White House, Washington, U.S.A.
February 14, 1967
Your Imperial Majesty, Mr. Vice President, Mr. Chief Justice, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen:
It is a high privilege tonight to honor one of this century’s most courageous, farsighted, and respected statesmen, who has earned an indelible place in the hearts of men everywhere.
Monarch of the oldest Christian kingdom and an ancient civilization, you, Your Majesty, personify to us the eternal spirit of devotion to freedom and independence of your Ethiopian people.
The essence of the Ethiopian character was put in your stirring words many years ago: “With God’s help, we have always stood proud and free upon our native mountains.”
It is difficult for me to express to you tonight the very special place that you occupy in our tradition.
Indeed, in the tradition of all mankind.
Many of us in this room tonight recall the night of June 28, 1936, when the Emperor of Ethiopia made a plea to the League of Nations.
A plea for his suffering people which was also a very moving appeal to the conscience of humanity.
Your Majesty’s final question to the League has echoed down the years with prophetic impact:
“I ask the 52 nations who have given the Ethiopian people a promise to help them in their resistance to the aggressor, what are they willing to do for Ethiopia?
“And the great powers who have .promised the guarantee of collective security to small states on whom weighs the threat that they may one day suffer the fate of Ethiopia, I ask, what measures do you intend to take?
“Representatives of the world, I have come to Geneva to discharge in your midst the most painful of the duties of the head of a state.
“What reply shall I have to take back to my people?”
We all know–to. our shame–the reply Your Majesty received.
The betrayal of Ethiopia was in truth the turning point on the road to aggression and war.
Its lesson has been etched into our memory and has spurred us in building a world where solid commitments to resist oppression are no longer just scraps of paper.
Your Majesty, we also recall with great pleasure your triumphant return to Addis Ababa. And your remarkable reconstruction of your nation as you put into action your long-held and long-frustrated ideals of modernization:
–building schools, a fine university, hospitals, dams, airports, factories;
–turning Addis Ababa into a dynamic, beautiful, modern city;
–proclaiming a revised constitution and legal system;
–training young Ethiopians for the tasks of the future in the 20th century. Your Majesty has not confined your concern just to your people.
We have all witnessed and can testify to with admiration your striking performance as a leader of Africa’s many and diverse peoples–and as a mediator in potentially explosive confrontations between various African states.
The Organization of African Unity-which your initiative in 1963 was instrumental in creating–is one of the most hopeful institutions in the movement towards peace, reason, and unity in the great Continent of Africa.
It has always been a unique privilege and pleasure for me to have an opportunity to exchange views on international affairs with one whom I consider to be one of the world’s greatest eider statesmen.
Today, as in 1963 when we last talked, we had an immediate sense of the great mutual understanding and respect that our people entertain for each other.
Your Majesty, we treasure deeply this relationship. It is my genuine and most earnest hope that succeeding generations of our peoples will continue to reinforce the solid edifice of American-Ethiopian amity and understanding.
On this happy occasion, here tonight in the first house of this land, Mrs. Johnson and I, on behalf of our distinguished guests, all of those who are privileged to come here and be together tonight, and certainly on behalf of all of the American people, propose a toast to Your Majesty–respected statesman, peacemaker in the world, and most honored and trusted friend.