37. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Liberia1

157812. Subject: Letter From President Carter to President Tolbert.

1. Please pass the following letter dated June 20, 1978, from President Carter to President Tolbert. Signed original follows.

2. Quote: Dear Mr. President: When I visited Monrovia on April 3 you presented me with a document entitled, “Briefing Notes and Proposals.”2 I read it with interest and have directed that your suggestions be studied carefully. The various departments have now made their reports and Ambassador Carter will be in touch with your ministers to review your plans and the help which we can provide. We look forward to cooperating with your government in the fields of development and low-cost shelters in Monrovia. I also believe that we will be able to help in the health area. I therefore propose sending [Page 116] a team to Liberia to determine how we can help you combat river blindness.3

3. Although the subject was not raised in your memorandum, I have asked our aeronautics and space administration to see whether our space capability could be of benefit to Liberia. They have recommended to me that we undertake a technical assessment of potential use of satellite imagery in resource management and weather prediction. Ambassador Carter is prepared to work with appropriate ministries in arranging such a survey, if you are interested.

4. Most importantly, I would like to be responsive to the desires you expressed to bring more of the benefits of development to all Liberians. It seems to me that one of the best ways to do this is to provide a greater opportunity for Liberians in all walks of life to acquire the skills and knowledge that would permit them to improve their own circumstances and, at the same time, participate more fully in the development process.

5. Such an approach might be national in scope, and extend over several years. It might aim at the improvement of the formal education system as well as the establishment of training in specialized skills relevant to the needs of Liberia’s people. It could include primary, secondary and vocational and on-the-job training in the public and private sector.

6. National programs of this type have large monetary and political costs, and require the sacrifice of certain other activities. But the returns can be immense. We are interested in assisting in this area if it is your wish, and if you are prepared to commit substantial resources to the program.4

7. Rosalynn and I will always cherish the memory of our visit to Liberia and the warmth of our reception. Thank you very much for the inscribed photographs; please also express my thanks to the Liberian Senate for the kind letter that they sent to me. These will be continual reminders of our meeting with you and the Liberian people, and of the depth and character of the special relationship between our two countries.

[Page 117]

8. With every good wish and warm regards. Sincerely, (signed) Jimmy Carter. Unquote.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D780259–0508. Confidential; Priority. Drafted by Svendsen (AF/W); cleared in AID, PM, S/P, P, and S/S; approved by Moose.
  2. See Document 34 and footnote 2 thereto.
  3. In telegram 1471 from Monrovia, February 23, 1980, the Embassy reported on a meeting between Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare Patricia Harris and Tolbert, in which she assured the Liberian President that assistance on combating river blindness was forthcoming once her office received the team’s final report. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D800094–0737)
  4. In telegram 5129 from Monrovia, July 17, the Embassy transmitted the text of Tolbert’s response. Tolbert accepted Carter’s offer to send a research team to study the issue of river blindness, the satellite survey to aid in resource management, and assistance to improve Liberia’s education system. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D780259–0508)