85. Memorandum From the Deputy Director for Policy and Plans (Towery) to the Director (Keogh) and Deputy Director (Kopp) of the United States Information Agency1


  • USIA and the Bicentennial

This memorandum reports on Agency activities concerning the Bicentennial and requests your approval for suggested next steps.

The Opportunity for USIA

The Bicentennial presents the Agency with special opportunity to inform our audiences worldwide about America’s past, present and future as we see it.

A good deal of preliminary planning has already been done, but in the relatively short time remaining before the Bicentennial Year is upon us, these plans need to be made more specific and concrete.


1. In 1968, the Director of USIA2 decided that the Agency should not be an ex-officio member of the American Revolution Bicentennial Commission, but the Director, or his representative, is invited to attend all meetings of the Commission. Harold F. Schneidman is the Agency’s representative to the ARBC, Mildred Marcy is the Agency’s Bicentennial Planning Officer, and IOP and ICS work closely together on planning and coordination of Agency Bicentennial activities.

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2. In 1970 and 1971 the Agency submitted reports to the Chairman of the ARBC on USIA’s role in the Bicentennial celebration.3 These reports outlined various media projects among which were:

a. Increased emphasis on American Studies abroad, with an international conference of foreign American Studies Associations to be held in Washington in 1976.

b. A major multi-media exhibit on the Age of Jefferson and Franklin, financed by the ARBC, designed and constructed under Agency contract with Charles Eames, will be previewed in Paris in Fall 1974. The exhibit will be shown in a few other European capitals and then possibly returned to the U.S. to be shown during 1976 under ARBC auspices.

3. In a July 28, 1972 memorandum President Nixon asked the heads of executive departments and agencies to submit detailed current reports of Bicentennial planning—“in the three designated theme areas (Heritage, Festival USA, and Horizons)—together with timing and cost data.”4 In our response we described a variety of media products which have been prepared or planned. We outlined several new approaches in training programs which would reinforce the knowledge of our personnel on matters historical and contemporary, related to U.S. observance of the Bicentennial. We stressed the creation, in cooperation with State/CU, of an Ad Hoc Bicentennial Planning Committee which met for two days last September at Airlie House.5

Regarding costs, we stated: “Since the Bicentennial period adds additional reinforcement to activities in which USIA would be engaged anyway, it is virtually impossible to separate out cost data for Bicentennial-related activities. However, we estimate that by FY 1976 a significant portion of our media products and overseas cultural information effort, as well as training programs for our personnel, will be related to [Page 297] Bicentennial purposes. . . . Within USIA’s regular program expenditures in FY 1976 approximately $15 million will be used for Bicentennial programs. Lesser amounts will be spent in the years leading up to FY 1976.”


1. Beginning in 1974, all of the Agency’s university academic study training assignments will be to American Studies programs in appropriate American universities (seven in FY 1974, 14–15 in FY 1975 and FY 1976). These academic studies programs will be, as much as possible, designed to fill the Agency’s needs during the Bicentennial period (and thereafter) for officers genuinely well-informed on America’s past and present.

2. Beginning in FY 1974, IPT will offer twice a year a six or eight week course in the “American Experience” which will be required of all Foreign Service Officers before assignment abroad.

3. A work-study program will be established with the Smithsonian Institution and/or other similar institutions for officers who will be preparing exhibits materials and programs for the Bicentennial, the assignment to last about six months.

Recommendation for Action:

The Director should issue a statement to all Agency elements and to posts overseas somewhat as follows:

USIA regards the American Revolution Bicentennial as a special opportunity to tell the people of other nations about America’s past, present and future.

“Beginning in FY 1974 and reaching a climax in calendar 1976, the Agency plans to devote a major portion of its resources to this task. Training programs are being developed which will help prepare Agency personnel for this special campaign. All posts should begin planning now special programs for the Bicentennial period. The media will concentrate their efforts on special materials related to the Bicentennial.”

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 306, Records of the USIA, Executive Committee File, 1973, Accession 306–89–0043, Meeting No. 178. No classification marking. Keogh wrote “Excom” at the top of the page to indicate that the subject was to be addressed by the USIA’s Executive Committee.
  2. Leonard H. Marks was Director of USIA, 1965–1968.
  3. Shakespeare submitted the “Plan for USIA’s Role in the American Revolution Bicentennial Celebration,” to ARBC Chairman J.E. Wallace Sterling under a covering memorandum, April 2, 1970. In addition to the programs summarized below, the agency’s Bicentennial plan included English-language training, overseas exhibits, international trade fairs, VOA broadcasts, motion picture and TV programs, magazine distribution, assistance to foreign media, and multi-media projects. (National Archives, RG 306, Records of the USIA, Executive Committee File, 1973, Accession 306–89–0043, Meeting No. 178)
  4. Nixon’s memorandum is ibid., Historical Collection, Subject Files, 1953–2000, Entry A1 (1066), Box 142, Bicentennial, Planning, 1970–1972.
  5. Shakespeare’s August 18, 1972, memorandum to ARBC Chairman David J. Mahoney also outlined developments regarding publications, motion picture and TV projects, VOA programs, and USIS information centers. (Ibid., Executive Committee File, 1973, Accession 306–89–0043, Meeting No. 178) The record of the initial meeting of the USIA/CU Ad Hoc Bicentennial Planning Committee, chaired by Robin Winks and held at Arlie House September 5–7, 1972, is ibid. The Committee identified themes for emphasis in programming and recommended actions to CU and USIA.