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Toasts of the President and the Prime Minister of Iran

December 05, 1968

Your Excellency, Mrs. Hoveyda, Vice President Humphrey, Mrs. Humphrey, distinguished guests:

Few things are guaranteed to make an American feel more mortal than a visit from a leader of Iran.

In 8 years, we will be all excited about celebrating our 200th birthday in this country. Iranians can be forgiven if they wonder what all the excitement is about.

Last year Iran celebrated its 2,500th birthday. The success and the stability of Iran's Government is proof of the ancient saying, "He who is of a calm and happy nature will hardly feel the pressure of age."

When the founders of our country were debating what kind of government America should have, some argued that the title of President wasn't majestic enough. They wanted to call the Chief Executive, King. Some suggested Potentate. And I am just as glad that they settled for President.

How much I would hate to think how our fourth estate would react if they were told that they had to refer to me as the Shahanshah.

Your Excellency, it is always a pleasure, sir, for Americans to welcome visitors from your remarkable nation. Iran stands as a living symbol of two worlds--the world of the past, with your history of great literary and artistic achievement; and the world of the present, with your inspiring record of social and economic progress, which is the envy of the world.

We know that the dynamism of Iran owes much to the enlightened leadership of His Majesty--a great statesman and, we think, a very good friend.

He has long believed that the only monuments that are worthy of a nation are the living monuments of continuous achievement.

This afternoon I had a very long and a very frank discussion with the Prime Minister. He told me about some of the monuments that have been built in Iran; about he and the Shah, how they are urging young people to take part in the Government and to embark on careers in public service.

He told me about the vast improvements in Iran's schools and universities; about the great work that is being done to eradicate poverty and disease and ignorance; about the enthusiasm and the energy of his people and their dedication to breaking new ground in the scientific and technological fields; and above all, as the Prime Minister said to me this afternoon, he is talking to them about the monument of peace.

Here in America, we are trying so hard to change the face of our own land. We are trying to build an America that is responsive abroad and that is responsible at home; an America of justice, an America of freedom, an America of strength, and above all, a country of compassion.

What you, Mr. Prime Minister, are achieving in Iran, and what we are trying so hard to achieve here, is going to endure longer than any statue of bronze.

Ladies and gentlemen, I hope that you will please join me and Iran's most able and gifted Prime Minister, in saluting tonight his country's sovereign. To his Imperial Majesty, the Shahanshah of Iran.

Note: The President proposed the toast at 10:22 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 and his wife.

Prime Minister Amir Abbas Hoveyda of Iran responded as follows:

Mr. President, Mrs. Johnson, Mr. Vice President, Mrs. Humphrey:

For the second time in one day, I find my country, my sovereign, as well as myself, the recipients of your gracious words of friendship and encouragement. And once again, I thank you warmly for your generous sentiments.

My wife and I are very happy to be here this evening at your kind invitation. For her, who was partly educated in this country, it is a sort of homecoming. And for me, quite apart from the pleasure of meeting you and Mrs. Johnson, and enjoying the warm hospitality of your people, it has a personal significance.

I hope I am not revealing any diplomatic secrets by disclosing that prior to my coming to Washington the American Embassy in Tehran inquired, as a matter of protocol, whether, and I quote, "I had ever shaken the hand of LBJ."

I replied that I never had, for when I was last in America, you, sir, were a United States Senator, and I an employee of the United Nations, and our paths never crossed.

And when you came to Tehran in 1962, as the Vice President of the United States, I was too junior an official of our Government to have had that privilege.

I do remember, however, that during your visit to Tehran you had inspected many places, you had seen modern farms, you even rode a donkey, which I immediately interpreted as symbolic of your fidelity to the Democratic Party platform.

I sincerely hope that you and Mrs. Johnson will have the opportunity of visiting Iran again. This time we shall not request you to ride a donkey or sit in the back seat of an American limousine. We shall, instead, ask you to take the wheel of an Iranian manufactured car.

A number of years have elapsed. And whatever the significance of an automobile may be to American politics, we in Iran shall be happy to interpret that as symbolic of our country's industrial progress.

In the attainment of that progress, your great country, Mr. President, and many of your countrymen have provided us with the most valuable cooperation, a cooperation which has followed the tradition of the friendship and understanding which for so long has tied our two countries together, and which leads us today to work at a common task in search of human dignity, freedom, and decency.

As you well know, Mr. President, we in Iran are presently engaged--and you said it eloquently--in the task of reshaping our society to the requirement of the day and age in which we live.

There is the enlightened leadership of the Shahanshah, and thanks to the revolutionary measures which he initiated and so inspiring led, we have liberated our country from the shackles of its archaic structure and now walk rapidly and proudly in the paths of economic growth and social development.

Finally, I would like to express on behalf of all my compatriots, as well as on my own behalf, our sincere appreciation to the charming First Lady for having so kindly accepted the honorary chairmanship of the American Relief Committee to aid the victims of our recent earthquake disaster in Iran.

Her gracious gesture and your own humanitarian interests serve to underline the generous contribution of this country to alleviate human misery everywhere.

Ladies and gentlemen, I now ask you to join me in a toast to the health of the President of the United States and Mrs. Johnson, and to the continued friendship of our two countries.

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

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