279. Letter From the Chairman of the Board of the Population Council (Rockefeller) to Secretary of State Rusk1

Dear Dean:

When we met at the luncheon for Prime Minister Holt of Australia,2 you spoke to me about the quite amazing progress that had been made during this past year concerning the population problem. I agreed that this is true, but said that still the subject is a sensitive one and still there is relatively little around the world in terms of really meaningful action programs.

With these thoughts in mind, it has been suggested that it would give encouragement and a real lift to world leaders generally if the heads of government in countries where meaningful family planning programs are under way or at least on the threshold of action, were to sign a joint statement for worldwide release—a sort of manifesto of faith and belief. Attached is a suggested draft of such a statement and a list of the countries whose leaders we would like to interest in signing it.3

In order to test the validity of the idea and to get reaction to it, the statement was shown to Mr. Douglass Cater at the White House. Our understanding is that he and Mr. Moyers showed it to the President and that the President reacted favorably to signing it provided a number of other key countries were to participate.4

While I was in India last month I showed the statement to Mr. L.K. Jha, Mrs. Gandhi’s principal personal assistant, and also talked with Chester Bowles about it. Word came back that Mrs. Gandhi was favorably inclined. Yesterday while in Washington, I talked with the Ambassadors of Japan, Turkey and Pakistan and the reaction was favorable to the idea although the Turkish Ambassador indicated it might be difficult for his Prime Minister to sign as he had not made any public statement at home on the subject of population as yet.

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This letter is primarily for your information. If our proposal should move forward as we are hopeful it will, we will be glad to send copies of correspondence concerning it to the American ambassadors in the individual countries if you feel that this would be desirable.5

With warmest best wishes, I am


  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Records of the Department of State, Central Files, 1964–66, SOC 13. No classification marking.
  2. A White House luncheon on July 14; a complete guest list is in the President’s Daily Diary. (Johnson Library)
  3. Dated July 22; not printed. The potential signatories listed were India, Pakistan, South Korea, Ceylon, Singapore, Malaysia, Taiwan, Japan, Egypt, Tunisia, Turkey, Morocco, Kenya, Chile, Colombia, Jamaica, the United States, and Sweden.
  4. Claxton confirmed this to the Secretary: “Cater tells me this is correct. The President has made no commitment. He wants to know first what other national leaders will sign.” (Memorandum from Claxton to the Secretary, September 26; National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Records of the Department of State, Central Files, 1964–66, SOC 13)
  5. Rockefeller moved forward on his proposal, and by early December the President seemed prepared to sign. (Telegram 2947 from USUN, December 6; ibid., SOC 13 UN) But in November Catholic bishops in the United States had issued a statement on birth control that raised doubts in the White House. On December 5 Gaud called the bishop responsible for the foreign aid section of the statement who assured him that “he had no objection to our responding to requests for aid from other governments provided the programs of those governments were voluntary rather than coercive insofar as individuals are concerned, and told me ‘not to worry about it.’” (Memorandum from Gaud to Califano, December 5; ibid.) President Johnson, apparently, was not reassured. (Telegram 99962 to USUN, December 9; ibid.) On December 10, Human Rights Day, UN Secretary-General U Thant released the declaration signed by 10 nations, 9 of which appeared on the original list (Colombia, India, South Korea, Malaysia, Morocco, Singapore, Sweden, Tunisia, the United Arab Republic, and Yugoslavia) plus Finland and Nepal. (Letter from Rockefeller to Rusk, December 16; ibid., SOC 13–3) Rockefeller was disappointed, but understood “it was due partly to the strong statement of the Catholic bishops and partly because it was suggested to him that maybe there should be other major Western countries included.” (Letter from Rockefeller to Rusk, December 16; ibid.)