia of today is an entirely different country.

I think you ought to have some understanding of the problems of growth that we have faced, because I know at times we have our friendly discussions as to whether we ought to be doing more, or this, or that.

We, for our part, want to carry our own share of the responsibility which exists amongst us in the Southeast Asian region.

Next week you will be celebrating your July 4th, your Declaration of Independence Day. I think it is about this week that a great British occasion is celebrated, the Magna Carta signing at Runnymede.

On your Independence Day you celebrate this notable occasion which is part of the heritage of freedom of people who study these matters around the world. In the long struggle for freedom, the American Declaration of Independence is an important chapter.

At the time you signed that Declaration, you were less than 2 1/2 million people. When the first foundation of Australia occurred, 12 years later, you were less than 4 million people. In those intervening years, you have grown to--what?--190-odd millions at the present time.

We, at the end of the two World Wars, having sustained about half a million casualties in those two World Wars, were still about 7 million people. We set about as vigorously as we could to the business of building our population and developing a nation. We were a long way behind you in the race. It is not an aspiration of ours to catch up, but it is an aspiration of ours to build a strong Australia, a country which can make a contribution to the affairs of the world in order to preserve, as you wish to preserve, the things we stand for.

We believe we can make a significant contribution, and the stronger we grow, the more populous we become, the more we develop our resources, then the better we think that will be for all like-minded people. We are busily about that task.

Although we have, and you mentioned it in that poem, I recall, our problems of drought, of flood, economic recession in the 1930's, and the problems of a country of small population with great transportation costs, with great tasks of development, and inadequate capital resources for that development, we are still managing to make pretty good progress.

Today our 11.5 million people have one of the highest standards of living in the world. I think we rank about third per capita in the use of motor cars, if that is a test of a standard of living. Unfortunately, we haven't the good roads that you have on which to drive them.

We have, I think I can claim, the highest standard occupancy of houses to be found anywhere in the world. It is a good community and a community of fine people.

We are not lacking, by any means, in resources. We have, for many years, established a high export income which brings this small country, in terms of population, amongst the 12 top trading nations in the world. We shall improve that rating considerably over the years ahead because we seem to have uncovered a Pandora's box of mineral wealth.

Almost every week that passes turns up some amazing new discovery. We, with American, British, and European capital, are now launched on the business of getting that mineral production underway.

Could I just give you a couple of illustrations? It is not so long ago that we felt that we should place an embargo on the export of iron ore, and we maintained that for some years because we felt we needed the iron ore for our own domestic steel industry. Then they started discovering high-grade iron ore by the mountainful. In Western Australia currently it is estimated that there is somewhere between 15,000 and 18,000 million tons of iron ore above 60 grade.

Already the Japanese have placed orders with us for about $2,300 million of this iron ore, and inquiries, in fact orders, have actually been taken from the United Kingdom, and inquiries from Europe as well.

We have the largest bauxite deposits in the world. Broken Hill has recently been exploiting very large manganese deposits. There has been a recent new discovery of nickel. And so it goes. Our production of copper, lead, and zinc are too well known for me to mention here.

But I do just mention these things, Mr. President, because you are not going to find our country a liability. We have managed to stand on our own feet in terms of what we have provided for ourselves without turning to you for aid at any time, and we intend to go on that way.

Increasingly you will find us capable of taking part in the exciting new developments that are occurring in Southeast Asia and which, in turn, will have a quite critical bearing on what happens in Asia as a whole.

I say exciting new developments because you mentioned some of them in what you said to us earlier today. I live in the area. I have what I call the "View From Down Under." But I travel a good deal on my own official business through the countries to the north of us.

I believe that while attention is being concentrated on the episodic reporting, the day-to-day reporting, of what has been going on in South Vietnam, that this country, and, indeed, the rest of the world, has lost sight of the fact that there are other countries in the region for whom you have been buying time, whom you have enabled to build themselves in strength, whom you have enabled to strengthen their defenses or strengthen their economies.

