Richard Nixon photo

Toasts of the President and Prime Minister McMahon of Australia

November 02, 1971

Mr. Prime Minister and Mrs. McMahon, and our distinguished guests from Australia, and our distinguished guests from the United States:

We are delighted .and honored to welcome the Prime Minister of Australia here tonight, along with his wife and the members of their party. We have tried to make you all feel very much at home, Mr. Prime Minister, and as you will note as we came into the White House an Australian song was being played by the Marine orchestra, and I understand the last song that was played by the Strolling Strings of the Army was an American song, which was played, Mrs. McMahon tells me, on the night that you proposed to her.

This may give you an idea of the very special feeling we have for our distinguished guest, for his leadership in the world, and for the country that he represents. I could speak tonight of the fact that the United States and Australia are joined together in a number of commitments and particularly the ANZUS commitment, a treaty which was made shortly after World War II and one which was reiterated on our part and on their part just a year ago.

But a treaty can have different meanings. All treaties must be honored, as the United States will always honor its treaties. But this treaty with Australia goes far beyond simply that piece of paper, that contractual agreement which nations must honor if they are to keep their international commitments.

I think it could truly be said that there are no two great nations in the world that are further apart geographically than Australia and the United States. It also could truly be said that there are no two nations in the world that are closer together in the values they share and in the spirit with which they will defend those values than Australia and the United States.

We know this. We know it from World War I and World War II and Korea and now in Vietnam. We know it not only in war but as we work together for peace. And as we think of those values, so many of us in this room--and the guest list, Mr. Prime Minister, as you might imagine, was selected because so many know your country, have been there, and love your country and your people, as all who have been there do love it--as we think of your country, we think in personal terms. I remember the first Australian I ever met. It was in World War II. I arrived at Henderson Field, Guadalcanal. I was in the Navy. The Marine Corps was there ahead of us. The Navy brought them in. [Laughter]

I remember that evening, my first day in Henderson Field, talking to a Marine sergeant and what a strong and brave man he was and what he had been through. And I said to him with some awe, "You fellows must be the bravest men in the world."

He said, "No. Do you know- who are?" I said, "Who?" He said, "The coast watchers." "Who are they?" I asked. "Wait and you will meet them."

My next stop up the line in the Solomons was Bougainville, and I met, for the first time, a coast watcher. He was an Australian. This remarkable group of men--I don't know how many there were, perhaps no more than 100--who operated throughout those Pacific islands as coast watchers in the most hazardous duty of perhaps any war, won the admiration and respect of all Americans who were there and all people who had the opportunity to know what they were doing. That was typical of Australian valor in World War I and World War II and in all those occasions where we have been associated with them.

I only mention this in a personal sense because I think each one of us who knows Australia and its people has that enormous respect for their courage, for their idealism, for their loyalty, for their friendship. We feel especially close to Australians though they are so far away from us geographically.

And tonight, Mr. Prime Minister, I want you to know that this company of 100 really speaks for 200 million Americans when we say that we cherish the friendship and alliance we have had in the past; that our policies in the future will build on that friendship and that alliance; and that your visit here is welcome to us--welcome to us because you represent a country and a people for whom we have such great respect and welcome to us because you, in our view, are and do serve as a statesman of the first rank in the world. As our talks have demonstrated--they have been most useful in discussing not only bilateral affairs but the problems of the world generally and for this we are most grateful for the long journey which you have taken.

An Australian poet, I understand, once wrote that Australia's future is a prophecy. Anyone that has been to this wonderful country--and my wife and I were there for the first time in 1953, and I was there again in 1965--but anyone who has been there would know that Australia has a proud past, but it has an enormously exciting future.

And the man who has played such a great role in building that past, who presently leads Australia in the present, at this time, and the man who is contributing to the fulfillment of the prophecy for the future of Australia is the man we honor tonight. I know you will want to rise again and join in a toast to the Prime Minister.

Prime Minister McMahon and Mrs. McMahon.

Note: The President spoke at 9:51 p.m. in the State Dining Room at the White House.

Prime Minister McMahon responded as follows:

Mr. President and Mrs. Nixon:

Sir, you were good enough to remind me and to inform the whole of the audience tonight that that song, the last song that was played by the strings tonight, was the song that was played at the time that I proposed to my wife.

