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Toasts of the President and Prime Minister Keith J. Holyoake of New Zealand

September 16, 1969

Mr. Prime Minister, Mrs. Holyoake, and our distinguished guests this evening:

As the Prime Minister was surveying this very elite group this evening, he reminisced about the fact that it was just 1 year ago that he was in this house and in this room, and the host on that occasion was President Johnson.

He noted one of the guests who is here tonight who was also here 1 year ago. He, of course, raised the question, and I thought of it, too, as to whether or not he was a Democrat or a Republican. I will not reveal who that guest is, but I will only say that in this room, Mr. Prime Minister, are Democrats and Republicans.

There are people all the way from New York to Hawaii to the State of Alaska, and there are people from all walks of life. And what unites them tonight is the fact that they all are friends of New Zealand, and they are delighted to be here to honor you and Mrs. Holyoake on this occasion.

I want to speak quite personally in that respect about my own debt to your country, and perhaps in speaking that way I can bring to those of our guests who have not been to New Zealand--and many of you have not been there--some of the feeling I have for this country which is so far away geographically, but so close to us in ways that are far more important.

Twenty-five years ago, in World War II, I was stationed on a very barren island at the tip of the Solomons--Green Island. I don't know why they called it Green Island; it had no water. All it had was 25,000 troops there, a Marine combat air transport detachment--I was the Naval Operations Officer with that detachment-and the 25,000 troops were a New Zealand division.

I learned to know New Zealand through New Zealanders and General [Harold Eric] Barrowclough, who was the commander of that division, who later became the Chief Justice of New Zealand. And I, as did many Americans who served with New Zealanders in World War I and II and the later generations in Korea and now in Vietnam--knowing New Zealanders you feel very much at home with them and you realize that we have very much in common.

Then in 1953, in this room, one of the predecessors of the Prime Minister, Prime Minister [Sir Sidney George] Holland, was here as one of the very first state guests of President Eisenhower. After the dinner, Prime Minister Holland suggested to President Eisenhower that the Vice President ought to take a trip. He said he ought to go to New Zealand and Australia and to the other countries of Asia.

President Eisenhower, who knew how to take advice, particularly from a distinguished Prime Minister, did take that advice and as a result of what the Prime Minister of New Zealand in 1953 said to the President of the United States, the Vice President of the United States and Mrs. Nixon took a 70-day trip to New Zealand and other points in Asia.

It was then, in 1953, that we really visited New Zealand for the first time. We learned then to know the land as well as the people, the greenest land I have ever seen--I can say that despite my half Irish background because I have never really seen all of Ireland--but this great, green land, with its spectacular beauty, but primarily with the great spirit in its people, a spirit that we know in America from its political leaders, a spirit that we know also from those like Edmund Hillary, who was the first man to climb Mount Everest, a spirit that again transcends differences in population, differences insofar as miles between our two countries are concerned.

What I would like really to say to this group tonight is this: The Prime Minister, in our meeting today in which we covered a number of very important issues, and in which we found we looked at the Pacific and Asia through basically the same principles, referred facetiously to the fact that New Zealand was a country of only 3 million, and the United States was one of 200 million, and New Zealand had 3 million people and 100 million sheep.

I can only say in response to that, that those 3 million people in New Zealand are a strong people, and I speak as one who knows them. They are a people who have stood with us and with the allies of freedom in two World Wars, and in Korea and in Vietnam.

The Prime Minister, a man that I have met briefly before and have learned to know on this trip, represents that country in the councils of the world, speaks for it with a voice that carries far beyond his land because he speaks to principles that transcend the size of a country and that, in effect, reach all the peoples of the world.

Because his country, as is ours, is deeply dedicated to the principles of independence, to the principles of self-determination, to the principles of freedom which allows us to survive, and his country to survive, and which must survive in other parts of the world if what we believe in is to remain for our children in the years to come.

Mr. Prime Minister, it has been a privilege for us to know you and we hope that our guests, after dinner--at least most of them--will have a chance to talk to you again.

I can only say in conclusion that next year, which will be the 200th anniversary of Captain Cook's discovery of New Zealand, will be a great year in the history of your country.

For those of us who will not be able to attend it, we salute you now. We salute New Zealand. We salute you for your leadership of a great people and in saluting you, we do so by raising our glasses in the traditional toast to Her Majesty the Queen.

Note: The President proposed the toast at 9:43 p.m. in the State Dining Room at the White House. Prime Minister Holyoake responded as follows:

Mr. President and Mrs. Nixon, Your Excellencies, especially Mr. and Mrs. Franzheim, who have come to New Zealand to represent your wonderful country, and ladies and gentlemen:

Can I say it is a tremendous pleasure and a tremendous honor, we think, Mrs. Holyoake and I, to be your guests in this great country, in this famous house, and to be your particular guests tonight, and with this distinguished company, as you say, all the way from Alaska-where is Alaska?--to Honolulu.

