12. Memorandum From the Deputy Director for Policy and Plans of the United States Information Agency (Sorensen) to All Heads of Elements and United States Information Service Posts1

The Mission of the U.S. Information Agency, as defined by the President, “is to help achieve United States foreign policy objectives.”2

In carrying out this Mission, the President instructed the Agency, among other things, to “emphasize . . . those aspects of American life and culture which facilitate sympathetic understanding of United States policies.”

In order to utilize our limited resources for our most urgent needs, and to harmonize media output in meeting these needs, priorities for media output were established by the Agency in July, 1961,3 and revised in December, 1963.4 Priorities are also required for that portion of our output on American life and culture to assure that we “emphasize . . . those aspects . . . which facilitate sympathetic understanding of United States policies.” The American scene is so varied that only conscious and careful selection for coverage within a framework of priorities can prevent us from diffusing and dissipating our means.

In many countries there are both damaging gaps in knowledge about the United States and widely held shibboleths which adversely affect the achievement of our objectives. Among these stubborn canards are that we are capitalists in the evil 19th century Marxist sense, that we are materialistic and without culture, that we are racist, and that we are in a stage of economic stagnation. The latter supports the corollary effort of the Communists to represent themselves as the “wave of the future.”

This memorandum establishes priorities for output on the aspects of American life and culture which will facilitate achievement of U.S. foreign policies. These priorities have been approved by the Director and the Deputy Director.

The attached priority subjects are, of course, not exclusive, but must be given as full and persuasive treatment in all Media as resources [Page 32] permit before other subjects are tackled. Submissions to the Quarterly Media—Area Meetings should reflect these priorities.

The relative efforts in behalf of any of the priorities will, as in the past, vary with the unfolding of events, the nature of the medium, and the situation in individual countries.

The responsibility for coordinating Media output on these priority and other subjects will continue to rest with the Assistant Deputy Director (Media Content).

Thomas C. Sorensen


Paper Prepared in the United States Information Agency5


The United States has the most diverse population in the world. In the melting pot process, minorities have often suffered in the U.S., as they have historically and still do in many countries. But the U.S. democratic social, political, and economic system has provided a means for them to join and be absorbed into the main stream of American life, in all its richness and variety. The last large such minority—Negro Americans—are now actively in this process of full integration. Progress will not always be easy, but, with the support of the Federal Government and a majority of the citizenry, will continue until the process is complete.


The U.S. has developed the most powerful and productive economy the world has ever seen, based on a dynamic balance among business, labor, and government. Incentives provide opportunity; government protects against abuses and excess fluctuation of the business cycle. The U.S. economy continues to grow rapidly, and there is no evidence that the Soviets will overtake it soon or in the foreseeable future. The strength and productivity of the U.S. economy permits the U.S. to provide its people with material standards and welfare measures which the communists have only promised; to keep itself and the free [Page 33] world armed at a level adequate to protect against all forms of attack, and to provide substantial aid to less developed countries.


Social benefits, strong labor unions, a progressive tax system, broad capital ownership by the populace, and Government regulatory agencies contribute to widespread ownership and enjoyment of U.S. productive wealth. The American system of “capitalism with a conscience”6 is far closer in philosophy and practice to the non-coercive Social Democracy of Western Europe than it is to the earlier capitalistic concept. Despite this progress, the U.S. seeks still greater economic opportunity and equality for all its citizens.


The United States is one of the leaders of the international scientific community, with a depth and breadth of pure and applied scientific research unmatched in any other country. After a late start, the U.S. has taken the lead in space technology and exploration. The quality of the U.S. educational system also ranks with that of the most advanced nations. The American system is unique in the large percentage of its citizens who receive a higher education. Higher learning is available without regard to economic or social classes. Claims that the rigid Soviet educational system is likely soon to overtake the American system in either quality or quantity are not borne out by the facts or by authoritative projections for the next decades.


Drawing upon its native inheritance and the wealth of intellectual, artistic, philosophic, and religious traditions brought by immigrants, the U.S. has created its own variegated, dynamic, serious culture. Its hallmark is freedom: there are no more barriers to expression in art than there are in speech; there is no cultural party line imposed from the top. While respecting tradition and continuing to study and appreciate the classical inheritance, current American intellectual life, art, music, literature and other cultural manifestations are characterized by vitality and a will to experiment. Culture in the United States is not reserved for a privileged few nor confined to the capital cities; it spans the breadth of the people and the land. The United States believes in the freedom to create, not only in the United States but for the people everywhere, and the free flow of culture among nations.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 306, USIA Historical Collection, Agency History Program Subject Files: 1967–1975, Entry A1–1072, Box 5, Mission Statements 1964–1967. Unclassified.
  2. See footnote 3, Document 5.
  3. See footnote 2, Document 5.
  4. See Document 5.
  5. Unclassified. No drafting information appears on the paper.
  6. Rowan also used this term during his February 25 confirmation hearing; see footnote 6, Document 11.