Lyndon B. Johnson photo

Toasts of the President and Prime Minister Holyoake of New Zealand

October 09, 1968

Mr. Prime Minister, Mrs. Holyoake, Ambassador Wiggins and Mrs. Wiggins, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen:

In New Zealand 2 years ago, Mrs. Johnson and I were honored to spend the evening at the Government House in Wellington. Members of my staff and the large press corps, who supervise my activities and guard my presence at all times, were put up for the evening on a very wonderful old ship anchored in the harbor. I heard later that in the wee hours of the morning they christened their floating hotel, "The Tiltin' Hilton." I am delighted Mr. Hilton is here with us tonight to celebrate that occasion.

I also heard another story about that evening in Wellington. The American press corps was invited to a performance by the native Maoris. The dancers and the singers-after singing their traditional melodies--all dressed up in sarongs and body paint, and they sang some western numbers that were set to words of their own language.

The first song was "Happy Days Are Here Again." One American journalist in the audience, a lady journalist, was particularly astonished. Journalists sometimes are. But her father had written the original lyrics. And now decades later, in a world away, there she was hearing the song in that ancient tribal language.

The point of the story, I think, is quite simple even to all of us simple people. That is, our world is very, very small and it is getting smaller all the time. The peoples of the earth are brought closer together every day, not only by jets and communications satellites, but by the gifts of culture that merge all men into one community.

One man who helped to open up and strengthen the world, I think, deserves very special recognition on this occasion here tonight. It was exactly 199 years ago tonight, on October 9, 1769, that Captain James Cook, and his shipmates on the Endeavor, landed at Poverty Bay on the North Island of New Zealand. They were the first Europeans to set foot on the soil of New Zealand.

The voyages of Captain Cook were not only heroic, but historic. He traversed the Pacific from ice in the south to ice in the north.

On his last voyage he rediscovered the Hawaiian Islands and struck the North American coast at what is now our State of Oregon.

Before he met his death in Hawaii, he had drawn the map of the entire Pacific. He drew the map, but the world has changed.

As you observed this morning, Mr. Prime Minister, the free nations of the world must now depend on each other as they have never depended before. Our cultures, our defenses, our common welfare are tightly woven.

The voyages of Captain Cook were extensive, heroic, and historic, but with the help of Mr. Grosvenor, I am going to give him some competition. After January 21 I am going to turn Lady Bird loose with the map of the National Geographic, and we are going to hear about islands that she discovered that Captain Cook overlooked.

But our cultures and our welfare, as I said, are tightly woven, and New Zealanders, I am proud to say, always practice what they preach.

The New Zealanders are a member of ANZUS and SEATO. Your contribution to the United Nations forces in Korea was, on a per capita basis, second only to America.

You have now for more than 12 years maintained forces in the Malay Peninsula as part of the Commonwealth Strategic Reserves.

Your sons stand tonight shoulder to shoulder with ours and with those of the Republic of Korea, Thailand, Australia, and the Philippines in a common effort to try, in the face of common danger, to deter ruthless aggression and to help preserve the freedom of a little nation--the gallant people of South Vietnam.

New Zealand has also played a very active part in the growth of regional cooperation: --You were a founding member of the Colombo Plan. Since 1950, you have contributed more than $50 million to the development of countries in South and Southeast Asia.

--You participate in the Asian and Pacific Council.

--You are a partner in the Asian Development Bank.

--You participate in the United Nations programs.

--You take a more than active interest in the many regional groupings and projects that are such a striking feature today and offer us so much hope in the new Asia.

Because New Zealand and the United States of America and other peace-loving nations all over the world have recognized that nations just must help each other, the peoples of the world tonight have made great progress in their struggle for a better life for all human beings.

For example, in Japan and the Republic of China and South Korea and Thailand, the progress of today is astonishing when we look at the odds of yesterday.

So, it gives us very strong hope for even greater success, even greater progress for the peoples of this earth, when tomorrow's victories are calculated.

Mr. Prime Minister, we Americans are very proud to share with you this expectation, and the purpose that inspires it.

We are very proud of our staunch and our farsighted and our courageous friends in New Zealand. You have never wavered. You have never grown soft. You have never feared.

You are a small nation. You visited Los Angeles early this week, a city that has more people, in one city, than you have in your own country.

But that did not deter you from committing men and bodies and lives of your very best to the defense of freedom, when that commitment was necessary and when it was needed.

