6. Memorandum From the President’s Special Assistant (Schlesinger) to the President’s Assistant Special Counsel (Goodwin)1

SUBJECT

  • Latin American Speech

While the body of the speech must obviously deal with programs and purposes in the economic field, it is extremely important, in my judgment, that the speech not leave the broad impression that we regard economics as the be-all and end-all of existence. The Latinos want economic aid all right; but they resent the idea that money solves everything or that the major problems of life can be comprehended in material terms. So I hope that the economic matter can be put into a framework which makes it clear (a) that we are concerned with economics, not for its own sake, but to promote the higher aims of culture and the spirit, and (b) that, in our zest for economic growth, we do not propose to remake the other nations of the hemisphere in our own image.

To do this, it will be necessary to go in for a certain amount of highflown corn. This will, I am sure, leave the President cold, but it will thrill the audience south of the border, where metahistorical disquisitions are inordinately admired.

I am attaching a few pages2 in the hope that they may suggest something to you (but, if they don’t fit your line of thought, please file them forthwith in the nearest wastebasket).

One other problem: I think it important not to make it all sound too easy. I doubt very much, for example, whether any aid program can put every child in the hemisphere effectively in school in ten years. At present, I gather, half those of school age never get to school at all; of those who do, half drop out at the end of the first year. Probably half the people in Latin America are presently illiterate. (On the other hand, excessive emphasis on mass illiteracy will offend Latin American sensibilities unless offset by recognition that Costa Rica and Uruguay are 90% literate, Chile and Argentina 80%, etc.)

The speech should suggest (a) the President’s realistic understanding of the hard complexities of the problem, (b) the resources of will and material assistance which the US and the Latin American republics mean [Page 10]to bring to the solution, and (c) the rather realistic goals which a massive coordination and concentration of effort might hopefully attain.

Arthur Schlesinger, jr.3
  1. Source: Kennedy Library, Schlesinger Papers, White House Files, Latin America, March 8, 1961-April 30, 1961. No classification marking.
  2. Not found.
  3. Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.