What you didn't say was that I had already sung it to her 10 times, and I was just about to give up when a faltering voice made some declamation--yea or nay, I know not--but at least I thought I had better take advantage of the moment and capitalize on my good fortune. [Laughter]

Equally, too, can I thank you, sir, for inviting me to come to Washington on an occasion and at a moment that is as propitious as I believe this one to be. Because you today, and, so far as I am concerned, yesterday, with one of your senior Cabinet ministers, have taken me into your confidence in a way that I wouldn't have believed to have been possible. And because of the trust and the confidence that you have reposed in me and in my colleagues who have been with me, I have had to confess again, as I have confessed on so many other occasions that the relationships between ourselves are based upon the soundest of sound principles--that we trust one another, and I believe that so far as our people are concerned, whether they happen to be American or Australian, that they believe in the cause that they think is right. They are prepared each to make their contribution to that cause, and I think that the friendship between us is consequently one that will be enduring.

But what I would like to speak about, Mr. President, tonight, is this, and I take as my text a few familiar words: that there comes a time in the life of men, in the flood of time that, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune. And I believe that is abundantly true today because I think now we have reached a crucial period of history and a period of history when leadership in terms of personalities might change, but the leadership of the United States will remain.

In the postwar period I believe your country, the United States, has stood between the free countries of the world and despotism. Had it not been for the greatness and the magnanimity and the humanitarianism of the United States and the people of the United States, then I believe we could very easily have succumbed to one or other kind of dictatorship that we have known throughout the world in these years.

But then came a period, I believe, when other nations started to emerge. Soviet Russia became the second super power. China started to emerge as a great power, and alongside, too, we had Japan and we had the European Community countries. And that meant there had to be a reappraisal of the world balance of power and I think the time for that reappraisal has now come and I think the world is indeed fortunate to find that not only has the time come with the United States prepared to accept the leadership but also, sir, at the helm and at the leadership of this great country is yourself, abetted and aided by a very lovely person who is sitting at my right-hand side tonight.

And so you can understand why I am glad to be here. But could I then move on just to mention some of the events that have occurred that have made me feel that this is a watershed in history and one that, as I have said before, providing we can exploit the opportunities, we can bring an era of peace and, consequently, the opportunities for progress that have not been present since the beginning of World War II.

As I have said, there are these emerging countries that have been giving a new balance, but at the moment it is not a stable balance and the necessary conditions for stability are not there. It does need some element or some group of elements that will make each one realize that it is by some sort of cooperation, however much our ideologies might differ, but by some form of cooperation and by a realization that not one nation can dominate the other and that not one nation can hope to exploit all the others for the benefit of the one.

But when that day of realization comes and the leadership is found, then we can hope to move on to the kind of prosperity that I have mentioned.

The European Community is strengthening and Britain is shortly about to become a member in the agreement of the House of Commons in a vote taken during the course of the last few weeks. Japan is becoming increasingly greater in terms of industrial power and political potential in the western Pacific. And so, too, I could go on in this way indicating the kind of change that is occurring and, consequently, the conditions, the atmosphere, in which advantage can be taken of these changed circumstances, not only to ensure an era of peace but I believe to be able to bring the better things of life and a better world to so many of the underdeveloped people, as well as giving something better to our own peoples as well.

Now, sir, we have cooperated, and I think we have done so magnificently over the course of the postwar period and, for that matter, during the whole of World War II. We have cooperated in Korea. We have cooperated again in South Vietnam. We have cooperated in other places, particularly in the commercial world in such matters as the GATT and the Kennedy Round changes and commercial operations of a similar kind.

And I am as certain as I can be that there could be no two nations where there is a greater degree of trust, where you can regard one another as reliable friends, and I don't think there is any greater quality that I can imagine or think of when you cannot only have common ideals, but when you are put to the task you know that you can rely upon your friends for the assistance and the kind of help that you think is needed in the interests of Success.

Now, first of all, might I say something to you about our common idealism, because I do believe that in many ways we are entitled to claim that whilst we might have had a common ancestry and have inherited ideals and the institutions to sustain those ideals from the British people, nonetheless, if you look at our own Constitution you will see that embedded in it, written into it, and sustained there is the idea that all men and women are born equal; we believe in the inalienable right to freedom and to independence; we want freedom of trade and freedom of commerce; we want people to be able to worship in their own way if they wish to do so; and, above all, we want them to be able to share the good things of life and to be able to participate in the fruits of progress that a technological age can bring to them.

So, here we are together sharing those ideals, but we have gone even further than that, and might I first of all mention your own case of the magnificent part that you have played in the past and, I believe, the part that you are about to play in the future.

Now you, sir, are shortly to go to Peking, to the People's Republic of China. A little later on you will be going to Moscow, and there you will be able--and I am certain you will be discussing the world's problems.

But what I am certain is the motive that has driven you and provided the initiative that has inspired you to go on is the hope that if you can convince these people that war is no longer a practical means of achieving political objectives and that it is far better that we should try and live a life of cooperative existence or cooperative coexistence, then I think we set the foundations in which less can be devoted to the impedimenta of war and more can be devoted to the cause of peace and to the cause of the underdeveloped countries of this world.

