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Toasts of the President and the Shah of Iran

October 21, 1969

Your Imperial Majesty and friends of Iran and the United States who are gathered here at the White House tonight:

We are honored again to receive His Imperial Majesty in this house and in this room. Before the dinner, I found that this, of course, is not the first time that His Majesty has been here; but you will be interested to note that he is one of the few leaders, heads of state in the world, who has been a guest in this house and in this room as the guest of President Truman and then of President Eisenhower and then President Kennedy and then President Johnson and now, tonight, as our guest.

I would say on that count he is far ahead of me. [Laughter] He is somewhat younger than I, although he will celebrate a birthday on Sunday.

I found in checking into his background that we had one thing in common--a love for sports. We both played football. There was a difference. I sat on the bench. He was captain of the team.

But in welcoming him here tonight, I could speak of those usual pleasantries and diplomatic cliches that grace such occasions; but I think because there are so many here who know his country and have for his country the affection and admiration that I have and Mrs. Nixon has; because there are so many here from his own country, that you would like it better if I shared with you a personal view of the leadership he has provided for his country and the cause of peace and freedom in the world.

In 1953, my wife and I had a very great privilege to travel around the world, and particularly through the countries of Asia. In that period, not too long after World War II, the great leaders of World War II were still living and still active and powerful on the world scene.

I remember them well, now. The names, most of them you will recall, some are still active: Yoshida in Japan, Syngman Rhee in Korea, Chiang Kai-shek in Taiwan, Menzies in Australia, Nehru in India, Ghulam Mohammed in Pakistan, and many others.

The last stop on that long trip of 70 days was Iran. On that stop we met for the first time our very honored guest tonight. He made a very deep impression on me and on my wife at that time, a deep impression because of his own personal character, and also with regard to the various other leaders that I had seen, each of whom had greatness in his own way, because in 1953 Iran had very difficult problems.

There was martial law in the land. The father of the now Secretary for Foreign Affairs was Prime Minister,1 and His Majesty was the symbol, and not just the symbol but the actual leader of authority who kept the nation together, to whom all of those in government and the people of Iran turned in a moment of crisis.

There were those who thought that Iran in 1953 might not make it. When I left Iran, I knew it would make it. I knew it because of the men I had seen. I knew it not only because of the Government leaders to whom I have referred, but particularly because of the personality and the strength and the character of the man who is our honored guest tonight.

He was a young head of state then, just as he is really a young head of state today. I was a young Vice President. But what I recall was this: Despite the deep depression of spirit which seemed to infect many of those who observed Iran in that period of crisis, His Majesty saw the problems but also had a vision for the future.

Omar Khayyam has referred eloquently to the ability of a leader, a great leader, to heed the roll of distant drums. His Majesty had that ability. He saw his country in the future, and he proceeded to move his country into the future, and that story of progress is now one of the most exciting stories of all the development that has occurred in the world in the past 16 years.

I referred to it this morning: Progress in education, progress in economic development, progress in social development, until today Iran stands as one of the strongest, the proudest among all the nations of the world.

So today we honor a nation and a people with whom we are proud to stand as friends and allies. We honor also a man who has those elements of leadership which are too rare in the world.

In a moment you will rise with me and we will drink a toast. We will be drinking a toast, as has happened in this room for over 150 years, to His Majesty. But I can say that tonight I feel very deep in my heart, as everyone here who knows him and knows his country and his record, that when we say "His Majesty," we realize we are drinking to a man who has demonstrated majesty--majesty in his leadership, majesty in his reverence for the past, but in his vision for the future.

Our friends, will you please rise and raise your glasses to the Shahanshah.

1 Ardeshir Zahedi and his father Fazollah Zahedi.

Note: The President spoke at 10:10 p.m. in the State Dining Room at the White House. See also Items 398 and 405.

His Imperial Majesty Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi, Shahanshah of Iran, responded as follows:

Mr. President, Mrs. Nixon, Your Excellencies, dear guests:

I was already once deeply moved by your kind words of greeting this morning; and tonight I am overwhelmed by the warmth of your sentiments which could only come from a true friend, someone who is sharing your problems and someone who is understanding your problems.

For our association, Mr. President--and the great honor and pleasure that I take and have by saying that our friendship started a long time ago--is this strong and this durable because I think it started in a period that for my country was a very vital one. That was the aftermath of the war, the period of the big drive forward of the policies that wanted to dominate the world.

We on our part tried to keep our independence and resist those pressures; and you on your part wanted to be the bearer of this flag that America has always waved with pride in the air, the flag of always standing for the people who are standing for righteousness and for freedom.

You were kind enough to say that our country in that meantime had succeeded. Much of our success is due to the deeply rooted sentiments of our country in being true to themselves, in being true to their history, in being true to what the human valor of the individual, the freedom of the individual, means, and also, I must admit, to the heartening effect of knowing that we had the friendship of a great nation like yours and great leaders like the late President and you, Mr. President, as his very able Vice President at that time.

I can return back what you have said about me even more by saying that you have shown such human valor and dignity during your hours of triumph and success, and also during hours of trial. This is what makes a man great and reliable. This is what makes a man have the character of a leader.

Today more than ever we need the friendship of America as a friend and the leadership of America in the world and the leadership of the President of this great country to uphold all of what we are standing for: to implement the laws of equity, of justice; to encourage decency in relationships between states, countries, and people.

You might rest assured that nowhere you would find more than in our country--friendship, understanding, and sympathy in everything you do, in everything you enterprise, because we know in advance that it is being done in the path of justice and equity.

We can felicitate ourselves of the result of your friendship because, as it stands now, I hope and I believe that our country is trying to represent and to continue to do what our past history has tried to do, to give something to the world, something spiritual, something that could be of help to make life better, to render life more interesting.

We shall never stop in trying to do so because this is the history of our country, and no country could live without remaining true to its past while trying to still do better in the future.

We shall always remember your visit to our country and Mrs. Nixon's visit. I personally will always remember the long hours that we spent together in 1967, and above all, we shall be waiting with the greatest of anticipations to the future visit of the President of the United States, and especially of President Nixon, a person whom we respect, a person for whom we have such an admiration.

So I would like also to ask this distinguished audience to raise their glasses with me to the health of the President of the United States, a man to which I am sure we all are holding such very high sentiments of esteem and admiration.

Richard Nixon, Toasts of the President and the Shah of Iran Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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