21. Memorandum From the Director of the United States Information Agency (Murrow) to President Kennedy1
The Russians are really squealing about the Peace Corps and appear to be in the process of mounting a major propaganda campaign against it. This is an undertaking where we have them on the hip. They can and do compete with us in the field of periodicals, books and broadcasts, but they can not risk sending their youth abroad except under conditions of strict control. We are the only nation that can and does export its [Page 71] underprivileged Marian Anderson, Louis Armstrong,2 etc. to demonstrate certain aspects of our culture.
Recommendation: At your next news conference, you should say in answer to a question that you would be delighted to see Russians working alongside Americans and others in an effort to improve health, education and public services in the emerging countries. You might consider adding that you would be equally pleased to see a few youngsters from Latvia, Estonia and Czechoslovakia similarly employed.3
- Source: Kennedy Library, President’s Office Files, Departments and Agencies Series, Box 91, USIA, 1960–5/61. No classification marking. A stamped notation indicates that it was received in the White House on March 21 at 3:52 p.m.↩
- Anderson, a classical contralto, had been banned by the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) from performing in front of an integrated audience in Washington’s Constitution Hall in 1939. She subsequently performed before an integrated crowd gathered at the Lincoln Memorial. Anderson later became the first African-American to perform with the Metropolitan Opera. She also toured globally under the auspices of the Department of State and served as a delegate to the UN Human Rights Committee. Armstrong, a jazz trumpeter and singer, also performed on tours sponsored by the Department. He cancelled one of his tours to the Soviet Union over his displeasure at Eisenhower’s handling of school desegregation in Little Rock, Arkansas, in 1957.↩
- The President’s next news conference took place at the Department of State on March 23 at 6 p.m. For the text, see Public Papers: Kennedy, 1961, pp. 213–220.↩