John F. Kennedy photo

Toasts of the President and the King of Afghanistan at a Dinner at the White House

September 05, 1963

Ladies and gentlemen:

I know that you all join me in expressing a very warm welcome to Their Majesties.

This is their first visit to the United States and it is the first visit of any king and queen of Afghanistan to this country. I think the fact that they come here and that this visit is the first is symbolic of a good deal of change in their own country and a good deal of change in the United States.

One of our guests here this evening, Ambassador Guggenheim, told me early this evening that when he went to Cuba as our ambassador in the administration of Herbert Hoover that President Hoover said to him that the United States had two problems in foreign policy--Cuba and Mexico.

We still have one of those problems, but we have a good many other matters which concern us. I don't think that there is anything more remarkable than that this country which lived a narrow isolation and happy existence for so many years should suddenly, in the short space of 25 years, become concerned with matters all around the globe, and that the security, independence, and well-being of the country which is led by His Majesty should be of such interest to the people of the United States who live so far away, who are so removed by time and history, who perhaps know something of Afghanistan because of Alexander's march or because of stories they may have read 30 years ago when they were growing up about life in the frontier.

Now, suddenly, Afghanistan and the United States are linked by a common desire to maintain our national independence and freedom and the security and peace of our people.

We are glad to have His Majesty here. The United States Constitution says that the President should serve no more than 8 years, both for his own and the country's wellbeing and, yet, His Majesty has led his country for 30 years, and he is still, in my terms, at least, a relatively young man. That is an extraordinary record, and he has many, many more years of responsibility before him. That is a heavy burden if you look at the map and see where his country is located, and he has not only maintained the independence of his country and its sovereignty but also within its own country.

He has made significant progress for his people--for the rights of women, for the expansion of the Government, for the improvement of agriculture. So I think that in welcoming His Majesty and Her Majesty to the United States, we have not only guests from far away but also guests with whom we feel very close. We are very proud to have them here, and I hope that all of you will join me in expressing a warm welcome to them and our very best wishes for their very good health.

Note: The President proposed this toast at a dinner in the State Dining Room at the White House. In his response King Zaher observed that the social and political aspirations of the Afghan people are akin to those which had inspired hosts of immigrants to the United States. "Our people," he continued, "nevertheless have a long struggle ahead in order to overcome the problems presented by illiteracy and certain material handicaps. For us, the struggle is essentially a campaign waged for consolidation of the bases of our freedom, for we are fully aware of the fact that these factors can undermine and present a threat to the very foundation of our liberty." Acknowledging the part played by U.S. assistance in overcoming such material handicaps and contributing to his country's economic development, the King expressed the appreciation of the people and Government of Afghanistan.

King Zaher stressed the special need of the developing countries for world peace and international cooperation. He congratulated the President on the conclusion of the test ban treaty and expressed his people's concern for the safeguarding of international peace and security. In pursuance of these objectives, he said, Afghan policy is grounded in respect for and adherence to the Charter of the United Nations and in a desire to establish and consolidate friendship and peaceful cooperation with all peoples and nations without becoming involved in military pacts.

Voicing his personal pleasure in the friendship and cooperation which mark relations between the two countries, King Zaher closed by expressing the hope that these would be further enhanced through his visit.

On the following day King Zaher was host to the President at a luncheon at the Afghan Embassy. The toasts of the President and King Zaher on that occasion were also released.

John F. Kennedy, Toasts of the President and the King of Afghanistan at a Dinner at the White House Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

Filed Under




Washington, DC

Simple Search of Our Archives