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Toasts of the President and Prime Minister John G. Gorton of Australia

May 06, 1969

Mr. Prime Minister, Mrs. Gorton, and our friends:

Tonight is a very special evening for all of us in this room because, as I noted when you were passing through the receiving line, at least two-thirds of the guests had been to Australia or personally knew the Prime Minister and Mrs. Gorton.

As I was thinking of something that would be appropriate to say, I was reminded of what I think was one of the most eloquent greetings that a visitor can receive when he travels around the world--as has the Prime Minister, and as I have on occasion, and as will the Secretary of State be traveling in just a few days--in this country, at least in that part of the Midwest from which my mother and father came, the common expression is "Make yourself at home." In Latin America the expression is quite different. It means the same thing. They say "Estd usted en su casa," which means "you are in your own home."

I was reminded of the fact that tonight as we received the Prime Minister and Mrs. Gorton and the members of their party that of all the countries of the world that my wife and I have visited, and there are over 70, that there is no country in the world when we thought we were in our own home more than Australia.

I suppose part of this is due to the fact that we are from the West, from California, and we get the feeling when we are in Melbourne and in Sydney, that north and south or south and north reverse, San Francisco versus Los Angeles, and also because as you see that great country with all of its magnificent cities and yet the tremendous possibilities for development for the future, you realize that this is one of the great new frontiers, some would say last frontiers, geographically, at least. But there is another reason that has more to do than geography or size of cities or the like. It has to do with people.

I have felt from the time we were first there in 1953 and through the years since then when we have been there, and I know many of you tonight have this same feeling, that we have a special kinship with our friends from Australia. We see the world as they see it. They are among those who understand, as I think most of us in this room understand, how much rides on what happens in the Pacific. They are a Pacific power, as we are; and at a time when most of the world, whatever they may think privately, will not speak up publicly with regard to what the United States is doing in the Pacific. And as indicated in the very difficult war in Vietnam, our friends in Australia know why we are there and why they are there, and we know that they are there with us.

They know why and beyond that, they are willing to say why. At a time when we sometimes wonder if our policies are understood or appreciated, at such times we are most grateful to have such good friends, friends who have been friends of ours over the years and who remember those days we read about in World War I. Those of us who were in World War II, the Secretary and myself, in the Pacific, we served with Australians and we feel that they are so much like us or we are like they are.

Now tonight we have a man who represents this country, who has all of the vital energy that we think of when we think of Australia, who can see the tremendous possibilities of development there, who knows the great role that his country can play, that ours must play, and who has that courage that we all admire so much--the courage to speak up when sometimes it might be perhaps more political to say nothing, or at least to say something else.

So tonight, as I ask you to rise, I am going to do so not simply in the usual protocol way. We could toast his country, we could toast his office, but I suggest we raise our glasses to a man and that great new country, a new country with an old tradition, but the country of the future and a man who stands for all the hopes and aspirations that it represents.

To the Prime Minister.

Note: The President spoke at 9:59 p.m. in the State Dining Room at the White House. Prime Minister Gorton responded as follows:

Mr. President, ladies and gentlemen:

This is a speech, sir, to which it is very difficult easily to reply. I think it is true that there are, between the people of the United States and the people of my own country, some particular bonds which are not of recent birth, but which have matured over the years.

True it is, that in our own country we reached self-government by means of evolution and you by revolution. But nevertheless, in some degree we think of you as being responsible for it. I know a lot of other countries do that, too. [Laughter] Because it was only after the Declaration of Independence and a certain amount of unpleasantness which culminated at Yorktown, following that, that Great Britain looked to another outlet, if I may put it that way. But it gave us the first impetus to the growth of Australia and so, perhaps in that indirect way, sir, you have helped us in our beginnings.

But that was just at the beginning. Since then we have stood together in many struggles; the First World War, fought far away from our shores and yours, but fought for the same reasons by our soldiers and yours, the Second World War, the Korean war where Australians were within the first week in action with the United States forces and the first country so to be in action. And now, the Vietnam war.

I don't know why it is--or perhaps I do-but I am not sure why it is that when countries talk, as you and I are talking, of the bonds which unite and have united them, so often one turns to wars and to struggles in which one has been together. Because, after all, a successful war does not gain anything new. What it does do, if it is successful, is prevent the imposition of something bad and obtain an opportunity for new building on a proper basis and a proper foundation of freedom and participation and peace.

Perhaps it is because men have for so long had to struggle and probably always will have to struggle against the idea of absolute and arbitrary power, against the idea of the secret police and the hangman, against the philosophy that in order to be free and live in peace one must subject one's self to the rule-- without law--of dictatorship. Perhaps it is because the fainthearted all through the years have been prepared to say: "If you wish to eat you must sell your immortal soul. If you wish peace you must submit to dictatorship." Perhaps it is because there is in the human spirit a refusal to accept this that one talks of nations standing together in war not because it is in war, but because of the objectives sought by such struggles.

You, sir, are bearing today a burden, greater, I think, than that borne by any other man in the world I know. And in a way, here, history is repeating itself because as I look up there and see a former Republican [indicating portrait of Abraham Lincoln]--I hope no Democrats would be up there--I see a former Republican looking down upon us, my mind goes back to those times and that burden and the turmoil in this country in that period.

Too often do we now look back at Lincoln and tend to think the speeches he made were well received and tend to think the ideals he professed were accepted by all the people of the United States. But not enough do we look back and think of the burden for 5 long years he bore during a period when the United States lost more dead than it had in any of the many wars since. And he bore the burden.

During a period when Copperheads were inciting riots in order to bring peace; during the period when the Horace Greeleys and others of the press were attacking not only his ideas, but him personally; during the period when regiments from the Army of the Potomac had to be brought back to quell draft riots in New York--that was a burden. But it was one carried like a man.

There would be no United States today. There would be--who knows? There would have been, at any rate, a slave autocracy of the South and what that, in conjunction with South America, could then have led to in the world no one can tell. But there would have been no United States.

So the bearing of these burdens and the successful consummation of these struggles h something which is not for that time alone or for this time alone, but which, having been successful in that time, led to the United States being able to be what it is today, which, if it is successful in this time, will lead to there being able to be throughout the world an opportunity for us, when we next speak, when we next meet, or at least communicate or whatever it may be, to talk not of war but of the other progress which is the other part of which you spoke, sir, of which the United States and ourselves, you helping us economically, building us, helping us to build ourselves, the other part may be the real outcome of success in this situation. I think it will be.

I think that we will stand together in the future as we have in the past, we the small, the apparently small, but fired by the same motives, resolute in the same way.

I hope that this will be true. It has been true and I believe it will be true. And for our part, speaking for Australians, wherever the United States is resisting aggression, wherever the United States or the United Kingdom or any other country is seeking to insure that there will be a chance for the free expression of the spirit of man from himself and not from dictatorship from above; wherever there is a joint attempt to improve not only the material but the spiritual standards of life of the peoples of the world, then, sir, we will go "Waltzing Matilda With You."

Richard Nixon, Toasts of the President and Prime Minister John G. Gorton of Australia Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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