So, Mr. Prime Minister, you and your charming wife, we welcome you here to the White House. We are proud that your lovely lady could again visit us in this country.

We look to you as symbolic of a good people, of a good country, of a dependable ally, and we look to you with great admiration. And if I might say so, with great gratitude.

So ladies and gentlemen, I ask all of you to join me in a toast to Her Majesty, the Queen--to Her Majesty the Queen.

Mr. Prime Minister, we thank you so very, very much for bringing back to us tonight one of your most distinguished citizens, your former Ambassador and distinguished Foreign Minister, and we also want to thank you for the quality of your representation in our Capital tonight--the Ambassador from New Zealand, Frank Corner.

NOTE: The President spoke at 10:50 p.m. in the State Dining Room at the White House. In his opening words he referred to Keith Holyoake, Prime Minister of New Zealand, Mrs. Holyoake, I. Russell Wiggins, newly appointed U.S.. Representative to the United Nations, and Mrs. Wiggins. During his remarks he referred to, among others, William Barton Hilton, chief executive of Hilton Hotels, woman journalist Shana Alexander of Life magazine, Melville B. Grosvenor of the National Geographic Society, and George R. Laking, Permanent Secretary, Department of External Affairs of New Zealand, and former Ambassador to the United States.

Prime Minister Holyoake responded as follows:

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

It is a tremendous privilege for Mrs. Holyoake and me to be with you in this famous room, in this famous building, in this, the leading country of the world, and to be the guests of the man who guides the destinies of the greatest race and greatest country in the world, who wields awesome power, but has done this unremittingly, with just one objective in mind: the good of his fellow men, particularly in his own country, but throughout the world.

I would like to thank you, Mr. President, and your lady, for this very generous invitation and your very kind words of welcome and commendation for Mrs. Holyoake and me, what you have chosen to say about Mrs. Holyoake and me as representing the citizens of New Zealand and also about our representatives.

I thank you for the invitation for them to be with you in this very distinguished and very representative gathering tonight.

You mentioned Captain Cook. My wife's mother was a Cook, but I don't think she ever traced it back to James.

We were pioneer people and indeed it was an extraordinary thing that you should strike this note because it was the theme of what I wanted to say tonight--and say it simply.

First of all, for a New Zealander, coming to the United States is a tremendous experience in itself. We crossed the greatest body of water there is in the world. For those of you who have not been down that way, you would be surprised at how much water there is in the Pacific. Then we came to a country which dwarfs our country, as you, Mr. President, have only lightly touched upon. Certainly you did mention Oregon. In actual fact, you have spoken so highly of our country--rather superlatively--I thought, I wanted to put it in perspective.

New Zealand geographically, and population-wise, is about comparable with Oregon. I am not denigrating New Zealand when I say we are about the same size and type as Oregon. Yet, in spite of these tremendous differences and this tremendous experience that every New Zealander has when he leaves New Zealand-because we are so isolated-we still immediately feel at home and amongst friends. This is a tremendous thing. We share so many things. We have a similar language. You speak tolerable English--I think you do. [Laughter] At least we don't have great difficulty in communicating.

Between your President and me, of course, there are other bonds. We both come from farming stock. Farmers wherever they meet in the world, get together and understand each other. A farmer is never lacking in telling the government just where it is going wrong. This is always a help. Your President and I---or I should say, I, at least-have always felt very much at home with him.

There are quite a number of Texans here tonight. I jokingly, on another occasion, said, "Where is Texas?" Finally, your President said, in exasperation, "Keith, I will have to ask "Where is New Zealand?'"

I only have one good story about Texas. I have told it in this building before. To those of you who have heard it, please don't stop me because I like telling it anyhow. I have told this story before you took Alaska into your bosom and wherever I meet Texans around the world, this story was typical.

I was traveling by train across the States, east to west. We arrived at one station and a fine fellow got in and sat beside me and said, "You know, guy, I get in a train here in the morning and we travel west all afternoon and we travel west all night." He said, "Actually, we travel west all the next morning and we are still in the State of Texas."

You know, we New Zealanders like to think at least we are kindly people, and I didn't want to have him embarrassed. I said, "Look chap, you needn't worry, we have slow trains in our country, too."

When we come to look at the experiences that our people and your people have gone through, then I think we see the reasons why there is a special quality in the relationships between our two peoples.

