297. Letter From Secretary of State Vance to the Chairman of the Board of the Population Council (Rockefeller)1

Dear John:

Many thanks for your kind words on my participation in the Asia Society Dinner on June 30.2 I, too, enjoyed the occasion enormously. The time and setting were right for a serious discussion of our Asian policy, and I’m most grateful for the opportunity the Society afforded me. I think the reaction to the speech was positive in just about every respect.

In population matters, there are these recent initiatives: In his message to Congress on the environment,3 the President pointed to population growth as a major problem of world dimensions and made plain that the United States was prepared to respond promptly and fully to all requests for assistance. I have sent a message to all our posts emphasizing my personal concern with population matters and requiring that our Ambassadors give population questions their personal attention.4

As you are probably aware, the Agency for International Development (AID), at the President’s request, is now undertaking a major study on the future of US foreign assistance,5 and I am assured that population considerations will be part of this analysis. Long-range global population growth is also being examined in the light of its impact on environment and resources.

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Like you, I want to see good intentions and words about population issues translated into actions. And I intend to see that they are. Do keep me abreast of your own thinking in this regard.

With warm regards,


  1. Source: Department of State, Office of the Secretariat Staff, Records of Cyrus Vance, Secretary of State, 1977–1980, Lot 80D135, September Chron 1977. No classification marking. Drafted by William Twaddell (S) on August 15. John D. Rockefeller, III, Chairman of the Rockefeller Foundation, established the Population Council in 1952 and served as Chairman of the Board until his death in 1978.
  2. In prepared remarks to the Asia Society on June 29, Vance referenced the Carter administration’s pursuit of a “basic human needs” strategy emphasizing development and women’s roles within it, increased nutrition and food production, expanded educational programming and technical training, preventative medicine and prenatal health, and family planning. He added: “To all of these efforts the United States pledges its strong support. But in many countries rapid population growth poses a threat to economic development. While pressures of population on the land are already threatening East Asia’s natural environment, some East Asian countries will double their 1970 population by the end of the century. I believe the United States must help countries coping with these difficult problems.” (Department of State Bulletin, August 1, 1977, pp. 143–145)
  3. See footnote 4, Document 284.
  4. See Document 284.
  5. Documentation on the AID study is in Foreign Relations, 1977–1980, volume III, Foreign Economic Policy.
  6. Printed from a copy that indicates that Vance signed the original.