I want to take this opportunity publicly to offer my warmest congratulations to you, Mr. President, on my own personal behalf, but also on behalf of the people of New Zealand, in becoming the President of this, the greatest state that man has ever devised.

I know, because it is important for me to know, after studying what has happened in the last few months, that you come to this office with a sense of great dedication, with tremendous vigor, and, if I may say so without presumption, wisdom as well.

This means so much, not just to you and the people of the United States, but to all men who, as you said, love freedom, and to the men of those countries like ourselves, let us say humbly, that, when the chips are finally down, would rather die than lose their freedom. You, of course, have mentioned the occasions when we have joined together in such cases.

I often wonder what the casual observer would say and think when he observes Americans and New Zealanders together and realizes that they are friends--readily make friendships between each other.

Well, we do have some things in common, but there are a lot of things patently that we don't have. For instance, we are about on exactly the opposite ends in the matter of power in the world. You, whether you like it or not, you do and you must continue to regard everything from the global point of view. We haven't any such responsibility. We survey the world, but we have our particular interests in only two or three parts, here in the greater North America, Britain and Western Europe, and Southeast Asia.

But even these things, these differences too, I think, bring us sometimes together.

I observe, and over the years I am convinced, that we have much the same values; we place much the same values on most things in life. And I am amazed with the facility you American people understand our English. I think this is quite wonderful. So we have, we enjoy, the same rich language, the same culture, the same heritage. These things bring us so much together.

So, perhaps it is natural that we should form the ready habit of cooperation as we have and as has been mentioned by the President on a number of occasions, when we both felt that the pressures around the world demanded that we should go beyond our own shores.

The President has mentioned two World Wars, Korea, and now in Vietnam. I think, because I do study the American scene very closely, it is so important to us, and I think I know it reasonably well, and I think we come to these conclusions that we do have a duty and a proper place and a part to play, after the same kind of self-searching and soul-searching and doubts; and we would not make the right decisions if we did not have all of those, including the doubts, before we finally came to our decisions.

I want to say that in our small and humble way down there in the South Pacific that it is for these same reasons that we have, in the wake of the British decision to leave our part of the world, east of Suez, in global terms, in 1971, that we, together with our Australian cousins, have decided to continue to make a military as well as other contributions in Singapore and Malaysia. This is something really new for us.

We have always gone in the shadow of a great power, perhaps in the reflected glow of a great power, but not on this occasion. And I guess, too, from studying your scene, from talking with Americans, reading, that you in your larger way and we in ours--but every man can only make up his mind for himself, and I claim with all the arrogance of a man from a small country that one New Zealander is just as important as one American or one Englander or one Asian; we are all individuals finally--and individually, and so collectively, too, we come to the same decision that we must get to know the people of Asia and particularly the people of the new and emerging Asia, the free countries, ringing the periphery of Asia and of the Pacific, our ocean, our lake, and one that you are interested in as much as we.

And we believe that the closer partnership that we have now with the people ringing the Pacific, this, we believe, is to our mutual advantage.

We talked today. I have had an opportunity of talking to your President and one or two of your ministers and others about our mutual interests and about trade. I am not going to talk much about it tonight, but it would be quite wrong for me not to mention it.

I wanted to make a quotation. The creation of a stronger and more balanced economy is one of our goals down in New Zealand---green as you say; farming is the base, but coming along is manufacturing--and to achieve our objective then we need, of course, to find wider fields for our products from the farm and from the factory. We need a world that I would like to describe, and this is a quotation from a quite famous man: We need a world more "open to the exchange of goods and people." I took those few words from your inaugural address, Mr. President. I was not quite sure whether you remembered them or whether you would not. So much has happened to you since then.

This, of course, is essential to our capacity to play our small part and to hoist our flag when we think it is time to hoist our flag beside that of our friends, large, medium, and small.

We ask for no favors. We are a donor country. We do ask for reasonable opportunities to trade fairly. We are, I think, the only country in the world that does not subsidize its farmers, either internally or on the export market.

So, we are free men, too. I know that you are as well. I am very, very heartened by what you have told me from time to time and I am very interested, too, when the Senate committee says: "Thou shalt not, and please don't send that stuff here, it's too good and it's too cheap."

Mr. President, and my friends, I must not speak to you at any greater length. I have probably spoken a little too long already. Looking at your faces reminds me of a story that I know my wife will tweak my ear for having told again.

A few years ago at a gathering something like this, and I was not sure whether we should have made speeches at all--it did not seem to me to be very appropriate--but quite late in the evening the master of ceremonies came along to me and very stuttering and stammering he said: "Mr. Holyoake, do you think you had better make your speech now or should we just let the people go on enjoying themselves?"

So, my speech is over. You can just go on enjoying yourselves, if first you will join me in a toast to the President of the United States of America.

Richard Nixon, Toasts of the President and Prime Minister Keith J. Holyoake of New Zealand Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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