Today in history, U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson visits Expo 67 in a climate of international tension
By Carmen Desmeules (translated by Emilie Gosselin)
Yves Jasmin, Director of Public Relations expresses concerns surrounding the American president’s visit: “especially tensions around President Johnson’s visit and the fear everyone had that something horrible would happen. Fortunately, it was not the case, but he did not stay long, eh. But at least he came, because it was a very difficult time for the United States and it takes only one person…”
“Let’s not forget that President Kennedy had been recently assassinated. […] Yes, there were fears.”
Yves Jasmin recalls an incident on this May 25: “So the day dedicated to the United States, is held at the Place des Nations. The place is crowded. Lyndon Johnson makes a short speech. At his arrival, the American flag is raised. Someone had said: “Whoever raises the American flag will be shot, right in the heart.”
So, instead of that happening to a boy scout, a scout leader wearing a bulletproof vest raises the flag. Then when the flag arrives, there is a huge tear in it. Was this accidental, or did someone do that? We will never know.”
So General Director Andrew G. Kniewasser yells: “…Take the goddamn thing down!” So they take it down. And Johnson, after his very brief, little speech, isn’t interested in the slightest. He visits the American Pavilion and says: “Well, once again something done by fags.” Because it was very superficial. The only thing that interested him was a capsule that had been sent into space and returned. […] He found that smart, but the rest, the portraits of stars and stuff like that, that for him was an invention made by homosexuals.” The President spent only one day in Montreal.
Since 1961, the U.S. is in Vietnam, a country at war, tensions are very high and opposition to the American presence is huge. Three anti-American protesters have been arrested.
Yves Jasmin is worried about security on the Expo site:
“The American President is at least as interesting a target as the Queen of England. Unavoidably, these people will be exposed to any kind of maniac, but that is to be expected… as Elizabeth said, it comes with the job!”
Sources : Expo 67 Journal, De jour en jour, and interview with Yves Jasmin, May 2016.