20. Memorandum From the Director of the United States Information Agency (Murrow) to the Director of the Peace Corps (Shriver)1

The success of the Peace Corps will be closely linked to our objectives. We are eager for it to succeed. We think we can help to see that it does.

I. Washington Support:

A. We have the specialized area and country experience and the media resources to help you in your overseas public relations. Here in Washington we can assist in considering foreign audience reactions to your public announcements. (Even when your press releases, speeches and statements are designed for domestic audiences you may expect them to get overseas.) We would like to work with your staff here to develop materials which we can disseminate abroad through a wide variety of media to make sure that foreign publics correctly understand and support Peace Corps activities.

For instance, we would suggest from the world public opinion point of view that the first major Peace Corps activity be a work project in a neutral, underdeveloped country in Africa rather than teaching English on a large scale in the Philippines. This latter idea, while it would have excellent results in U.S. and Filipino eyes, would be looked on in many foreign countries as just another project to reinforce our hold on an ex-colony which is still pretty much in our pocket.

B. We have many years experience in recruiting and training personnel for direct contact with foreigners overseas. Particularly relevant to the Peace Corps have been our efforts (1) to improve the screening of recruits through psychiatric examination especially designed to probe for potential strengths and weaknesses in foreign situations; and (2) to train new employees to explain and defend the United States and its history, institutions and culture; to understand the nature of hostile ideologies and to appreciate the nature of the communications [Page 69] process. Rapid training methods in these fields were successfully tested with the guides at the U.S. National Exhibition in Moscow2 two years ago.

C. We have had more than two decades of experience in teaching foreigners English in more than 70 countries. In the process we have developed specialized techniques and materials which would be of direct value to Peace Corps English teachers.

II. Field Support:

We have offices in all countries in which you will be establishing Peace Corps operations. Each of the U.S. Information Service country establishments is headed by a Public Affairs Officer who is the adviser to the Ambassador’s Country Team on information and cultural matters. As such he and his staff can provide useful psychological guidance in all phases of the development of Peace Corps programs in that country, from exploration of their feasibility and estimating the public reaction to them to working out ways of determining the psychological effects of the programs themselves. The role of USIS in helping produce local publicity is obvious. Our people in the field know how to gain access to local media or, as is the case in many underdeveloped countries, can provide their own information outlets such as mobile motion picture projection units. Our people can be of assistance in briefing Peace Corps personnel on local factors important to good reciprocal public relations.

III. USIS Utilization of Peace Corps:

I think we agree that the use of Peace Corps personnel in activities directly operated by the U.S. Government should be avoided. They are supposed to be available to help local institutions. However, I believe they could find useful employment in activities of the bi-national centers with which we are associated.

Essentially the bi-national center is an indigenous institution devoted to cultural matters, sponsored by a board composed of prominent local citizens and resident Americans, largely self-supporting but assisted by USIA-provided American grantees who manage and teach in the centers, books, other materials and some cash grants for housing and other expenses. In most of these centers English-teaching is a major activity and the supply of teachers is much less than the demand. We [Page 70] would hope Peace Corps personnel might be used to help fill this gap. Others might be used to work with university student groups, to help expand use of center libraries, to lead hobby clubs and for other purposes. Since the initiative and responsibility for drawing up plans and operating the programs would be largely in the hands of host country nationals and Peace Corps personnel would be serving local people in a local institution, I believe such activities would meet your criteria. We are looking into the specifics of these possibilities without encouraging local authorities or making commitments.

Possibly there are other areas of cooperation which we may find as the Peace Corps develops. We are ready and willing to assist.

As an essential element in the day-to-day collaboration between your organization and ours, I propose to nominate a senior member of my staff, Norman J. Meiklejohn, as our liaison officer with the Peace Corps. For such top-level policy discussions as you would wish us to participate in, I propose to nominate my Deputy Director for Policy and Plans, Thomas C. Sorensen.

Edward R. Murrow3
  1. Source: National Archives, RG 306, Office of Plans, General Subject Files, 1949–1970, Acc. #67A222, Entry UD WW 379, Basic Documents, Peace Corps, 61–63. No classification marking. Drafted by Meiklejohn, Halsema, and Sorensen on March 10. Copies were sent to Wilson, Meiklejohn, and McKnight; Wilson initialed the memorandum, indicating that he had seen it. Attached but not printed are a March 23 memorandum from Sorensen to Shriver concerning Shriver’s upcoming press conference in New York and including “angles” that Shriver might stress with foreign correspondents and a March 24 memorandum from Sorensen to Roberts, Phillips, Neilson, McKnight, and King describing the relationship between USIA and the Peace Corps.
  2. The American National Exhibition took place in Sokolniki Park in Moscow during the summer of 1959. Nixon made an unofficial visit to the Soviet Union July 23–August 2, in order to open the Exhibition. During a tour on July 24, Nixon and Khrushchev came to a model American home and stopped in the kitchen. While there, they engaged in an argument about the relative merits of capitalism and Communism. The argument became known as the “kitchen debate.”
  3. Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature. Payne initialed next to the typed signature.