16. Memorandum From the Deputy Director for Policy and Plans, United States Information Agency (Sorensen) to the Director (Murrow)1


  • Themes for USIA Programs

Following are 21 themes for your consideration. They are divided into four groups:

I. Those specifically dealing with foreign policy and which, to be truly effective, require concerted U.S. Government action including [Page 55] statements and programs by the President and other top leaders as well as USIA emphasis.

II. Themes on general American concepts which would be more effective with Government-wide cooperation but are nonetheless susceptible to effective use by USIA alone.

III. Themes on American life and culture, adapted from a longer list promulgated by the Agency in 1959.

IV. Themes on Communist subjects, also adapted from a longer list adopted by USIA in 1959.

I. Themes in the Field of Foreign Policy—(Requiring Government wide cooperation)

1. The strength of the United States and the free world is being maintained so that it will effectively deter aggression, prevent the outbreak of war, increase the security of free nations and be able to frustrate limited aggressions without turning them into nuclear cataclysms. We consider this strength a sacred trust, to be handled with prudent restraint.

2. The United States is taking the initiative in making constructive, realistic proposals for various measures of disarmament. The United States will be tireless in its efforts to find agreement with the Soviet Union on cessation of nuclear tests, prevention of the spread of nuclear weapons, prevention of surprise attack and reduction of nuclear and conventional weapons and forces.

3. A strong, effective United Nations and steady progress toward the rule of law in the world community offer the greatest promise for escape from the precarious balance of terror and from the possibility of a world in the grip of an iron tyranny. The UN is particularly important today for the security of small nations. (One specific application of this theme now would be to stress: “The best way to keep the cold war out of Africa is to keep the UN in.”) The United States will do its utmost to strengthen international institutions which can help keep the peace and create world conditions favorable to the development of all societies in accordance with the desires of their people.

4. The United States stands ready seriously to negotiate outstanding issues with the Soviet Union. But we will not negotiate out of fear and are determined to defend the principles and positions of freedom.

5. We are committed to the encouragement of economic and social development, progress and growth for all people. Accordingly we favor cooperative international action to solve common economic problems, the freest possible flow of international trade and extensive efforts by all industrially advanced countries to help the newly developing nations help themselves.

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6. Both the fate of civilization and the satisfaction of individual aspirations everywhere depend on education. The United States is committed to the expansion of educational opportunities and the improvement of the quality of education both at home and abroad. Taking seriously the Wellsian dictum that civilization is a race between education and catastrophe, the United States is eager to help the new countries lift dramatically the levels of their peoples’ literacy, technical skill, knowledge and understanding of the world.

7. Americans, with their rich and varied inheritance from other peoples, acknowledge and appreciate the achievements and values of other cultures. The United States seeks to encourage a maximum of cultural interchange among nations both for its own sake and for its contribution to international understanding. The United States is particularly interested in the greatest possible contact with the peoples of the Sino-Soviet bloc.

8. The community of free nations is being reinvigorated with strengthened defenses, greater attention to mutual consultation and more intensive collaboration on the basis of equality in the political, economic and social spheres.

(This theme is primarily of use in Western Europe. It is not popular in the former and present dependent territories in Asia and Africa.)

9. The United States supports the independence and self-determination of all peoples, including those in the newly developing parts of the world and those behind the Iron Curtain.

(This theme is primarily of use in Asia, Africa, and Eastern Europe. It is not popular among some of our allies in Western Europe.)

II. Themes on General American Concepts—(Preferably for Governmentwide cooperation but susceptible to effective use by USIA alone)

1. Basic to American civilization is respect for the dignity and rights of the individual. We are striving as a nation to expand and perfect the protection of individual rights at home and we favor the advance of freedom for all men. We are convinced that nations can achieve industrial development and greater social welfare without resort to tyranny.

2. The United States of America today is the spiritual heir of the American Revolution of 1776. We are a people uniquely committed and sympathetic to change, which has been the keynote of our history. Although we have remained steadfast to the democratic principles on which the nation was founded and have preserved its basic political forms, our laws and institutions have evolved in response to changing needs. We do not cling to the status quo and are eager to help other nations on their road to political, economic and social advancement.

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3. We are eager to let ideas be argued out freely so that the truth will prevail in all spheres. We are concerned pragmatically with the realities both of our own existence and of the world situation. We strive to solve the real problems which are common to all societies in the various stages of their development rather than view problems through a prism of outdated dogma and distort solutions to fit a strait-jacket of artificial doctrine. The future belongs to those who respect truth and deal with reality.

4. The United States, along with other nations, is actively engaged in pushing back the frontiers of science. It is particularly interested in enlisting the achievements of science and technology in the service of humanity. It is stepping up its own efforts, and is seeking the cooperation of all other nations, in utilizing scientific advances in combating disease, hunger, poverty and ignorance everywhere.

5. One of the main sources of strength of democratic society is its openness. It helps make possible the fulfillment of individual aspirations and gives free play to the creative energies of the people. Americans are also convinced that nations which insist on concealment of their weapons, forces and aggressive intentions are a menace to peace. The United States will join in challenging the leaders of the Sino-Soviet bloc on this issue and on the additional point that regimes which fear the free movement, thought and voice of their own people are basically weak and lacking in self-confidence. (This concept carries little weight in many parts of Africa and Asia.)

III. Themes on American Life and Culture—(Adapted from USIA Policy Guidance No. 10, July 14, 1959. For use by USIA media.)

1. The United States is a pluralistic society in which power is widely dispersed and which functions by achieving compromise among conflicting interests.

2. The United States has evolved a “mixed economy” in which government holds a balance among countervailing forces and interests, acts as a stimulator and regulator of private enterprise, and provides basic social security for its citizens.

3. American education is preparing unprecedented numbers of young people for lives that will be satisfying for themselves and fruitful for society. At the same time it is working to improve educational standards, expand resources and increase attention to gifted students.

4. The United States, despite great problems, has been making substantial progress through government and community effort toward the integration of its multi-racial population and toward the social and economic advancement of minority groups.

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IV. Themes on Communist Subjects—(Chosen and adapted from USIA Policy Guidance No. 9, June 3, 1959. For use by USIA media.)

1. Communist policies and actions are essentially anti-nationalistic despite vociferous lip-service in support of freedom for colonial peoples. Nationalities have been suppressed by the USSR and Communist China. Independent nationalist movements abroad are covertly—and eventually overtly—undermined and opposed. Communist leaders support nationalism only as a “temporary stage on the way to Communism.”

2. Communism and freedom of thought and expression are incompatible. Communist societies tolerate only a single approach to the manifold problems of society and the varied creative expressions of the human mind.

3. The Communist state disregards the dignity and rights of the individual, interferes with family life and builds up new privileged classes.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 306, Office of Plans, General Subject Files, 1949–1970, Acc. # 67A222, Entry UD WW 379, Themes—General 1963 & Prior. No classification marking. Printed from an uninitialed copy. Drafted by Sirkin and Sorensen. A copy was sent to Wilson.