89. Memorandum From Jessica Tuchman of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Brzezinski)1


  • USIA’s Suggestions for Human Rights Week—Your Query

Reinhardt suggests (Tab B) that the President’s greatest source of support on human rights comes from people rather than from their [Page 301]governments. Everyone I have talked to and everything I have read in the past months confirms this. Each of the President’s speeches and statements in this area has captured much attention and generated additional support, which eventually percolates back to governments. Thus I think that Reinhardt’s suggestion for a Human Rights Week speech addressed to people all over the world is an excellent one.2

You may remember that after the last UNGA speech, we got many reports of reactions expressing disappointment that the President had not once mentioned human rights.3 Some interpreted this as a backing off from the policy (this isn’t serious—it’s a press obsession that will be with us until the policy is no longer new). We even got some indications of disappointment from governments who were expecting some general words of praise for the positive steps that have been taken in many places. Thus there is substance that can usefully be said in such a speech, and I think we can be confident that the market has not been saturated with talk of human rights: I am a little leery of Reinhardt’s suggestion that the speech address “the place of the individual in society” which could easily get too philosophical and ethnocentric, but I believe that it would be well worthwhile to take a look at his draft.

Rick informed me yesterday that a proposal for a 3–4 minute Human Rights Week statement is already in the system. Obviously we would not want to do both. I would suggest that it be expanded into a 10–12 minute speech.

I have no particular comments on Reinhardt’s proposals Two and Three other than that we should take a look at his material. I have drafted a note for a reply to Reinhardt’s memorandum along these lines—it is at Tab A.4

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That you sign the memorandum at Tab A.

That you approve a 10–12 minute speech rather than a short statement for Human Rights Week.5

Tab B

Memorandum From the Director of the United States Information Agency (Reinhardt) to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Brzezinski) 6

As the end of the Carter Administration’s first year in office approaches, I have engaged in some preliminary New Year’s ruminations and reflections on the experiences of several months at USIA. The Agency’s Deputy Director, Charles Bray, has just returned from a two-week visit to the Federal Republic of Germany, Nigeria, Egypt, Jordan and Israel, and the impressions he gathered in discussions with intellectuals, academics, media, government and opposition leaders in these countries furnished more material for thought. Several common themes concerning the atmospherics within which we operate abroad emerged from our analysis.

—In much of the world, the intellectual discourse appears to proceed not from firmly held tenets about the future of a given society, but rather from questions about the direction in which societies are headed, questions about the place of any society in the community of nations and about the place and role of individuals within societies. Perhaps it has always been thus, but questions surely outnumber answers in today’s world. In this psychological climate, the President’s emphasis on human rights has struck a responsive chord with peoples, if not always with governments. Their interest appears to lie less in the policy implications of the President’s views than in what is perceived as a powerful affirmation of basic human values.

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—To a remarkable extent, given the traumas of U.S. society in recent years, other societies continue to look to the U.S. as a model—not a perfect model, to be sure, but the most relevant model available in an imperfect world. Our ideas, techniques, values and institutions are perceived as workable. The substantial Nigerian investment in the American educational experience (anticipated to exceed $135 million annually by next year), the Egyptian reopening to the Western market economy, the overwhelming German celebration of our Bicentennial, are simply examples.

—The reverse side of the coin is the tendency on the part of many to dismiss the USSR as an irrelevant model, bankrupt of values, and essentially unworkable.

In light of the foregoing, I recommend to you and the President for consideration three specific proposals:

First, Human Rights Week (December 10–17) affords the President an opportunity to address domestic and foreign constituencies simultaneously, with a discussion of the place of the individual in society, his relationship to government and economy, the sources of our societal values, their relevance to others. I would like to submit a draft speech for consideration within a short time if you give preliminary endorsement to this recommendation. USIA could facilitate live international TV coverage by satellite; at a minimum we could place the text in the hands of a very large number of important foreigners. We assume, of course, that the President would deliver the speech before an appropriate specific audience or as an Oval Office address to the nation.

Second, assuming the President plans a year-end “State of the World” message to Congress, the content and tone could usefully reflect some of the foreign preoccupations which the foregoing suggests. I will forward, by November 28, some specific suggestions in this regard.

Third, the foreign environment we think we perceive has important implications for the new International Communication Agency. We gather the President will be reviewing the FY 1979 budget on December 6. I would like to send you background material and a few informal proposals before that meeting.

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Brzezinski Office File, Subject Chron File, Box 94, Human Rights: 1977. No classification marking. Sent for action.
  2. Brzezinski placed two parallel lines in the left-hand margin next to the portion of the paragraph that begins with “eventually” and ends with “one.”
  3. Reference is to the President’s October 4 address before the UN General Assembly, which is printed in Public Papers: Carter, 1977, Book II, pp. 1715–1723, and is scheduled for publication in Foreign Relations, 1977–1980, volume I, Foundations of Foreign Policy.
  4. Attached but not printed is a signed copy of Brzezinski’s memorandum to Reinhardt, dated November 25. In it, Brzezinski commented: “I found both your analysis and proposals interesting. Regarding a ‘State of the World’ message, and your thoughts on the FY ’79 budget for ICA, I hope you will forward the materials you mention to me. We are giving serious consideration to your proposal for a Human Rights Week speech—there are the inevitable schedule problems as you know. While I can make no commitment at this time that the speech will be given, I would like to see a draft of what you have in mind.” (Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Brzezinski Office File, Subject Chron File, Box 94, Human Rights: 1977)
  5. Brzezinski placed a check mark on the approval lines of both recommendations. His handwritten comment on a line for “Further Action” is illegible. The President did not deliver a human rights speech as requested but offered comments regarding human rights policy at a December 15 news conference. For additional information, see Document 99.
  6. No classification marking. No drafting information appears on the memorandum. Brzezinski wrote the following handwritten notation on the first page of the memorandum: “Ri [Rick Inderfurth] Give me rest. WR [Weekly Report] idea?” A November 21 covering memorandum from Brzezinski to Tuchman transmitting Reinhardt’s memorandum and requesting that Tuchman provide him with a “quick reaction” to the proposal is not printed. (Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Brzezinski Office File, Subject Chron File, Box 94, Human Rights: 1977)