178. Memorandum From the Director of the United States Information Agency (Marks) to All United States Information Agency Public Affairs Officers1

Dear PAO:

In recent weeks two separate groups have studied the operations of our Agency. The Republican Coordinating Committee issued a special report of its Task Force on the Conduct of Foreign Relations,2 and the U.S. Advisory Commission on Information has just completed one of its periodic reviews of our programs.3 It is significant that:

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. . . Both groups call for greater attention to USIA’s essential function in the conduct of U.S. foreign relations today.

. . . Both support the creation of a career service.

. . . Both call for increased emphasis on long-range educational and cultural programs.

. . . Both reports highlight the importance of careful coordination between the Department of State and USIA in the planning and execution of cultural and educational exchange programs.

I am gratified that these independent reviews of our operations confirm the importance of USIA’s function and the need to devote greater attention to it. I welcome, as I know you do, their constructive suggestions for ways in which we can do our job better. We can point with pride to many accomplishments, but must constantly strive for improvement.

From previous letters you know my own views on the importance of our long-range cultural programs. Here are some recent initiatives:

1. The first issue of the new cultural quarterly, Dialogue, is now reaching the field. I hope that you will find it a lively, stimulating presentation of the intellectual vigor and creativity of American society today.

2. Now at press is “Creative America” by Howard Taubman, Art and Cultural critic of the New York Times. It introduces a series of nine pamphlets on the arts.

3. In the film medium we are seeking to communicate the spirit, variety and quality of American life through a number of color documentaries for commercial distribution. “Airport” and “The Golden Gate” are the first.

4. New initiatives in the book field offer excellent opportunities for strengthening our cultural programs. Post responses to the USA in Books reflect your enthusiasm for this prestige 250-volume collection and show some imaginative ideas for promoting it. “Current Thought Readers” will be a new series of adaptations of outstanding American works in fields related to national development. The donated book program, now an integral part of ICS’ operations, has been developed into a major resource for filling the needs of libraries and institutions abroad. Make sure that your staffs are familiar with its potential and with the lists issued periodically, “Donated Books Available for Presentation.”

You will soon be hearing about ICS’ new Educational Support Branch and its plans to strengthen Agency support for your activities with educational institutions abroad. Another new development is the concept of “package programs” for cultural centers, combining the resources of several media to project principal themes about American life. I also call to your attention the Information Center Guidance (CA [Page 572] 1747 of February 5, 1968) which outlines the role of the Center in achieving USIA’s long-range goals.4

Obviously, it is essential that we keep abreast of technical changes in the communications field. We must take advantage of new ways to improve our distribution through the printed and electronic media. Accordingly, we have watched carefully the developments in “microforms”—miniaturization of the printed word. For example, one process has reduced the entire Holy Bible to a slide measuring 2 inches by 2 inches. A sample is attached.5 If this process becomes commercially feasible, we may be able vastly to expand our library holdings.

Similarly, in the electronic field, there will shortly be introduced “Electronic Video Recording” which will permit the presentation of a film through a television set. We are developing a sample one-hour film for test purposes and hope to have it available before the end of the year.

You can see that there are exciting new prospects ahead which will challenge our ingenuity and open vast new horizons for our Information Centers and for local institutions.

These are some of the new approaches we are exploring in Washington. They are based as far as possible on our understanding of your needs, through first-hand observation by the Area Assistant Directors and through your reports. But I am eager to hear more of your ideas about how we can strengthen our cultural programs, what we should be saying and how we should be saying it.

Each month we are improving the Agency’s world-wide system of communication. Yet no system, no matter how modern, efficient and rapid, is better than the ideas it transmits. We need imaginative thinking from all our staff, and particularly from you in the field who know best what will be most meaningful to our audiences.

I enjoy reading your responses to these letters. Please feel free to write whenever you have a suggestion.


Leonard H. Marks
  1. Source: Johnson Library, Marks Papers, Box 28, PAO Letters. No classification marking.
  2. See footnote 2, Document 174.
  3. Reference is to The Twenty-Third Report of the United States Advisory Commission on Information to the Congress of the United States (February 14, 1967).
  4. Not found.
  5. Not found attached.