147. Circular Airgram From the Department of State to African, Latin American, Far Eastern, and Near Eastern Diplomatic Posts1



  • Emphasis on Youth: Spotting Young Leaders


  • CA–5573, November 20, 19622
  • CA–14650, June 29, 19633


It is essential that a special effort be made to persuade identifiable potential leaders to turn to the West rather than the East if they intend to seek education or training abroad.

The Interagency Youth Committee has noted that U.S. Government scholarship programs generally do not make provision for training potential young leaders from the less-developed and uncommitted countries if they have neither the background nor the apparent capacity for formal education. Persons of this kind are, however, accepted for training and indoctrination in the Communist Bloc. To illustrate the kinds of young people we mean, your attention is called to A–286 from Cotonou, and USIS field message #11 from LaPaz, portions of which are attached.

The purpose of this message is to urge posts to evaluate these types of young leaders and potential leaders for USG attention before they accept Bloc training offers.

AID and CU are considering means of offering pre-university, technical, vocational and leadership training to such young leaders; the private sector is also being approached.

We know that the problem of identifying such leaders is difficult, that the Communists, with their local cadres, may have a tactical advantage when democratic groups are less organized, and that the AID and CU technical and academic training programs already require considerable identification and selection of potential leaders. Yet the [Page 387] kinds of young leaders we mean are often missed because of the lack of programs to accommodate them; and with the stakes as high as they are, a priority effort must be made.

Information requested: If such training were made available in the West or in the home country, would it be possible to persuade the kinds of potential young leaders who now go to the Bloc to accept Western assistance instead? If not, why not? What kind of training is needed?

This identification is consistent with our desire to reach the future leaders of the developing areas while they are still young and to compete effectively with the Bloc for influence among them.

It is requested that the entire country team participate in this continuing effort and that the task of coordination in the field be undertaken by the Youth Coordinator, working closely with the Chief of Mission.


The Department’s circular telegram 668 to African posts, dated October 11,4 requests information on a related subject, but that request for information should not be confused with this message which calls for a continuing action program.


Attachment 1
Portion of Airgram 286 From the Embassy in Benin to the Department of State5

This paper suggests that our efforts to identify and to cultivate West Africa’s second generation political leaders may be considerably more complex than we presently imagine. We should never assume, for example, that such leadership will necessarily emerge from a highly-educated elite corps. On the contrary, several signs point toward the development of grass roots demagoguery as the best means of obtaining political power.

With rare exceptions, today’s leaders in former French West Africa are relatively well-educated. Nonetheless, nearly all enjoy a base of national or regional support that makes them forces to be reckoned [Page 388] with in their own countries. It is precisely this grass roots political pull that the young intellectuals lack and presently show few signs of acquiring. Several years study in Paris or Dakar seems to leave them with little inclination to get their feet in the soil. Anyone who has seen American students from Operations Crossroads6 attempting to persuade their African colleagues of the glory of manual labor will understand this all too clearly.

With the popular field thus largely abandoned by the university graduates and with the passing of the older generation, the keys to political power thus may well fall into the hands of demagogues who have remained close to the soil and close to the people who live on it, or who can pretend to have done so. Traditional tribal and regional political institutions, blended with increasing awareness of the power of the ballot box, will also favor bush politicians. Finally, the almost certain failure of the educated elite to provide easy solutions for Africa’s pressing economic and social problems will give the demagogues a ready target to fire at.

No suggestion is made that we stop or even reduce our present efforts to reach Africa’s young intellectuals; they will occupy second echelon and technical positions of importance in any case. We should anticipate, nonetheless, a sizeable number of Huey Longs7 and Cotton Ed Smiths8 as Africa’s future ministers and presidents. Identifying them in time and persuading them to our point of view may prove extraordinarily difficult, but the Russians should have at least as much difficulty as we in this regard.

[Page 389]

Attachment 2
Portion of USIS Field Message No. 11 From the United States Information Service in Bolivia9

“(Daniel) Guerra comes from a lower middle class family. His father, a man dedicated to leftist ideals, was a writer and translator for PRENSA LIBRE until his death some six months ago. The boy is intelligent and affable and one can see that he has a direct pipeline to his people and their problems . . .

We are, in this geographical area at least, missing the boat tremendously in our student exchange program. It appears that we are choosing young people from social levels that will not combat the prevailing leftist influences. This is undoubtedly due to the fact that students must meet the requirements of private U.S. universities. But whatever the reason may be, I feel that we should somehow simplify arrangements so that students from this campesino level may be sent to the United States for education and training. English is a requirement in the majority of our scholarship cases. At the University of Patrice Lumumba,10 however, the student is enrolled without having to meet any language requirement and during a two-year period is gradually and effectively brought into classes taught in Russian. These young people, furthermore, do not have to worry about breaking up their university careers with a one-year tour abroad. They are given full scholarships to complete a full curriculum and come back to their country with a degree and ready to go to work.

Much has been said—pro and con—about our meeting Iron Curtain scholarship programs both by increasing the number of students sent and by lowering the academic standards for them. I am not in a position to comment on that. I do know, however, that the students who go from Cochabamba to the United States are not usually chosen from a level of militant youth who will return to Bolivia and actively participate in promoting the democratic systems under which they have lived in the States. I doubt that we have any Daniel Guerras in the States. It seems to me that we should overhaul our local standards of selection on the one hand and on the other make some provision there to handle students who come from such rarefied cultural backgrounds as those from Bolivia.”

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 306, Subject Files 1955–1971, Acc. #68–J–1415, Entry UD WW 148, Box 261, Replies to CA–4402. Confidential. Sent for information to all European posts. Drafted by Battle on October 15; cleared in draft by Hilsman, Talbot, Tyler, Martin, Williams, Sorensen, Yarmolinsky, and Shooshan; approved by Harriman.
  2. Not found.
  3. Not found.
  4. Not found.
  5. Confidential.
  6. Operation Crossroads Africa was a private, non-profit entity that initiated self-sufficiency programs in Africa through the work of U.S. and Canadian youth volunteers. For additional information, see “‘Crossroads’ Record in 5 Years of Work in Africa Marked,” The New York Times, February 2, 1964, p. 10.
  7. Huey Long served as the Governor of Louisiana and as a Senator until his assassination in 1935.
  8. Ellison D. “Cotton Ed” Smith served as a Senator from South Carolina from 1909 to 1944.
  9. Confidential.
  10. This university in Moscow, established by the Soviet Government for foreign students, was named after the Prime Minister of Congo who was killed in January 1961.