275. Memorandum From the President’s Special Assistant for National Security Affairs (Bundy) to President Johnson1


  • Should we go Ahead with the White House Conference on International Cooperation Year?

1. Jake Jacobsen has passed me your message, and I have not done anything further on this matter until I could get back to you. But neither have I issued any general stop order.2 I want to do just what you want done, but I don’t think I should cancel or postpone this Conference without a definite decision from you. It is now scheduled, by your repeated public affirmation, for November 29–December 1. No one short of the President should make any decision to derail what the President has repeatedly ordered.

2. My memoranda to you have failed to speak adequately of the history of all this. It began in 1964 after the UN General Assembly designated 1965 as International Cooperation Year. You gave that designation your enthusiastic support.

(1) First in your June, 1964 speech at Holy Cross you said,

“I propose to dedicate this year to finding new techniques for making man’s knowledge serve man’s welfare. …

“We intend to call upon all the resources of this great nation—both public and private—to work with other nations to find new methods of improving the life of man.”

(2) Then on October 2, 1964 you issued a Proclamation of International Cooperation Year. The operating clauses of this Proclamation are as follows:

“Now, therefore, I, Lyndon B. Johnson, President of the United States of America, do hereby

  • —proclaim the year 1965 to be International Cooperation Year in the United States of America;
  • —rededicate the Government of the United States to the principle of international cooperation; and
  • —direct the agencies of the Executive Branch to examine thoroughly what additional steps can be taken in this direction in the immediate future.

I also call upon our national citizen organizations to undertake intensive educational programs to inform their memberships of recent progress in international cooperation and urge them to consider what further steps can be taken.”

(3) On the same day you addressed a gathering of notables in the East Room and made an eloquent and moving announcement of plans for a White House Conference on International Cooperation:

[Here follow excerpts from the President’s remarks on October 2; see footnote 2, Document 274.]

(4) With that send-off, people went to work. On November 24, 1964, you designated a Cabinet Committee under Dean Rusk to prepare for the White House Conference. Committees were formed on a whole range of topics, and the interest of leading private citizens was engaged in a year of preliminary work. They really are leading citizens, and I attach two pages of representative names of those who have taken an interest in the Conference (Tab A).3

(5) On March 4, 1965, you received Bob Benjamin and gave the whole undertaking another strong boost.

“On October 2, I proclaimed this twentieth anniversary year of the birth of the United Nations as International Cooperation Year in the United States.

“I am highly pleased by the extent of voluntary support being given to this observance by citizens throughout the country. Mr. Benjamin’s progress report this morning was inspiring. I believe Americans today fully recognize that international cooperation is the one sure way toward peace. The depth of such citizen support is a source of strength for all of this nation’s policies and purposes.

“I am hopeful that the White House Conference on International Cooperation which I have called for November 29 to December 1, can be a landmark session. I hope the conference and the preliminary discussions leading toward it can be a source of new and thoughtful evaluations of what we can do in every major field of international cooperation.”

(6) Since then the wheels have been rolling. Thirty Committees of private citizens have prepared reports which are now going to press. Invitations have been printed. Committee and Panel Chairmen have arranged their programs. A remarkable group of Americans have responded to the challenge you gave their leaders in the East Room a year ago. All of this can do good. Little if any of it can do harm. You started it in a great speech. Why should it be stopped now?

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3. It may be that I have failed to respond to some special concern of yours. Here are some cases of possible objections with brief answers.

Objection One: The Conference will mess up the White House for three days.

Answer: All that the White House is committed to is a single reception which the President needs to attend only if he is in town.

Objection Two: The Conference will put forward a lot of embarrassing proposals.

Answer: There will be no wild proposals, because the private committees have shown themselves very responsible. Moreover, the freedom of action of the executive branch will be fully protected.4

Objection Three: Some far-out type may use the White House for his own protest on Vietnam, or something else.

Answer: This is always a possibility when any group is asked to the White House, but the very presence of 1,000 other well-behaved peace-lovers will be the best possible answer.

4. So my strong recommendation is that we should proceed on schedule. I can think of no reason whatsoever for cancellation, and the only good reason for a postponement would be to allow you to take a larger part in the Conference after your convalescence. Such a postponement can readily be arranged if you wish—though it might raise unnecessary questions about your health, and it would also increase the burden on you at a later time. The only other alternative I can see is to proceed with the Conference, enlist the help of Mrs. Johnson and the Vice President, and keep the load on you as light as possible.

Carry on with Mrs. Johnson and the Vice President

Postpone it on grounds of health

Speak to me5


P.S. Arthur Goldberg just called me on another matter and I checked this problem with him. He asked me to pass this message: It really would be disastrous with all the supporters of the UN if we cancel the Conference. He and Dorothy Goldberg will be delighted to do anything they can to pitch in and keep the load on you as light as possible.

  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Memos to the President, Vol. 16. Confidential. A handwritten note indicates the memorandum was received at the LBJ Ranch on November 6 at 9:10 a.m.
  2. Bundy had raised the issue with the President in a memorandum on November 2: “At the outset, let me say that while I don’t blame you for your concern about the number of White House Conferences, the record shows we are pretty firmly committed to go through with this one as scheduled. In addition to the fact that many leading private citizens have already contributed much time and effort in preparation for the Conference, the public record leaves us little room to maneuver.” (Ibid.)
  3. Not found.
  4. On November 19 the Bureau of the Budget informed Chase that the ICY report on food and agriculture was “closely parallel” to a proposed Presidential statement on food. However, “BOB has informally made the point to me that if this report comes out, it will substantially decrease the chances of the President making a food initiative anytime in the near future—i.e. he won’t want to appear to be following the ICY Committee’s lead.” (Memorandum from Chase to Bundy, November 19; Johnson Library, National Security File, Subject File, White House Conference on International Cooperation, ICY—Tabs 26–31)
  5. None of the three options was checked.