President Kennedy welcomes President Ahmadou Ahidjo of Cameroon at Washington National Airport - March 13, 1962.
I want to welcome you to the United States and to this Capital on behalf of the American people. I think all of us, living as we do a great many thousand miles from your own country, having a different history, separated in time and space, are impressed by the efforts that you personally have made, and your people have made, to build a viable and strong economy and country.
You, as one of the youngest Presidents in the world, having those qualities which young Presidents like to possess, have demonstrated, I think, a leadership in uniting a country with different languages which had not known a sense of nationhood and community until recent years.
Your particular efforts in attempting to secure a better life for your people have made a profound impression upon us here. We are extremely glad to welcome you. We hope that you will find here in the United States things which will be of value to you in your efforts. And I can assure you that we regard your visit here as an opportunity for us to learn more about your country and its people and also about the problems and the opportunities of Africa which loom so large now on the world scene.
This is a most fortunate time, in my opinion, for you to visit us. Your country is the hinge geographically upon which much of Africa turns, and I believe it can be the hinge upon which much of Africa can turn politically and economically.
So, Mr. President, we welcome you here as the second youngest President in the world of a very young country. We welcome you here as the kind of responsible, progressive leader upon which I believe the hopes of freedom in Africa and in much of the world depends.
Mr. President, we are proud to have you as our guest.
NOTE: President Ahidjo responded (through an interpreter) as follows:
I am extremely happy to have been able to answer your kind invitation by coming to the United States - to this great country which we so greatly admire and to which I bring the expression of thanks for the words which you have pronounced about my country and about myself.
It is really a great pleasure for me to return to the United States, to be greeted in this country by you, Mr. President. And I can say that my happiness is equaled only by the friendship between our two nations.
And I bring you, Mr. President, the cordial salute of the entire people of the Cameroon.
Now ever since you became the President of the United States, we have followed every minute with great attention, with great friendliness, and with great sympathy your dynamic policies and your efforts to consolidate friendship among nations. Your will to solve all problems by dialog and by negotiations overcome all of the obstacles which still have to be overcome, before true, genuine peace is reached.
I bring to you, Mr. President, the salute of all the people of Africa, and in particular of the Cameroon, all of whom are grateful to you, Mr. President, for the attitude which was that of yourself and of your government towards our continent, towards our people.
It is the duty of all those who are responsible for the fate of the world to meet often, in order to consult, to understand each other better, to develop together all the solutions which are necessary. And it is under this triple invocation - this triple duty which we all have that I place my first official visit in the United States as President of my country.
Citation: John T. Woolley and Gerhard Peters,The American Presidency Project [online]. Santa Barbara, CA: University of California (hosted), Gerhard Peters (database). Available from World Wide Web: http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=9098.