Toasts of the President and Prime Minister Norman E. Kirk of New Zealand
Mr. Prime Minister and our distinguished guests:
Mr. Prime Minister, you are no stranger to our country; this is your fifth visit, but we are very honored and very proud that this is the first time we have had the opportunity to welcome you as the head of government of your country.
We say that, because New Zealand and the United States have been allies in war, as we are now allies in peace. And I say it, too, from a personal sense, because as I have often pointed out to many visitors from New Zealand and to you this morning, I have very pleasant memories of serving with New Zealand forces in the Solomons, your Third New Zealand Division. And then also, Mrs. Nixon and I have the' most pleasant memories of the year 1953--it was 20 years ago, when on a trip around the world, the first country we visited, as Vice President of the United States, was New Zealand.
We shall never forget the warmth of the welcome we received, not only in Auckland but in the South Island as well. And we brought back from that trip an affection for not only your country but your people, which has never left us.
To our distinguished guests tonight, I have had an opportunity that most of you have not had, and that is to talk to the Prime Minister at some length this morning about some of our mutual problems and our concerns in the world.
Most of you probably read of his speech in the U.N. yesterday when he said that he spoke for the little countries of the world. When he rises to respond to my remarks, you will see that the man who represents the little countries of the world is a big man.
Prime Minister Kirk, however, is not only a big man physically, as he is, but I can tell you from our rather brief acquaintance that he is also a big man in terms of his love of his country, his pride in his background in that country and also in the idealism with which he approaches the problems of building a structure of peace in the Pacific, in Asia, and in the world. And the world is fortunate that a man with his background, with his idealism, with his strength, with his concern for little countries as well as little people, is leading this nation, which is in a way, we think, so far away from us.
And I would simply say, Mr. Prime Minister, that perhaps it would be hard to find any two countries in the world that are further apart geographically than New Zealand and the United States. But it would be hard to find, also, any two countries in the world that in terms of what we seek in the world, in terms of our common ideals, in terms of what we believe, are closer together, because we both seek a world of peace, we both seek a world in which not only great powers but small powers and small nations are safe, independent, and respected.
And we both seek a world in which all people in the world--all people in the world--wherever they may be, not only in our countries, which are fortunate to be far above the average in terms of our income, shall have the opportunity to move forward toward a better life.
In this room in which, for over 150 years, leaders from other governments have spoken, these words I know may sound now almost trite, but I would say that we are entering an era when the opportunity not only to build a structure of peace which will last for perhaps the balance of the century and beyond, but also to build a new world in which all nations and all people go forward together to a better life, where that opportunity is better than it has ever been. And we are very proud that we have the opportunity, Mr. Prime Minister, to work with you, your people, your government toward that great end.
Ladies and gentlemen, I know you will want to rise and drink to the health of the Prime Minister.
To the Prime Minister.
Note: The President spoke at 9:57 p.m. in the State Dining Room at the White House.
Earlier in the day, Prime Minister Kirk met with the President at the White House.
Prime Minister Kirk responded to the President's toast as follows:
Mr. President, Mrs. Nixon, Mr. Vice President, Mrs. Agnew, ladies and gentlemen:
I feel a little out of place. Though I come from a small country, I have to confess that we produce the most excellent food anywhere in the world, and that is what I am advertising by my presence. If you want to live in a small country but be big, there is a very simple trade solution to it.
But, Mr. President, I want first to thank you for the consideration and for the kindness and cordiality that you have shown to me during this visit to Washington, and I want to assure you that that is greatly appreciated.
And I want to say that it has been a very fine tribute and one that I appreciate very much, that among those who were invited here tonight are special personal friends in the United States of America, and I want to thank you very much for that consideration.
And I want to say how moved I was, knowing how difficult it is for a European to speak good Maori, to hear someone singing flawless Maori and without an accent of any sort. That really was a very nice touch.1
1The U.S. Army Chorus performed at the dinner, including in its program one song, as was customary, native to the guest of honor's .. country.
Our country, of course, is called New Zealand--it is also called "Aotearoa," the Maori name for the country, "The Land of the Long White Cloud," and it conjures up a vision of peace, blue skies, pleasant living, and indeed that is true of the country.
