56. Memorandum From President Kennedy to Secretary of State Rusk1

I was concerned when I read a newspaper report on costs of Embassy residences. Of course, I believe that the residence of an American Ambassador should reflect credit on him and his country. On the other hand, I feel that excessive expenditures for such a residence will make us look ridiculous in the eyes of the people in the countries concerned.

Knowing the type of house that $300,000 will buy in the United States, it is difficult for me to see the need for Ambassadors’ residences in that price range in such places as Senegal, Cyprus, and Seoul, unless there are unusual factors involved. I believe that Embassy residences should present an image of dignity and charm without being ostentatious or luxurious. Careful thought should be given, and possibly some re-examination of plans made, to assure that they reflect the proper impression of our Ambassadors and of our country.

  1. Source: Kennedy Library, President’s Office Files, JFK Memos to Departments and Agencies, State. No classification marking.