125. Remarks by the Director of the International Communication Agency (Reinhardt)1
Welcome to the International Communication Agency.
Today is our first day of business. For me, it is a day of great excitement, brimming with a sense of challenge. For me, it is a rare day of renewed commitment to values and ideas and purposes with which many of us have been engaged for the better part of our professional lives.
I do not take this day lightly. I believe that we and others may later look back on this day as having been of historic significance.[Page 364]
It is because of this conviction that I want to talk to you at some length this morning—our first morning together—on three matters I judge to be of concern to us all.
First, I should like to present some of my own personal beliefs. I hope they will have an impact on the initial directions of the International Communication Agency.
Second, I should like to outline what I see as the potential of ICA as an institution.
And, third, I should like to lay out what I view as some of the more important practical implications of this act of creation—the establishment of the International Communication Agency.
First, then, my beliefs:
I believe in the power of ideas. I believe that ideas are what the International Communication Agency is all about—the generation of ideas, the exchange of ideas, the refinement of ideas. In the ebbs and flows of history, there are those who place their trust in military might, those who lean to economic determinism, those whose ultimate regard is for scientific and technological innovation.
I turn to ideas. I believe, with Oliver Wendell Holmes, that “man’s mind, stretched to a new idea, never goes back to its original dimension.” I believe, with H.G. Wells, that, “Human history is in essence a history of ideas.” I believe, with President Carter, that “it is a mistake to undervalue the power of words and of the ideas that words embody.”2
I also believe that the human personality, and human creativity, and human well-being flourish best where humane values and the rule of law—in their fullest sense—also flourish.
I believe it imperative—and in our highest national interest—to enhance the sensitivity, the insight and the understanding that Americans bring to their relations with other peoples. As President Carter has said, “only by knowing and understanding each other’s experiences can we find common ground on which we can examine and resolve our differences.”3
I also believe it imperative that other societies know clearly where we stand and why—as a government and as a people—on issues of concern, just as I believe it inevitable that other societies, in their own interests, will want to know. An important part of our mandate continues to be the obligation to explain American policies as clearly and effectively as we can.[Page 365]
I believe that America has given birth to one of the most dynamic, most creative cultures since the Renaissance—but I also believe that no culture is so fully cultivated that it cannot be further enriched by the cultures of others.
I believe that, where they are properly rooted, cultural relations among peoples are more fundamental, more lasting than any other form of contact across national boundaries. Likewise, I believe that a people’s cultural achievements are both the most important statements they can make about themselves and the most meaningful statements that can be made about them by others.
I believe that the most effective means of communication is direct and personal. As Edward R. Murrow once said, in communicating across vast distances, the last three feet are the hardest and most important. A superb film or a superb magazine or a superb book—however valuable in its own right—is no substitute for a superb discussion among individuals. That is why our exchange of persons programs, and our colleagues in the field, and Americans voluntarily participating with us here at home are so central to our work.
I believe that the world has changed, and that Americans have changed with it. We now know that what we and others do as nations affects each other in historically unparalleled ways. We recognize that people—both at home and abroad—are demanding as never before to be involved in the overriding decisions that affect their lives. We appreciate—more fully than ever—that we cannot live free of foreign entanglements and, at the same time, that we cannot work our will unfettered on others.
I believe, above all, that the work we do can and does make a difference. Surely there will always be real conflicts of interest among peoples. But I believe that we can play a profound role in helping to reduce a multitude of conflicts that arise largely, if not entirely, from misunderstandings and misperceptions among people. And I believe we can make an essential contribution to the creation of an international environment in which real differences are worked out rationally, sensitively and peaceably.
Consider for a moment:
—Would the controversy over landing rights for the Concorde in New York City have raged quite so emotionally, or proved quite so intractable, if some representative sample of the citizens of Queens had visited for a period with their counterparts in Toulouse?
—Would the peace initiative undertaken by President Sadat4 have borne fruit more readily had the Arabs and the Israelis been more directly, more intimately in touch with each other over the last 30 years?[Page 366]
—Could the problems of the world economy be dealt with more sensitively and more successfully if economists and businessmen and workers from around the world were brought together more frequently and more purposefully to discuss issues of overriding common concern?
