89. Letter From the Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs (Frankel) to the President’s Special Assistant (Cater)1

Dear Doug:

I write this en route to Paris to speak to the Executive Board of UNESCO and to Mr. Maheu,2 principally about the President’s new international education program.3 What I am about to say to you I have tried out, quite briefly and informally, on John Gardner and Harry McPherson. I’m putting it in writing now so that you will have a chance to turn it over in your mind.

In my meetings with Congressman, university officials and teachers, and a good number of people, high and low, in the Executive [Page 264] branch, I have noted that people generally accept the international education program, but ask, in effect, “What’s new about it?” The degree of the President’s interest and the original qualities of the program have somehow not registered; nor has the program quite emerged as the reflection, in foreign policy, of this President’s special ideals and beliefs.

It is time, I think, to give the program new zip and lift. An action by the President to dramatize his interest, and to focus new attention on the program as the distinctive expression of his foreign policy, is highly desirable. This is also important because it is being said that the President is losing the intellectuals (see the Reston article, enclosed),4 and because old suspicions have been resurrected recently about the government role in relation to the universities. (CIA, AID, contracts, etc., etc.)

Here are two suggestions:

(1) Immediately following the passage of the International Education Act, the President might invite Ministers of Education of all nations (provided they are UN members) to meet to discuss the launching of cooperative educational programs. His stance would be that we do not take it upon ourselves to educate the world, but would like to join with others, if they are interested. He could say that he recognizes that our school system, like those of other nations, has frequently brought up the young in insular or chauvinistic attitudes, but that it is time to see whether the school systems of the world could work together to reverse this old tendency. The purpose of the conference would be to consider first steps.

I won’t get into the question here of auspices for such a meeting, degree of publicity, level of representation, etc. If there’s anything in the idea at all, we could come to that. We can also look into whether such a Presidential invitation should come before or after the looked-for passage of the International Education Act.5

(2) If this idea seems too big, the President, at the right time, might call a meeting of leading university people to air the main issues affecting a healthy relationship between government and the U.S. academic community. He could say that we recognize that there are problems and doubts, that we are concerned to respect and protect the independence and integrity of our educational institutions, and that [Page 265] this requires, at the outset of a broad new program, a candid meeting of minds. This would help in many ways, and not least in getting the international education program launched in the right way.

I do not mean another grab-bag White House conference. The meeting I envisage should be highly selective about those invited—not more than 100, perhaps—and reasonably limited in its agenda and preparation.

If either or both of these ideas appeal to you, I would, of course, run them by my colleagues in State.

After Paris, I go to Yugoslavia as an official guest of the Yugoslav Government, to discuss our educational and cultural exchange programs. My office will know where I am if you want to write or talk with me. I’ll be back the 27th.

Helen and I missed Libbie and you at our party. But we understood. Hasta la vista!


Charles Frankel6
  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs Files, Assistant Secretary for Educational and Cultural Affairs Subject Files, 1965–1966, Lot 69D260, Entry UD UP 175, 1966—U.S. Government: White House. Personal and Confidential. Copies were sent to Gardner and McPherson.
  2. Rene Maheu, Director General of UNESCO from 1962 until 1974.
  3. Johnson outlined his international education program in a February 2 address to Congress. The program included: creating a Center for Educational Cooperation within HEW; establishing Corps of Education Officers to serve in the U.S. Foreign Service; encouraging partnerships between U.S. and foreign schools; enlarging AID education assistance programs; assisting the teaching of English abroad; and forming an Exchange Peace Corps to bring “volunteers to America.” (Public Papers: Johnson, 1966, Book I, pp. 128–137)
  4. Not found attached. Reference is to an article by James Reston, “Santa Cruz, Calif.: Johnson and the Universities,” New York Times, May 6, 1966, p. 46.
  5. Congress passed the International Education Act (PL 89–698; 80 Stat. 1066), on October 29. The President signed the Act into law that same day. For Johnson’s remarks at the signing ceremony, held at Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, see Public Papers: Johnson, 1966, Book II, pp. 1276–1278.
  6. Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.