John F. Kennedy photo

Toasts of the President and the Shah of Iran

April 11, 1962

Ladies and gentlemen:

I know that you all join with me in welcoming our distinguished guest to the United States. His Highness and I have a "burden" that we carry in common; we both paid state visits to Paris last year, and from all accounts we might as well both have stayed at home. We are glad to have him come to the United States again.

It has never been easy to be a Persian, from the oldest times in history till today. But I must say that all history records what all of us know, and that is the determination of the people of his country to maintain their freedom.

His people did it against the Romans, against the Ottoman Empire, against friends from the south and enemies from the north--and he does it today.

Under the American Constitution a President is finished after 8 years, or 4 years by the voters, but he has carried the burden for 20 years, and may have to carry it another 20 years. He not only reigns and deals with the ceremonies of office, but also is a vital force in maintaining the independence of his country.

We are quite aware that were it not for the leadership that he has given, in identifying himself with the best aspirations of his people--whom he is bringing out of an entirely different historic period into today, of surrounding himself with able and dedicated Ministers--we are quite aware that this vital area of the world, which has been as Mr. Molotov made clear, a vital matter of concern to the Soviet Union, for many, many years, would long ago have collapsed.

So, when we welcome the Shah here, we welcome a friend and a very valiant fighter. We do not live in easy times ourselves. But we do not live in the belly of the bear. But he does--and has done it for years, and his country is still free.

So I hope you all will join me in drinking a toast to his country--and to a very distinguished participant in this struggle.

Note: The President proposed the toast at a dinner in the State Dining Room at the White House. The Shah responded briefly and then read a prepared speech in which he reviewed the history of U.S. relations with Iran, and outlined some of the problems and goals of the Persian people. The full text of the Shah's remarks was released by the Iranian Embassy.

John F. Kennedy, 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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