We can all pick our examples. But the conclusion, I believe, is inescapable: traditional, government-to-government diplomacy is no island unto itself. It does not operate in a vacuum. Indeed, its success or failure is shaped by the international environment in which it is conducted. The relations among peoples; the hopes, the aspirations and the perceptions of different societies; the extent to which people know and understand and have contact with each other—these provide the context within which traditional diplomacy operates, the fundamental building blocks of the international environment. This is our work, and in an important sense traditional diplomacy is our handmaiden, not the reverse. What could be more exciting or more challenging than to be mandated to shape the basic forces in our relations with other peoples?
This should give you some sense of my view of the potential of ICA as an institution—a potential, I believe, that is limited only by our answers to four questions:
• How imposing an institution do we wish to create?
• How central do we wish to be in determining relations between our society and others?
• How great a contribution is each of us prepared to make to the task?
• What kind of an institution, doing what kind of work, at what level of importance, do we want to look back upon in five or ten years?
As I see it, the President and others can look first to ICA for advice on the conduct of our overall cultural relations with other societies.
The President and others can look first to ICA for essential insights on foreign attitudes, aspirations and opinions.
The President and others can look first to ICA for sound counsel on the development and implementation of international communications policies.
The President and others should look routinely to ICA as a source of original thought on major international initiatives.
The President and others—including a wide array of people and institutions throughout our society—can look first to ICA as a principal vehicle for enhancing our knowledge and understanding of other peoples.
The President and others, in short, can view ICA as an Agency of singular importance in our dealings with other nations and other peoples.[Page 367]
Given its mission, given the activities in which it is engaged, given your talents and dedication and experience, ICA can and should be the single most exciting institution in government in which to work.
That is my vision of ICA’s potential. I believe it reasonable. I encourage you to share it, and I submit that, working together, we can convert this vision into reality.
Some thirty years ago, Senator J. William Fulbright also had a vision. Many of you have played a role in bringing that vision to life. Your work has left a unique mark on the world. I believe it to be among the most important contributions that we as a people have made to ourselves and to others since the end of World War II. And now, if our vision is as compelling as was Senator Fulbright’s, if we are as dedicated as he and others have been over more than three decades, then I believe we can and will succeed.
What, then, are the practical implications for our work? I do not pretend to have a definitive answer today. Surely, we all have much to learn. Some things we shall try, find them lacking and change. Other approaches will occur to us only with experience. Nonetheless, I believe there are some principles worth noting.
First, we must think and act from the beginning as a single, integrated organization. Reorganization is behind us. The United States Information Agency, the United States Information Service and the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs no longer exist. However fond we were of those institutions (and I was exceedingly fond of them), whatever value we placed on their work (and I placed a great deal), however much of our time and energy and emotion we devoted to them (and I devoted a healthy amount of all three), they are now history—proud history, to be sure, history on which we can build, but nonetheless history.
Today, we embark on an act of creation. We have a new Agency, a single Agency, an integrated Agency. This reality should govern our policies, our programs, our relationships with each other. We should no longer think of ourselves as engaged in information work or educational work or cultural work. We are engaged in communication with other peoples.
Second, we must be more disciplined than we have been in the past. We must examine, evaluate, critique what we are doing and why. We must ask ourselves how the American taxpayer will benefit from any particular proposal or program. We must be aware that the quantity of our activities does not necessarily reflect, indeed it may hinder, the quality of our activities.
It is for reasons of discipline that the International Communication Agency has been structured so as to reduce self-contained power cen[Page 368]ters. It is for reasons of discipline that posts abroad must proceed with their program planning in the first instance from Ambassadors’ goals and objectives. It is for reasons of discipline that effective influence structure analyses and audience record systems will be required. It is for reasons of discipline that the acquisition and production of media products in mutually re-inforcing ways are essential. It is for reasons of discipline that all of our activities must be linked to strategic policies derived from a thorough, research-based understanding of the common concerns and the communication tensions between our society and others.
Third, many of us must think and act differently than we have in the past. This necessity derives from the fact that we are a new, single, integrated organization mandated, as the President has made clear:
—“To tell the world about our society and policies—in particular our commitment to cultural diversity and individual liberty.
—“To tell ourselves about the world, so as to enrich our own culture as well as to give us the understanding to deal effectively with problems among nations.”
