Lyndon B. Johnson photo

Toasts of the President and the Amir of Kuwait

December 11, 1968

Your Highness, Vice President and Mrs. Humphrey, Secretary and Mrs. Rusk, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen:

We are all pleased that you could be here to share this evening with us. This is the last of these happy occasions, these state visits, that I shall attend here in the White House.

And I think it is most fitting that our guest of honor tonight should be the Amir of Kuwait, for his country has set many examples for the other nations of the world to follow.

Those of you who are not very familiar with Kuwait may know it only as an oil producing country. But under the very wise and progressive leadership of our distinguished guest, Kuwait has developed not only its natural resources, but has also developed its human resources.

His Highness has worked wonders for the welfare of his people. He has provided free education. He has provided medical care. He has created job opportunities which will assure them lives of independence and dignity.

Perhaps the most stirring example of Kuwait's success is the amount of assistance that it is able to give to other more needy countries.

In terms of its gross national product, Kuwait devotes 12 percent of its resources to various forms of foreign assistance to its neighbors and other nations of the world.

This very small state leads the entire world in its contributions to helping others. And I wish that other nations, including our own, were doing nearly as well in terms of percentage points.

I have enjoyed very much the frank discussions that I have had with His Highness this afternoon.

All Americans are deeply concerned over the plight of one group of people in the Middle East who are especially on my mind tonight--those victims of 20 years of war, who have lost their homes and who must be returned to normal lives if peace is ever to come to that area.

Our two countries, sir, are separated by great distances and they do differ somewhat in size. But I know from our talks this afternoon that we do have the same objectives, we do have the same hopes, and we do share the same goals--peace in the world, regional stability, the assurance of justice and hope for the men and women and children who have for so long been denied a fair start in their pursuit of happiness.

So, it is with great pleasure that Mrs. Johnson and I have the privilege of being here with the leading citizens from throughout this Nation--from all of its 50 States--and I should like to ask all of you ladies and gentlemen to join me in a toast to our honored guest, the Amir of Kuwait.

Note: The President proposed the toast at 10:10 p.m. at a dinner in the State Dining Room at the White House. In his opening words he also referred to Vice president Hubert H. Humphrey, Mrs. Humphrey, Secretary of State Dean Rusk, and Mrs. Rusk.

Shaikh Sabah al-Salim al-Sabah, Amir of Kuwait, responded as follows:

Mr. President, I would like to express my deep gratitude for this splendid reception which has provided me once again with the opportunity to meet with you, Mr. President, and this select group of distinguished Americans.

The size of hospitality and generosity which has been accorded us since our arrival in your country is but an expression of the strength and depth of the friendship between our two countries, which has been characterized by the close relations that go back to a time preceding the exchange of diplomatic representation between us.

Excuse me, Mr. President, if I avail myself of this opportunity tonight to ask you all to share with me some of the thoughts which I have in mind and which I am sure are in the minds of a great number of individuals in my country and our area and in other parts of the world.

There is no doubt that man's world of today is passing through the most dangerous period of its history and that human civilization, which is the work of many nations through many centuries, has never faced the threat of annihilation it faces today. All indications would suggest that this horrible thing will never take place as long as the instinct of survival in man provides the motivation to want to live and as long as his talent of good reason and sound judgment causes him to do whatever is beneficial to him and to avoid whatever is harmful.

However, the fear that any miscalculation might lead to an uncontrollable situation is on the increase day by day. This danger becomes evident every time tension erupts in one area or another and every time the international situation is confronted with an impasse for one reason or another.

There is no doubt that we have in the world today a long list of sensitive areas, areas of tension, each having the potential of becoming the spark that may involve the entire world in what is most feared by mankind in our day.

This state of affairs has led to the emergence of several important developments in the field of international relations that should be taken into account in any evaluation of what is taking place around us today.

Most important of these developments are the following: First, the fear that a nuclear war might break out has led to the emergence of a certain measure of sensitivity throughout the world to the point that as soon as any potentially dangerous events take place in any region, the other regions of the world are bound to respond deeply and promptly.

This prompt response in any one area to what happens in other parts of the world has become the main characteristic of our age. This could either be a good sign or a bad one, depending on the kind of response that results or on whether it is motivated by selfish purposes or is based, as it should be, on a true understanding of the problems of the world and the fair recognition of the feelings and aspirations of other nations and their capacity as an integral part of mankind.

Secondly, the prevailing state of affairs in the world today is such that regional problems are usually polarized. It has been noted that ever since the cold war started between the East and the West, and due to the complications of the age, any regional conflict is most likely to turn into a conflict between the big powers. And this is the main cause for that sense of danger which the world feels whenever a local or regional conflict erupts in any part of the world.

These phenomena are not as clearly manifested anywhere in the world as they are in the Middle East area, of which our country, Kuwait, is a small, but a vital part.

This area, Mr. President, was living in peace and security and was looking forward to the day when it would be able to reconstruct itself after a long period of darkness imposed on it by foreign occupation in most of its parts.

But due to its strategic position, this area has become a target for all those who look at it with a covetous eye. For no sooner had it opened its eyes to what was going on in the world around it and begun the struggle to reestablish its prestige as a vital and creative part of the world today, then it fell prey to international conspiracies and machinations.

However, most of the countries of this area were able to gain their independence in spite of unfavorable circumstances.

But the area is still far from enjoying just peace and stability because the problems which have been imposed on it are still far from being resolved. The reason is that the methods which have been followed to solve these problems are based on the recognition of one status quo after another, thus disregarding the true causes of the conflict and they are based on the considerations relating to the international conflicts between the big powers and not on the regional considerations, which were the cause of the conflict in the first place.

Almost a year and a half have passed since the war of June 1967 and large parts of three Arab countries which are members of the United Nations remain under occupation.

More important than that is the fact that the main victims of this conflict are the 2 1/2 million Arab people of Palestine who continue to live as displaced persons, denied their right to their homes, property, and homeland.

This, Mr. President, is the basic cause of the so-called Middle East problem. Peace will never be established in the area and stability will never be restored unless the problem is dealt with at its roots.

We do realize, Mr. President, that there are differences in opinion between our two governments on this subject. But all that we hope for is that any judgment on your part regarding any issue arising in the sensitive area should be a just and fair one-a judgment which does not rest on the implications of the new issue, but rather on the fact that this new issue is but a subsidiary issue resulting from a long dispute, one which has been in existence more than a half a century, and which has culminated in the catastrophe now besetting the Middle East area.

Any judgment on any issue made without regard to the original dispute would serve only as a sedative for some time, but will not serve the cause of lasting peace and justice in the area. These, Mr. President, are some of the thoughts which I wanted to convey to you personally, because it is my belief that frankness is imperative if we are to try to solve the difficult problems of our area.

If there are nations in the world today that seek peace, the Arab nation with its long record of struggle, strife, and turbulence in the last half century and with its consequent need for peace so as to be able to devote its efforts to reconstruction and development, that nation is certainly among these nations that want peace in the Middle East.

But this does not mean that it needs or could accept peace at any price. What it needs is peace based on justice and fair play.

Again, Mr. President, let me thank you for this wonderful reception and for the opportunity which has been afforded me to be with you tonight and to be able to present these friend-to-friend views.

I accepted your kind invitation to visit your great country during a crucial period which our area is living in today, only because of my deep conviction that the Kuwaiti people in particular, and the Arab people in general, want the friendship of all, particularly that of the American people with whom they share mutual ideals and whose objective is to serve man and the cause of world peace, so that all mankind may live in a world in which understanding and brotherhood prevail.

Lyndon B. Johnson, Toasts of the President and the Amir of Kuwait Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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