So you have this magnificent task, and, sir, I believe you have come at a prophetic moment of history to be able to lead the western countries of the world in their task of bringing an era of peace and an era of the kind of world, the kind of good world, that we want others in time to inherit.

From my own country's point of view, as I have said, there is a feeling of enduring friendship and, I believe, almost a blood relationship between our two people. I have been astonished even in New York going along to the Times Building and going to other places and finding, as I walked in, how many people wanted to come up and shake hands because they had seen an Australian flag and they felt, well, here was somebody who thinks the same and acts the same and wants the same sort of things to happen in the world as we do.

And as I have shaken hands with them, and I have spoken to them--2 or 3 days of experience--I have had to confess again, as I have confessed in the many other voyages that I have made to this country, how similar we are and how similar the ideals that we cherish and how similar are the actions that we take in order to ensure that they are put into practice in various parts of the world.

But for our own part, I think we have to recognize that whilst we are a moderately sized country, not a super power as you are, nonetheless we are prepared to play our part independently in the Southeast Asian theater, and we are prepared, not on a global field, but on a local field and in a local atmosphere, to make what contribution we can to the peace and to the prosperity of, first of all, to the Indo-Chinese Peninsula, and now with the help we are giving in Malaysia and Singapore and the other aid and assistance we are able and willing to give in places such as Indonesia, the Philippines, and other parts of Southeast Asia.

But what we do cherish is the fact that we can move on a basis of security. And that basis of security that permits us to have the freedom of action that we want, and the independence that is so cherished in the way that it is cherished by Australians, is the guarantee and the assurance that we receive from you and from your Administration that the ANZUS treaty is just as sacred today and is just as valid today as it was when it was first signed a few years ago by Mr. Dulles and our own Foreign Minister, Sir Percy Spender.

Here is the basis of our security and the basis of our defense requirements. And equally, too, as we look around in so many other areas, do we find that we have there, standing by our side, willing and able to assist us when the moment comes--we have the United States in the same way as we can be regarded by you as true, faithful, and reliable allies, so, too, can we turn to you and realize that you look at us in exactly the same way.

So, having said all this, Mr. President, may I say to you again, that I do want to thank you from the bottom of my heart and on behalf of the Australian people, for giving me the chance to come here at this very critical moment to join with you in consultation, because it has been consultation in the truest and the fullest sense of the word.

You have not kept back any of your secrets. You have told me what you think, you have told me of your grand design for the future. I can only hope that you are successful, and deep in my heart I feel that you will be.

Can I say this to you, too? You have referred to the fact that you have been to Australia on at least two occasions. I would like to be able to encourage you to come back, and particularly to bring your wife with you.

And I think if I could give you one reason why I would like you to come, it is this: Recently we had a Gallup poll taken in Australia over a fairly wide area of people, and they asked if people would nominate the man that they felt was most able to lead the world onto the paths of freedom and dignity and justice, into the paths that would give them greater prospects and greater hopes for the future. And lo and behold, sir, when the tally was taken, one man's name stood out so far in front of everyone else's that, well, the poll shouldn't have been held, because it made the rest of us feel humble, and if you had seen the figures, it would have made you feel extremely proud.

Now, when you get a vote like that amongst people--a written-in vote, with people being able to make their choices of their own free will, but being able to recognize the part that a great country and a great leader had been able to play--I think the time might come when at least you should let them see you in person, and let them pay their respects to you and to show exactly what they think of all your country has achieved and all we know you are going to achieve as the leader of that great country in the future.

So on behalf of my wife and myself, on behalf of my own country, I want to thank you for this opportunity. We are grateful. We want to go ahead with this partnership between us as independent countries, each making up our own minds; but above all, when we make up our minds, doing it on the basis of principle, on the basis of the knowledge of the fact that in the long run, principle, and action based upon principle, will be successful.

But when we are doing these things, remembering that of the ingredients of success, we have them: first of all undoubtedly is the leadership about which I have spoken.

Secondly, to realize that we must move from a basis of strength, and it is only by strength that we can get others to realize that not only have we a just cause but they must listen to that cause.

And thirdly, that when we do play a part in world affairs, we remember that our friends have to be thought of just as much as those we are trying to entice into the international comity of nations, in the interests of the world as a whole.

Sir, I thank you for your kindness. I thank you for having me here as your official guest, and on behalf of my country, I will ask everyone here now if they will please rase with me and drink to the health of a very great man, the President of the United States of America. Mr. President.

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

Filed Under




Washington, DC

Simple Search of Our Archives