Neither USIA nor the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs was charged with this twin mandate. The International Communication Agency is.
Some will contend that USIS abroad had long been engaged in two-way communication. Undeniably, it was for many years the overseas executor of the CU program.
Nonetheless, USIA’s focus was always fundamentally one-way. Its mission was to tell others about our policies and our societies. To the extent that engaging others in a dialogue was seen as an essential tool for accomplishing this purpose, it was utilized and rightly so.
In contrast, the International Communication Agency has two-way communication as a fundamental principle of its mission and its activities. Speakers sent abroad, seminars held abroad, visitors brought to this country—our activities and programs as a whole should be designed to learn as well as to inform, and to inform as well as to learn.
The Voice of America, to give but one example, has always been—and no doubt will continue to be—primarily a one-way medium. It will not broadcast to the American people. Yet people at the Voice have been thinking creatively about the possibilities of using the Voice to involve foreigners in its programming in ways never before attempted.
What can the Television and Film Service do along these lines? What can the Press and Publications Service do? What can each of us do to promote more effective interaction with the peoples of other countries? That is a question that should suffuse the thinking of every[Page 369]one in the International Communication Agency—every post, every employee, every element.
I can think of no more inspiring or meaningful guideline for our work, nothing that is more consistent with the American character, American values, or American social and political processes, than the words of John Stuart Mill: “Not the violent conflict between parts of the truth,” Mill said, “but the quiet suppression of half of it, is the formidable evil; there is always hope when people are forced to listen to both sides; it is when they attend only to one that errors harden into prejudices, and truth itself ceases to have the effect of truth, by being exaggerated into falsehood.”5
Let me now turn to specific guidelines for the new Agency. They can best be outlined in terms of each of its major elements.
From the Associate Directorate for Programs, we expect:
—the development of coordinated programs derived from the most accurate, comprehensive knowledge we can acquire of foreign attitudes, perceptions and opinions, and of the nature of foreign communications environments;
—assistance for our posts abroad in understanding and explaining American policies;
—close familiarity with the most dynamic and representative aspects of American social, political and cultural ideas; if we are to share with others an accurate, balanced understanding of American society, ICA must have an effective capability for assessing what it is we need to say about so rich and diverse and creative a society;
—a focussing of the extraordinary creativity of our media elements;
—a firm emphasis on acquiring from the vast storehouse of the American private sector, producing only what is essential to our programs and is unavailable elsewhere;
—more effective response to the program needs of our posts; Washington should not forget that it is largely in the field that ICA’s work will be done, that Washington exists primarily to provide strategic policy direction and support to field work;
—a capacity to assure that ICA makes its proper contribution to the development of government-wide international communications policies in such areas as the development of Third World media, the World Administrative Radio Conference, transborder data flows, the transfer of technology through educational and scientific exchange programs and the use of direct broadcast satellites; since we are the only government Agency exclusively mandated to focus on the process [Page 370] of international communication, we have a unique contribution to make;
—above all, the development of carefully refined, highly coordinated strategic policies for Agency programs as a whole.
What do we expect from the Associate Directorate for Educational and Cultural Affairs?
—a safeguarding of the integrity and the non-political character of our educational and cultural exchange programs;
—a thorough evaluation, refinement and possible expansion of our exchange programs and our assistance to Voluntry Visitors in this country;
—a significant upgrading of our work with private institutions in this country and abroad, helping where we can to forge enduring links across national boundaries;
—the careful, prudent selection of contract agencies to help us with our work and the continuous, effective monitoring of these agencies so as to insure that both we and the taxpayers are being properly served;
—the development and implementation of sound policies for our libraries, our book programs, our English-teaching and American Studies programs abroad;
—assistance in coordinating and setting policy standards for the exchange programs of all agencies of the government;
—close working relationships with others in the Agency, in particular the area offices and the Associate Directorate for Programs; ECA will be responsible for policy and budgetary decisions governing our educational and cultural exchange programs, and, in order to make sound decisions, it must rely heavily on the advice of the area offices and other elements of the Agency.[Page 371]
From the Associate Directorate for Broadcasting, we expect at least the following:
—a news service that is, in the words of the Congress reaffirmed by the President, “reliable, authoritative, accurate, objective, and comprehensive;” simply put: VOA should be the best news operation in the business;
—a significant improvement in non-news programs;
—prudent planning and management of technical facilities, including especially the construction of new transmitters, so as to assure the most efficient expenditure of the taxpayers’ money;
—awareness of advancements in communications technology in order to assure that our broadcast operation is maintained in the most up-to-date manner possible;
—creative thinking as to how the Voice of America might be utilized as a vehicle for international dialogue.