Like the American pioneers, we too--as the President has pointed out--our people in these days gone by, went to a new country, deliberately left the old country for, I think, the same reasons. We both came to lands which were beautiful and yet menacing. Our people and the pioneers had to tame them and they did. They laid out their farms. They made their villages. They built their towns and cities. In each case, they built a nation--one large and one small. But we had these same experiences and, I think, the same principles, driving us on.

In both countries, if I read history correctly, they were steadfast, resolute people, who had no doubt in their minds as to what was right and what was wrong. They were people who paid their debts and they were loyal to their friends in the smaller community and in the greater community.

These were the kind of people who settled our two countries. So we have both, I think, inherited a very great heritage, socially, culturally, and spiritually.

They, as the President said, or implied, they valued the individual liberties, the right of men and of nations to live in peace and in freedom. Indeed, that is what they came to our countries for. It was part of their rebellion. Those qualities have sustained our peoples now over the years. These were the qualities that sustained us in two world wars and the part we played in them. They are the qualities which sustained us again, as mentioned by the President, in Korea, and again today in Vietnam--the same qualities and the same principles.

I don't want to use high falutin' language. I want to talk simply because I think this is the essence of life. We have fought together--you in greater number than we, of course, but each making the proper contribution. We have fought because in our short history we have seen clearly and we have learned clearly that the fate of free people anywhere is the concern of free people everywhere.

We believe that the loss of freedom anywhere challenges freedom everywhere--never mind in what capacity. Our men have fought and our women, too, because we felt deeply that if we did not fight and we did not win then the world we know would not be worth living in. That is really what has inspired our people.

So, I think the friendship between our peoples arises from these deep meanings.

I believe, too--I hope I am not presumptuous-in classing New Zealanders with Americans when I said that we both like to be genuine in our friendships. I think I detect among your people, as among mine, that we draw back from the artificial. We don't like the kind of shamminess that disappears when the sun goes in.

I believe these are the simple and enduring things which our people, in whatever strata of life they live and wherever they live, whatever office they hold--these are the simple and enduring things which we both treasure. And I believe we will continue to treasure and strive for these things.

So I suppose, Mr. President, the message I am bringing you from the people of New Zealand is that of genuine friendship--the genuine friendship of the people of a small country for the people of this great country and its government.

The President referred to the fact that we have joint enterprises, that we are members of different organizations around the world. We are members of certain defense treaties, trade treaties, and so on-SEATO and ANZUS he mentioned. Let me say that the people in New Zealand all understand ANZUS--Australia, New Zealand, and the United States the defense treaty. This is the anchor for our safety in the world. I know that, of course, and you know that this treaty requires and insures that if each and any one of us is attacked at any time the other will hurry to his aid.

We are conscious down in New Zealand that the people of the United States of America sleep much more securely and comfortably in their beds at night knowing that if they are attacked, New Zealand will come immediately.

We will spring to your defense. We will--to what capacity we have. We will.

But I am bound to tell you, with gratitude in my heart, that all the people of New Zealand sleep much more comfortably and with a greater sense of security in their beds at night knowing that the United States of America, with its tremendous strength and its loyalty to its word, would spring at a moment's notice to our defense if we were attacked or threatened.

Mr. President, you referred very briefly to your visit to New Zealand 2 years ago in 1966. You were the first President in office to visit New Zealand. This was a great occasion for us.

I mentioned briefly this morning--and I must be brief also tonight--New Zealanders seized this rare opportunity to show unreservedly, spontaneously, a blaze of loyalty and friendship, which you must have felt emanating from every person you saw in the streets and in the shops, wherever you were, people pressing out to meet you.

It was an unforgettable occasion and again I thank you very, very much for coming down to New Zealand.

I must conclude and I conclude with this thought, that I hope we always have ourselves in proper perspective by trying to play our part.

But, however small our part may be, and I speak not just to the President, but those he represents throughout the country, we can, perhaps, lend strength to you through the sincerity of our friendship,

I hope you feel that this is so. Your problems are immense. We have some as well. But our two peoples do have, I believe, a tremendous stake in maintaining a friendship between our peoples, which is candid and critical, but loyal. No friendship is worthwhile, I believe, unless it contains those ingredients.

Mr. President, ladies and gentlemen, once again I thank you very much for the great pleasure of being with you tonight. To the President and Mrs. Johnson, for this great honor they do Mrs. Holyoake and me tonight, it is with this thought that I invite you to join me in a toast to the President.

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

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