We are a long way away from any other part of the world, and even our nearest neighbors are quite some distance from New Zealand shores. We would be, I think, the most remote country in the world. We are also on the bottom of the world.
And, Mr. President, if I talk about what small countries can do and should do in the world, you should remember that we help hold it up.
But for me it is a great privilege to be here, and it is a considerable honor to our country to be received in the way that I have been received here today. And I am mindful that it is now 20 years since you visited New Zealand and longer since you helped defend it. And the relationship between our country and the United States of America is based on some very important considerations.
And we remember, all of us, the part, the work, the sacrifices made by United States servicemen that enabled us to have the future we have. And in those days and in those years, a special partnership was forged out of a common concern and a common danger, and we have great pleasure each year in welcoming back to New Zealand people who were stationed there during that time, who come with their New Zealand wives, their children, and now their grandchildren. But it reminds us that the relationships between countries are not just matters of treaty or of political relationship; the relationship between the peoples of the countries helps build a bond that enables us to work on the things we see differently and to develop those that we see the same.
And our objectives are precisely those that have been pursued in this country. We believe in freedom; we believe in democracy; we believe that each person should have an equal opportunity to develop themselves, to participate in society, to take their place, and to take it on their own initiative and on their own contribution. And so, we both work for the common goal of extending the quality of life and the quality of the societies in which we live.
And we see, perhaps, a little more clearly, because in a small country there is no question of imposing your will or dominating or of seeking anything other than a political solution. More and more we see that while there are many nations, there is in fact just one human family, and more and more we are compelled to consider the fact that though we are one human family, we work as though we are several.
And now the opportunities are extended in the new atmosphere that is being created for all countries to pursue those avenues and opportunities with the objective of uniting the human family in common concern for peace, for prosperity, and for the development of their peoples.
So, since we share these objectives, it is not surprising that we have welcomed the new opportunities that a more relaxed, international atmosphere has brought. And, Mr. President, the opportunities that your work has helped to create in Asia and in Southeast Asia is at once a challenge and a chance, a real chance, to improve relationships to the point where we can look forward to a long period of stability and peace in that region.
And for our part, we want to play an effective role, and we want to develop as an independent country the initiatives that we believe are right and proper.
So, sir, to come today and to have the opportunity to talk with you about these objectives, about the changing scene in Asia, and about those things which we can do which help pull us together in a spirit of cooperation and mutual respect, has been, indeed, a very important opportunity so far as I am concerned. And I am pleased that one result of the discussions today was that we were able to meet a very large measure of agreement about cooperation in science and technology.
Our problem has been that we have produced a number of people who have been talented, but when they reached their maturity, they go off to work for others. When we see Americans on the Moon, we know that in New Zealand they helped put them there--Dr. William Pickering2--and what we are talking about is a basis of cooperation that allows scientists and technologists to stimulate each other with their ideas, to develop new fields, to bring new benefits that can be employed usefully for the benefit of our countries and for the benefit of other peoples. And, sir, we welcome very much this opportunity to share, to cooperate, and indeed, in the case of our skilled people, retain their skills in our service as well as in the service of the people.
2Dr. William H. Pickering, who was born in Wellington, New Zealand, was director of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory at the California Institute of Technology.
I don't want to say any more except what a great honor it has been to be received here, the opportunity to talk with you, to discuss the matters that are so important to the South Pacific and to Southeast Asia at the present time. And I want to remark that 20 years is a long time. We have changed a lot in 20 years. The fish are bigger and the horses a little faster, and the country has changed and developed.
And I want to take this opportunity of saying that the President of the United States will always be a welcome visitor to New Zealand. And if the President of the United States brings the graceful First Lady with him, then, sir, you will be doubly welcome.
And I know that there are some things you must attend to that do not permit endless travels, but I hope you will consider an invitation to the President of the United States that remains open for exercise at his convenience. • Sir, thank you very much for the reception, thank you very much for the cordiality with which I and my party have been received. We do hope as a continuant to this brief visit, with the understanding we have achieved, that it will be possible to go on and develop the pursuit of peace and prosperity for all people.
Ladies and gentlemen, can I ask you to join me in a toast to the President of the United States of America.
To the President.
Richard Nixon, Toasts of the President and Prime Minister Norman E. Kirk of New Zealand Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/255302