293. Memorandum From the Special Assistant to the Secretary of State for Population Matters (Claxton) to the President’s Special Assistant (Cater)1


  • Proposal for a Presidential Commission on Population

Some time ago, before the President decided to defer action on the Rockefeller proposal for a Presidential Commission on Population,2 you asked me to see what the interested people thought about it. Here is a summary of the information I had collected.

Secretary Rusk believes the Commission should be undertaken at an appropriate time, primarily as a matter of importance to the United States internally, but also because the existence of such a study will put us in a less vulnerable position as we endeavor to obtain appropriate attention by foreign countries to their population growth problems. The list of members should be looked at for proper balance.

Phil Lee told me that Secretary Gardner, who last year was doubtful about the desirability of such a study, now believes it should be undertaken. He thought it should have a domestic emphasis. The immediate need is for additional funding of domestic and foreign programs in [Page 518] the population/family planning field. Since a Commission would presumably recommend such increases, it would be wrong to go forward unless the President believes he could propose such increases to the Congress. Secretary Gardner would like to go over the membership list with care before appointments might be made.

Secretary Udall strongly favored such a Commission. He suggested a blue-ribbon group to focus sharply on the domestic population problem with the thought that recognition that we have a problem and are taking action to move on it would help us abroad. He would like to review the list of names suggested to be sure highly qualified people from minority groups are included. He believed strongly the Commission should be public in nature with a report to be made publicly.

Secretary Weaver’s office reported that he would go along with the proposal.

Sargent Shriver was not convinced that the public visibility of a Presidential Commission is needed at this time. He thinks good progress is being made in obtaining public acceptance of the need for providing opportunities for family planning through individual freedom of choice—such as the Family Planning Program conducted by OEO. He was concerned that the publicity attendant on White House projects might upset present acquiescence and tacit support by groups in our society that are evolving new positions in this sensitive area. However, if such a Commission were established, OEO would cooperate fully with it. The membership of such a Commission should be less professorial and should include those who can speak for the poor, including Negro spokesmen for that group.

  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Records of the Department of State, Central Files, 1967–69, SOC 13. Limited Official Use.
  2. See Documents 270 and 289. Rockefeller spoke to Rusk again in August 1967 when he submitted a memorandum to the President (see footnote 3, Document 289). At that time, Claxton told Rusk that the White House had submitted the proposal to the Bureau of the Budget, which had responded unfavorably. (Memorandum from Claxton to the Secretary, August 15; National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Records of the Department of State, Central Files, 1967–69, SOC 13) After consultation with Laurence Rockefeller, Cater decided that the matter should be deferred until late September. (Ibid.) In October Cater asked Claxton to survey interested agencies for their opinions. Rockefeller also approached Mrs. Johnson: “Mr. Cater told me later that Mrs. Johnson took the matter up with the President who replied that he did not want to go forward with the Commission idea then.” (Ibid.)