Lyndon B. Johnson photo

Toasts of the President and Secretary General U Thant

August 06, 1964

Mr. Secretary General, distinguished guests:

This has been a very gratifying and a very satisfying day in this house of the American people.

Mr. Secretary General, we have from many of the States of this Union from coast to coast some of our most distinguished citizens who have come here to pay their respects and their tribute to you.

I should like to have the opportunity to present each of them to you but, instead, I am going to ask only for the privilege of presenting three or four of your old friends who, I think, are representative of all that is best in our country.

First, I want to ask to stand for you, and so that all the people here may have a chance to see him, the articulate and understanding Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee of the United States Senate, Mr. Fulbright.

Next, the eloquent minority leader of the United States Senate whose loyalty to the country knows no party bounds, Mr. Everett Dirksen.

One of the most talented and dedicated public servants that America has produced, the Ambassador to the United Nations, Mr. Adlai Stevenson.

And a young and distinguished former Member of the United States Senate who left his seat in that body to ride a tank in World War II, a former Ambassador of this Nation to the United Nations, a former Ambassador to Viet-Nam and a present counselor to the President and the Secretary of State, Ambassador Lodge.

I know that those of you who are here this evening feel as I do that we are privileged to receive and to welcome the man who is the public servant of the world.

For me, this day has been quite a particular personal pleasure. The Secretary General and I have a few things in common. We are very nearly the same age. We both began life as teachers. We both have spent many years in the public service of our countries. There are some differences, of course.

Before coming to the United Nations, the Secretary General was in charge of information for his government in Burma. That type position would be very appealing at times to most Presidents in this country.

But there is another and a much more serious bond between us. Both the Secretary General and I serve in our present offices as successors to men whom the world will always honor and whom the world will always remember as champions of peace.

When we look back upon them, the first 3 years of this decade took a cruel toll of leadership. The world still mourns tonight the loss of Dag Hammarskjold. The world will always sorrow for the loss of John Fitzgerald Kennedy.

But I think it is a commentary upon their work and upon the world itself that their tragic and untimely deaths have not deterred us for a moment in our quest for peace.

The will for peace in the world is a will that springs from the soul of the human race. That will is stronger tonight, stronger in this decade, I think, than ever before in the history of the human race.

Willful men may still design willful schemes for war, but they will meet today the strong and the steadfast will of men everywhere who reject war as an acceptable instrument of national policy.

In this century there has formed a new and resolute morality among mankind. That morality rejects both the immorality of war as well as the immorality of indifference and inaction toward all threats of war.

This new morality of mankind is nowhere more manifest than in the growing respect for the peacekeeping and the peacemaking purposes of the United Nations.

We here in the United States take great satisfaction from the success of the United Nations. It is the embodiment and the fulfillment of an old American vision.

We are so proud, Mr. Secretary General, to have the United Nations on these shores, and we are so proud to be privileged to participate in its work.

So, tonight, to those of us who are privileged to be here together in this peaceful hour, when so many are troubled throughout the world, I should like to ask each of you to join with me now in a toast to the Secretary General, to the organization which he so ably serves, and to the cause of peace on earth for which we all work together-Mr. U Thant.

Note: The President proposed the toast at a dinner in the State Dining Room at the White House. Secretary General U Thant responded as follows:

Mr. President, Your Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen.

I am suddenly overwhelmed by the very gracious words of you, Mr. President, not only about the United Nations but also about me.

Of course, it is not news to me when you say that the Government of the United States and the people of this great country are dedicated to the ideas and ideals of the Charter of the United Nations, and you have a very distinguished record of consistent support and cooperation with all United Nations activities since its inception in 1945.

You have also, Mr. President, rightly pointed out the horrors of war and the dedication of the great American people to avert war and to maintain peace. This is in strict conformity with the Charter of the United Nations which I have the privilege to represent here tonight.

I think it is what we are calling one of the primary purposes of the United Nations when it was established in San Francisco 19 years ago--to prevent war which twice in our lifetime had brought untold sorrow to mankind. That was the original provision in the Charter of the United Nations to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war. That is the text of the Charter--to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind.

To achieve this objective, among others, the founding fathers 19 years ago asked all member states to practice tolerance and to live with one another in peace as good neighbors and to unite our common strength to achieve common objectives. These also were the original texts of the Charter provisions.

So long as I am performing the functions of the Secretary General of the United Nations, Mr. President, I can assure you, and assure all these ladies and gentlemen who are present here tonight, that it shall be my constant endeavor to do my utmost to bring about a state of affairs by which the member states, which number at present 112, will be in a position to practice tolerance and life together with one another in peace as good neighbors and unite our common strength for the achievement of the common objectives outlined in the Charter.

There is also another very important provision in the Charter; that is, the founding fathers in 1945 had one very pertinent observation in the Charter. They wanted to see the United Nations as a center to harmonize the actions of states for the achievement of the common objectives.

It seems to me, Mr. President, that this particular objective of trying to see the United Nations as a center for harmonizing the actions of states in order to achieve the common objective is, to me, the most significant and the most important provision in the Charter of the United Nations.

Then, how are we to practice tolerance? How are we to see the United Nations develop into a real center for harmonizing the actions of member states so diverse for the achievement of common objectives?

For the achievement of this objective, it seems to me, as I have stated on previous occasions, that we should give a little thought to our concepts and to our attitudes toward problems. Perhaps it will not be news to most of you, I am sure, but I beg your indulgence to deal with this aspect for a couple of minutes.

It seems to me, Mr. President, that in many societies, particularly in technological societies, there has been too much stress on the development of the intellect. The primary objective of education in many countries in the second half of the 20th century has been and still is to create doctors and scientists and engineers, to discover outer space, to go to the Moon and Mars and to the stars. That has been the primary objective of modern education.

It seems to me that pure intellectual development unaccompanied by a corresponding moral and spiritual development is sure to lead humanity from one crisis to another.

To my way of thinking, the development of man must be fully integrated in all three aspects--intellectual, moral, and spiritual.

In my part of the world, as you are no doubt aware, Mr. President, the stress has been the other way around. The primary aim has been a monastic education, the moral and spiritual development aspects of men at the expense of the intellectual aspect of men. As a result, the traditional monastic education in Burma or China or Japan or Thailand, I stress, has been traditional, has been the discovery of what has been happening inside of us.

We try to understand the thought processes. We try to understand the moral and spiritual values like tolerance, like patience, the philosophy of live and let live, the desire to understand the other man's point of view. These we tried to develop for centuries and, at the same time, the intellectual aspect of man has been ignored.

As the result, the traditional concept of education and culture in Asia is now an anachronism in the second half of the 20th century. At the same time, the pure intellectual development which has been stressed in technological societies at the expense of ignoring the moral and spiritual aspects of men is also lopsided.

I feel very strongly that in the second half of the 20th century, under the shadow of the hydrogen bomb, it is very necessary for all of us, particularly leaders of thought and leaders of men to realize the imperative need for the development of men in all three aspects--intellectual, moral, and spiritual. Then only, Mr. President, do I feel that the world will be a much better place for all of us to live in.

Once again, Mr. President, thank you very much for the extraordinary warmth of reception accorded to me and my colleagues during our very brief stay in this beautiful Capital of your great country. I shall always retain very happy memories of my present visit and particularly your very gracious words with me, and may I request you ladies and gentlemen to join me in a toast to the health of the President of the United States and Mrs. Johnson.

Lyndon B. Johnson, Toasts of the President and Secretary General U Thant Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

Filed Under




Washington, DC

Simple Search of Our Archives