7. Memorandum From the Acting Director of the United States Information Agency (Wilson) to President Kennedy1

The Secretary of State suggested this morning at his conference that you might like a brief rundown of world press reaction to the Inaugural Address.2

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All major British papers lauded the address. The Daily Mail printed it in toto on the front page in place of the normal one-column editorial. The Manchester Guardian called it “an inspiring example of a courageous man dedicating himself to great responsibilities.”

In France, Le Figaro said, “The speech was full of virile language . . . The new President is trying to re-animate the spirit of the pioneers.”

In Germany, West Berlin’s Spandauer Volksblatt said, “Seldom in American history has an American President made such an impressive inaugural speech.”

Cairo’s Akhbar Elyom observed, “We should look forward to the future with confidence. However, the U.S. relations with the Arabs has suffered in the past because of the Palestine question.”

In India the Hindu of Madras wrote, “Though Mr. Kennedy is comparatively young, he is an experienced politician and is determined to be a strong Chief Executive on the model of former Presidents Woodrow Wilson and Franklin Roosevelt.”

Lima, Peru’s newspaper El Comercio echoed this: “President Kennedy is a fighter who belongs in the class of former Presidents Woodrow Wilson and Franklin Roosevelt.”

In Tokyo, Yomiuri emphasized the President’s pledge of cooperation with Latin America saying, “There is little doubt that it was a warning to Castro’s Cuban regime. It is clear that the Cuban issue will be the first major test facing the new administration.”

In Tunis the newspaper Al-Amal said, “President Kennedy spoke our language, the language of those countries . . . whose only goal is an era of worldwide cooperation.”



The Soviets completely lifted jamming of the VOA Russian service for the first time since the Camp David period.3 Pravda carried five paragraphs of the speech in bold-faced double column on its back (foreign news) page. It omitted the following passages:

“We shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to insure the survival and the success of liberty.”

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“We pledge our word that one form of colonial control shall not have passed away merely to be replaced by a far more iron tyranny.”

“Arms we need.”


Prague expressed hope that U.S. policy will now be “more realistic.”

Poland pointed to the absence of “threats.”

Hungary felt that recent Soviet conciliatory moves have made the U.S.’s position “easier.”

East Germany credited you with more realism and also said that the speech revealed an avowal of the “policy of strength.”

China’s chief ally in Europe, Albania, insisted that the “aggressive aims of American imperialism” have not changed.

Communist China

Peking responded with a crude and bitter personal attack. The Chinese Communist newspapers carried scurrilous cartoons and jingles depicting you and your cabinet as a reactionary clique of millionaires with a long record of aggressive behavior. They portrayed you as a McCarthyite and anti-labor politician. Peking even attacked your father, calling him, “The pre-war Ambassador who cheered Hitler on to the invasion of the Soviet Union.”4 Finally, they referred to the new President as “Intimate with all rich men and covered with the stinking smell of copper.”

  1. Source: Kennedy Library, United States Information Agency Records (RG 306), Series 1, Records, 1961–1964, Box 1, Memoranda 1961–1964 [1 of 3]. No classification marking. Printed from an uninitialed copy. A notation in an unknown hand in the top right-hand corner of the memorandum reads: “President read.” Another copy of the memorandum is in the National Archives, RG 306, Director’s Subject Files, 1961, Entry UD WW 142, Box 7, Government Agencies—White House 1961 January–March.
  2. Kennedy delivered his inaugural address on January 20 at 12:52 p.m. from the east front of the Capitol. For the text of the address, see Public Papers: Kennedy, 1961, pp. 1–3. In a January 23 memorandum to Wilson, Halsema outlined USIA’s coverage of the inauguration, noting: “USIA media gave saturation coverage to Inaugural Day activities and are now following up with comprehensive reports of foreign and domestic comment on the events of the day, and with reports of other actions as the new Administration takes hold. A special effort is continuing, to familiarize overseas audiences with the background and responsibilities of the Administration’s leading officials.” Halsema added that USIA, having received an advance copy of the inaugural address, sent the text via radio teletype to 87 posts on January 19. The VOA also broadcast the inaugural ceremony live over 48 transmitters. (Kennedy Library, United States Information Agency Records (RG 306), Series 1, Records, 1961–1964, Box 1, Memoranda 1961–1964 [1 of 3])
  3. Presumable reference to Khrushchev’s September 15–27, 1959, visit to the United States. On September 26 and 27, Khrushchev met with Eisenhower and other U.S. officials at Camp David. For documentation, see Foreign Relations, 1958–1960, vol. X, Part 1, Eastern Europe Region; Soviet Union; Cyprus, Documents 108, 129135.
  4. On January 17, 1938, President Roosevelt appointed Joseph P. Kennedy Ambassador to the United Kingdom. Kennedy served as Ambassador until October 22, 1940.