Lyndon B. Johnson photo

Toasts of the President and the Emperor of Ethiopia

February 14, 1967

Your Imperial Majesty, Mr. Vice President, Mr. Chief Justice, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen:

It is a high privilege tonight to honor one of this century's most courageous, farsighted, and respected statesmen, who has earned an indelible place in the hearts of men everywhere.

Monarch of the oldest Christian kingdom and an ancient civilization, you, Your Majesty, personify to us the eternal spirit of devotion to freedom and independence of your Ethiopian people.

The essence of the Ethiopian character was put in your stirring words many years ago: "With God's help, we have always stood proud and free upon our native mountains."

It is difficult for me to express to you tonight the very special place that you occupy in our tradition.

Indeed, in the tradition of all mankind.

Many of us in this room tonight recall the night of June 28, 1936, when the Emperor of Ethiopia made a plea to the League of Nations.

A plea for his suffering people which was also a very moving appeal to the conscience of humanity.

Your Majesty's final question to the League has echoed down the years with prophetic impact:

"I ask the 52 nations who have given the Ethiopian people a promise to help them in their resistance to the aggressor, what are they willing to do for Ethiopia?

"And the great powers who have .promised the guarantee of collective security to small states on whom weighs the threat that they may one day suffer the fate of Ethiopia, I ask, what measures do you intend to take?

"Representatives of the world, I have come to Geneva to discharge in your midst the most painful of the duties of the head of a state.

"What reply shall I have to take back to my people?"

We all know--to. our shame--the reply Your Majesty received.

The betrayal of Ethiopia was in truth the turning point on the road to aggression and war.

Its lesson has been etched into our memory and has spurred us in building a world where solid commitments to resist oppression are no longer just scraps of paper.

Your Majesty, we also recall with great pleasure your triumphant return to Addis Ababa. And your remarkable reconstruction of your nation as you put into action your long-held and long-frustrated ideals of modernization:

--building schools, a fine university, hospitals, dams, airports, factories;

--turning Addis Ababa into a dynamic, beautiful, modern city;

--proclaiming a revised constitution and legal system;

--training young Ethiopians for the tasks of the future in the 20th century. Your Majesty has not confined your concern just to your people.

We have all witnessed and can testify to with admiration your striking performance as a leader of Africa's many and diverse peoples--and as a mediator in potentially explosive confrontations between various African states.

The Organization of African Unity-which your initiative in 1963 was instrumental in creating--is one of the most hopeful institutions in the movement towards peace, reason, and unity in the great Continent of Africa.

It has always been a unique privilege and pleasure for me to have an opportunity to exchange views on international affairs with one whom I consider to be one of the world's greatest eider statesmen.

Today, as in 1963 when we last talked, we had an immediate sense of the great mutual understanding and respect that our people entertain for each other.

Your Majesty, we treasure deeply this relationship. It is my genuine and most earnest hope that succeeding generations of our peoples will continue to reinforce the solid edifice of American-Ethiopian amity and understanding.

On this happy occasion, here tonight in the first house of this land, Mrs. Johnson and I, on behalf of our distinguished guests, all of those who are privileged to come here and be together tonight, and certainly on behalf of all of the American people, propose a toast to Your Majesty--respected statesman, peacemaker in the world, and most honored and trusted friend.

Note: The President proposed the toast at 10:10 p.m. in the State Dining Room at the White House at a dinner honoring Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia. In his opening words he referred to the Emperor, Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey, and Chief Justice Earl Warren. As printed this item follows the text released by the White House Press Office.

His Imperial Majesty responded as follows:

Mr. President and Mrs. Johnson, honored guests:

We are deeply touched by the kind words which you, Mr. President, have just said about us and the people of Ethiopia. We are equally grateful for the warm welcome and immense hospitality accorded us during our present as well as our previous visits to this great country.

This visit, among other things, also gives us the opportunity to carry with us the warmest greeting and admiration of the Ethiopian people to yourself and your family, Mr. President, and through you to the talented people of America.

From the time we have been chosen to lead our beloved people to the present years of the space era, Ethiopians have been watching with keen interest the gigantic technological strides and the immense economic advancement that the American way of life has brought about to mankind.

The democratic party politic practiced in America has always been regarded by Ethiopians as a shining example of free expression of man who has governed his own destiny along the avenues he freely chooses.

Ethiopia, for one, is certain that in this great country of the United States she has real and lasting friendship. Such a relationship exists not as a matter of accident. It is rather the result of many similar views and principles which both Ethiopia and the U.S.A. share and uphold towards the maintenance of enduring peace for the world.

For without peace, whether on the continental scope or on a regional level, no nation can progress. The great concern which we at times manifest over the events developing around the eastern part of Africa might make us Ethiopians look more vigilant and sensitive than our friends wish us to be.

Yet some of the sad reminiscences of our own history, the peculiar position which we occupy in world geography, a delicate situation which is found on the periphery of an area which is always fraught with turbulence, leaves us together with the other fellow Africans to face similar situations with no alternative but to be extra cautious to safeguard our national integrity.

At the same time, however, we shall not, as always, falter to continue strengthening our friendship with all our neighbors and friendly countries on the basis of mutual respect.

We always pray to the Almighty that peace and understanding reign among all nations on earth. We should also take this opportune moment, Mr. President, to express our deep gratitude for the numerous forms of assistance which Ethiopia has benefited from your Government, be it in the form of technical know-how or in human resource in all walks of our country's endeavor for national development.

It is, therefore, with this feeling of our appreciation that we ask the distinguished guests to toast the health of the President and his family and to the lasting amity between our two countries.

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

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