Lyndon B. Johnson photo

Toasts of the President and the Shah of Iran

June 11, 1968

Your Imperial Majesty, our beloved Chief Justice, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen:

Your Majesty's visit tonight reminds me of how often we have gathered here in this room to welcome distinguished visitors from abroad. Personally, I find that one of the real pleasures of the Presidency--I might even say, one of the few pleasures.

I am told that this administration has actually set some kind of a record. We have welcomed almost 200 heads of state and chiefs of government to this house in the 5 years of the Presidency, and that has made everybody happy, including, of course, my economic advisers. They are so grateful for every little bit of help on the balance of payments problem that we can get.

I guess all of you know that I am not overly impressed by records or tallies such as head counts or roll calls or polls. I don't know where I could have acquired such a reputation. I guess maybe I just read it somewhere.

But just the same, when I looked over the number of foreign visitors in my administration-almost 200 in less than 5 years--I just happened to notice, Your Majesty, a striking statistic. That comes out to an average of four-fifths of a potentate a week.

But, Your Majesty, we do not parcel out your welcome in fractions. We are so happy, Mrs. Johnson and I, to greet you tonight with the full measure of all of our respect as well as our deep affection.

We greet you as an old friend, not just an old friend of ours, but of the United States.

We regret only that His Majesty's lovely Empress is not with him this evening.

A poet once said that the best mirror is an old friend. Each time I talk with His Majesty I see the reflection of common values and a common desire to use the resources that God has given both of our countries and to use those resources for the benefit of both of our peoples.

Years ago, His Imperial Majesty determined to break the grip of poverty and disease and ignorance in his own ancient land. Now, in less than a decade, smallpox has been destroyed as a threat to the health of Iran. Ninety-five percent of the total population has been immunized. Malaria, which used to infect almost three of every four Iranian families, now infects fewer than one in 20.

Government expenditures for education have more than doubled in this decade. There are 400 new schools for nomad children alone, and seven of every 10 males of school age are literate. More than 2 1/2 million tenant farmers have achieved the dignity of freeholders who own and who till their own land.

These great revolutionary reforms do not stand alone. They are great inspiration to others. They are part of a green revolution, a revolution of seed and fertilizer and agricultural credit and land reform and water which is taking place all over the world and which is a lasting and living tribute to such statesmen as our honored guest tonight.

In passing, I should like to pay tribute to another statesman who has helped both of us in this field and who helps us all around the world--Mr. David Lilienthal--who honors me by being at our table.

I knew that all of this would come about when I visited Iran in 1962 with Mrs. Johnson and we saw so clearly the deep commitment of this genuine, dedicated, sincere leader.

We here in America know that it is this kind of revolution which will ultimately really decide the fate of this world. We are so proud to have had a very little part in Iran's story through Mr. Lilienthal and through some of the people in our Government who have counseled with His Majesty.

But this story has been largely written, as such stories always are written, by great people with a courageous leader and with, most of all, the will--the will to help themselves.

It is such a pleasure to have all of you representing the farms, the labors, the industries, the church, and the educational institutions of this country, and the business world, the newspapers, to come here and join us in honoring this most distinguished citizen of the world.

I ask you, ladies and gentlemen, to join me in a toast to my friend and America's friend, His Imperial Majesty, the Shah of Iran.

Note: The President proposed the toast at 10:11 p.m. in the State Dining Room at the White House. In his opening words he referred to Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, Shah of Iran, and Earl Warren, Chief Justice of the United States. During his remarks he referred to David Lilienthal, chairman of the Development and Resources Corporation, an organization engaged in providing planning, managerial, and technical services throughout the world.

His Imperial Majesty responded as follows:

Mr. President, Mrs. Johnson, Your Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen:

I am happy indeed to have been able to be the guest of your great President tonight in less than 1 year's time. The President inferred that they have had so many guests--200 in 5 years' time--I hope I have not overdone my visits to your country.

I am very grateful to you, Mr. President, for the very kind words that you have had towards my country and what we are trying to do.

But before the first time you had visited our country we had read about you. We knew that you dedicated your life for the betterment of the condition of your people, especially the needy people of your country, and you had a very long record on that subject.

When my wife and I had the pleasure of knowing you and Mrs. Johnson personally, we immediately noticed that your past actions, your behavior, was not the behavior of someone who wants to create an image, but that was a behavior coming from your soul and your heart. That was the real person who was working and not a person who was acting.

May I say, Mr. President, that more than ever you have shown this disposition of yours during your Presidency. Every action that you have undertaken, every decision that you have made was according to your conscience and to the high responsibility of this high office that you are holding so valiantly and with such courage, dignity, and honor.

This is a sort of inspiration. I wish and I hope that many more people would do the same and be true to themselves, to their country, to their people, and do what they think is best for them.

So it is a moment of joy to see you and Mrs. Johnson again. I wish these meetings could be repeated many more times, and especially you know how welcome you and your family would be to come and see us, because we shall never forget your comprehension of our problems, the interest that you have shown as the great leader of a great country. We shall never forget the true friendship that your country has always extended to us since the day we started to have diplomatic relationships together. You have never failed us so far, and I am sure that you will never fail us, as you have never failed anybody, any people, any country.

I am glad and proud, Mr. President, that you count us among your friends and the friends of your country. We shall continue to be so because we believe in the same ideals as you do. We try to be worthy of ourselves, of our history, which is mainly based on the respect of the individual and of the human being. In wishing you, Mr. President and Mrs. Johnson, all the best, the fulfillment of your wishes, of your ideals, I would like to ask this distinguished audience to join me in a toast to the health of the President of the United States of America, and of Mrs. Johnson.

Lyndon B. Johnson, 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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