255. Letter From Secretary of State Dulles to President Kubitschek1

My Dear Mr. President: I dictate this on the plane en route from Brasilia to Washington. I have, as I promised you, given immediate thought to your aide-mémoire on “Pan-American Operation”. I believe that on the whole it is a very constructive document and certainly you have our full sympathy in moving ahead in your important initiative. I have two basic observations to make:


I feel that the discussion of “underdevelopment” is a little too much mechanistic, as though there were some measurable point which could be achieved and which if reached would enable further development safely to cease. In my thinking “underdevelopment” is a symptom of the lack of that dynamism which must prevail in any society if it is to survive. The United States is, and I hope always will be, “underdeveloped” in the sense that there will always be before us the vision of something better to be achieved. Any nation is finished and an inevitable prey to revolutionary philosophies, if it stands still. The sin of the West, to the extent we have sinned, is a tendency to be satisfied with what we have. Actually development must be characteristic of any nation that would survive and defend its spiritual heritage.

I was deeply impressed by the fact that your own personality embodies this dynamic concept. You have visions, and work to make them come true. It could be argued, I suppose, from a purely mathematical basis, that the money spent in transforming Brasilia into a new capital could better be spent in other ways. Actually, the genius of Brasilia is that it evokes a new vision, a new effort and greater dynamism which will make its influence felt to improve the lot everywhere.

I hope that “Pan-American Operation” will concentrate primarily upon the injecting into this hemisphere of increased determination to evolve peacefully but vigorously in a way which will improve the lot of all men.

I hope that allusions critical of the United States can be avoided. I believe that the record of the United States during these postwar years is one of which we can be proud. The difficult task is to assure that our national course will proceed along these lines. If what we have done merely evokes criticism, then there will be a tendency to revert to isolationism.

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President Eisenhower has now almost daily the hard task of vetoing bills passed by the Congress to develop local projects and to cure our own local “underdevelopment”. He does this in order that we may maintain the fiscal stability needed to enable us more vigorously to pursue the grave international tasks and discharge the heavy international responsibilities that devolve upon us. You can appreciate that this is not altogether easy, and if the vast contribution which we have been making to international welfare evokes only criticism abroad, it will lead to an increasing tendency in our own nation to concentrate upon our own “underdevelopment”. I believe this would be a very short-sighted and dangerous course to follow, but you as a political leader of another great democracy can, I think, appreciate the significance of what I say.

Let “Pan-American Operation” therefore be an operation which would extend in this hemisphere the dynamic spirit which is so characteristic of you yourself and which will encourage the United States to continue on in measures which, often at the immediate sacrifice of local concerns, dedicates us to the preservation of the great spiritual values characteristic of Western civilization.

I have asked Assistant Secretary Rubottom to make certain specific suggestions, designed primarily to reflect the above thinking.2 These are of course merely suggestions. I think it important that the proposal reflects your own views and your own resolution.

Sincerely yours,

John Foster Dulles3
  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 363/8–758. Personal and Confidential. Drafted by Dulles and Rubottom. Delivered by Briggs to Kubitschek on August 12.
  2. Telegram 219 to Rio de Janeiro, August 11, transmitted ARA’s edited version of the Brazilian aide-mémoire on Operation Pan America. (ibid., 363/8–1158). Briggs delivered it with the letter to Kubitschek.
  3. Printed from a copy that bears this stamped signature.