1. Letter From President Johnson to the Shah of Iran1
I am delighted that my friend Sargent Shriver is visiting Iran, and can deliver this personal message to you.2 I wish that I could come back to Tehran myself; my heart is warmed even now by memories of the welcome which you, the Empress, and your subjects of high and low estate extended to the Johnsons last year. Unfortunately, the press of work makes it impossible for me to be with you now other than in spirit.
The circumstances which elevated me to the awesome responsibility of this office still weigh heavily upon me. I know that you, too, feel deeply the loss. I was helped in the period of immediate shock and sorrow following the tragedy by your kindness in sending Prince Gholam Reza to extend your sympathy and Iran’s.
Since my own trip to Iran I have followed with great interest the strides Iran is making under your leadership toward a new birth of freedom and justice in your ancient land. In freeing the energies of Iran’s peasantry and laborers, as well as the women, you have taken a difficult and courageous step. You have proven your faith and confidence in the Iranian people and your resistance to alien pressures. You will be misunderstood and you will be maligned. That is the price of historical movement—the price of progress. But you will also be admired and loved by your people.3
I have asked Sargent Shriver to convey to you our deep appreciation for your warm welcome to the 45 Peace Corps Volunteers in your country. [Page 2] Since its birth under President Kennedy, I have regarded the Peace Corps as one of the most imaginative instruments ever devised for capturing the idealism of youth and putting it to work in the cause of world peace and understanding.
Our Volunteers have benefited enormously from their experience in your country. The United States will also benefit as they return, with broader horizons and greater understanding of the world, to take their places in our society. They will add a new dimension to American life. I only hope that, while with you, they have contributed in some small way to the well-being of your people and to their understanding of us.
I realize now, even better than I did when last we met, just how heavy is the burden of ultimate responsibility for the security of one’s country. In searching for words to convey to you our response to Iran’s concerns, let me repeat what I said to your entire nation when I left Iran more than a year ago:
“We of the United States know that a free Iran is vital to freedom everywhere, and that as long as freedom stands, Iran’s independence and Iran’s control over its own destiny will not be compromised. We shall walk beside you toward the new horizons of human dignity. Let me assure you that as long as you walk this road, you’ll never walk alone.”
Those words came from my heart and from the heart of my country when I spoke them. They still do.
- Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Special Head of State Correspondence File, Iran—Presidential Correspondence. No classification marking.↩
- Shriver visited Iran January 14–20 in the dual capacity of Peace Corps Director and personal emissary of President Johnson. He delivered the President’s letter during a personal meeting with the Shah on January 15. (Telegram 648 from Tehran, January 16; Department of State, Central Files, ORG 7 PC)↩
- A January 3 memorandum to Shriver from NSC staff member Robert Komer stated: “One of JFK’s unheralded achievements was to con our nervous Shah into stressing reform and modernization at home, instead of constantly bleeding to us about his need for more arms to deter the Soviets and even Nasser. Every time the Shah said ‘more arms,’ the President came back with ‘more reform.’ Now we’ve got the Shah thinking he’s a 20th Century reformer (and not doing a bad job of it). You might try the same recipe.” (Johnson Library, National Security File, Robert W. Komer Files, RWK CHRON FILE, January–June 1964 [3 of 3])↩
- A handwritten postscript at the end of the letter reads: “Please convey the high regard and warm wishes Mrs. Johnson and I both entertain for the Empress—LBJ.”↩