Perhaps measured by the achievement of a tremendous economic power such as this, what occurs amongst these populations with relatively primitive industrializations or economies is of little consequence, measured statistically. But it means a lot to the people in that area and eventually it will mean a lot to Asia as a whole.

I hope you carry this in mind, because for anybody who has lived in that region there is a new era of hope, of expectation, opening up before us. The gathering at Seoul just a few weeks ago, the atmosphere at the SEATO Conference, which I formally opened on Monday of this week in Canberra--all these things and many others, that time permitting could be mentioned, promise a more exciting, positive, and constructive future for that area of the world.

Do you believe, does anyone believe, that we would have had this hopeful emergency of favorable development in Indonesia if it had not been for the fact that you were sticking on in South Vietnam, that it had become clear to the whole of Asia that the resolution was there, and that eventually this situation, complex and difficult though we all know it to be, will be brought under a degree of control which will enable the rest of Asia to breathe and go on with its business?

We will all be making a contribution to those positive, constructive measures which you have emphasized repeatedly as the need which exists for the world of the future.

We don't live in a world where victory can be won and sustained by military means alone. In Asia, of all countries, there has to be a feeling that there will be a better life, that life is to have some meaning for them, that the people will be fed, that they will be educated, that their health will be attended to, that there will be this positive and constructive side to the efforts which are now being made.

In every military force with which I have come in contact in the course of this year, of whatever country I have visited, and of the friendly forces which are assisting in South Vietnam, I don't know one in which there is not included in the military program an active program of civic action and rural development.

The cynics and the critics can point to inadequacies, failures of achievement, but the spirit is there, the sentiment is there, the excitement, the dynamism, the movement is there. It is something which I have never felt in this way in Asia before.

So, Mr. President, I think you can feel, you can claim, that American policies have gained much, even at this stage, in Asia, and there are people there who are today living more hopefully, looking more expectantly to a brighter future because of what they believe to be the intentions of your Government.

I said earlier I am not going to weary you by repetition of it now, but our own country is there not because we just go along with everything that America wants to do. There are some people who say that.

I think Australia has a record as an independent-minded, quite spirited people. But we are there not just because you are there. My greatest worry, frankly, Mr. President, not knowing you as I know you now, when you assumed the Presidency, was that perhaps there might be some weakening in the American effort in Vietnam. We were deeply relieved when we found that in the new American President there was the firmness of resolution, the clarity of recognition which assured continued, uninterrupted effort; indeed, an accelerated and augmented effort in this field.

We are involved far more directly than you are. If this area were to go, where, then, do you attempt to hold the line? Perhaps an attempt is made in Thailand, perhaps down the neck of the Malay Peninsula. I don't think anyone would attach greater confidence to our capacity to hold the line in these places than where we are trying to hold it today.

In the meantime, there would have been more people overrun, more disaster, more destruction. You are right to be where you are, and we are right to be there with you. That, at least, Mr. President, is our conviction.

Thank you for what you mean to the people whose hopes rest with you.

May I finally say I don't know whether I can draw, with your facility, upon poetry, but there is the old poem that will come readily to your mind:
"Say not the struggle naught availeth,
The labour and the wounds are vain,
The enemy faints not, nor faileth,
And as things have been they remain.

"And not by eastern windows only,
When daylight comes, comes in the light;
In front the sun climbs slow, how slowly,
But westward, look, the land is bright."

We feel that there are brighter developments, Mr. President, and we look confidently with you, combining together in order to secure the kind of outcome from these terrible difficulties in which we have found ourselves immersed in order to produce for Southeast Asia and finally for Asia, and, indeed, I believe, for the well-being of the world as a whole, that better world order to which we all aspire.

This, at least, is the vision. It is your vision; it is a vision that we are happy and proud to share with you.

Thank you for the warmth of your hospitality to me today and for the message of friendship that I will be able to carry back from this room to the staunchest ally you ever had.

[As printed above, this item follows the text released by the White House.]

Lyndon B. Johnson, Toasts of the President and Prime Minister Holt. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/238596

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