From the Associate Directorate for Management, we expect the following:
—a disciplined but fair personnel system, responsive both to the interests of the individual employee and to the interests of the Agency; our employees, including our foreign colleagues at posts abroad, are our most valuable resource; people must be recruited, assigned and promoted by a system that is understood, predictable, sensitive to individual skills and circumstances and as free as possible from tampering; above all, employees must perceive and believe that the system is fair and resistant to manipulation;
—a training program designed to supply the Agency with the employees and the skills needed to engage effectively in cross-cultural communication;
—technological and management information systems appropriate to our work, systems that are neither 20 years out of date nor more sophisticated than our tasks require, systems which facilitate our work rather than adding to it;
—a budget and resource allocation system that is responsible and responsive; I consider zero base budgeting to be one of the most effective disciplinary tools at our disposal; I intend that it should be utilized effectively;
—administrative procedures and systems supportive of the varied needs of an Agency with 10 separate locations in Washington and 189 posts in 120 countries around the world.
From our area offices, we expect:
—a focus on truly strategic communication problems;
—rapid assistance to posts on major policy issues;
—an effective contribution to the development of major initiatives to be considered by the President, the Secretary of State and others; if we as an Agency wish to play a prominent role in the government’s policy process, the precondition is our ability to generate policy ideas that command attention;
—effective management of resources, always linking our resources to strategic issues and problems, viewed and articulated whole;
—effective implementation of decisions made by management, together with advice, based on area and field perspectives, in the making of these decisions;
—fruitful relationships with domestic American organizations and individuals with an interest in particular areas of the world;
—effective working relationships with our counterparts at the Department of State and the National Security Council;
—clearly defined objectives based on a rigorous analysis of communication tensions between the United States and other societies and [Page 372] geared to improving the quality of our communication with these societies.
Finally, and in the knowledge that no single asset is as precious as our presence abroad, what do we expect from our posts abroad?
—the effective conduct of daily business, while at the same time insuring that every decision is made, every activity is undertaken, in light of where we want to be in the longer term; we can all, certainly, find ways to keep busy; but we must recognize the need to free up more of our time for reflection on ultimate purpose; we must pay attention to the fact that communication is not a singular event, or even a series of singular events, but a continuing process requiring constant thought and constant refinement; the question is not how many people see a film or come into a library or attend a seminar; the question is one of purpose, consistency with our overall goals, meaningful accomplishment of our mission;
—a focus on communication issues and on personal contacts; a PAO and his colleagues must not allow themselves to get so caught up in the techniques of communication that they lose sight of the content and purpose of communication;
—the clearest possible explanation to foreigners of where this great country stands, and why;
—the development of fully integrated programs tied to U.S. policy objectives and to the national interest; our new mission demands that our activities be centered on learning as well as informing; post organization and programs must reflect this new mission;
—a more careful definition of those whom we want to engage in a dialogue, together with the operation of an effective audience record system and an effective outreach program; we simply do not have the resources—human or financial—to do our work successfully without such definitions and such systems;
—an effective contribution to our understanding of other peoples, based on wide-ranging personal contacts, systematic research and rigorous analytical thinking;
—an effective contribution to important policy initiatives at all levels; an ICA post should be perceived by all Ambassadors, as it already is by some, as the single most important element of the U.S. mission abroad.
I do not want to leave the impression that these expectations are entirely new, or that they have not necessarily been fulfilled in the past. In part, at least, they derive from exceptional work already carried out overseas.
—Posts like those in Yugoslavia, India, the United Arab Emirates and Trinidad have demonstrated just how invaluable an audience record system can be;[Page 373]
—Posts like those in Turkey and Singapore and Israel have shown how much can be accomplished through effective outreach programs;
—Posts like those in the Philippines and Gabon and Malta have illustrated the value of focussing on personal contacts.
—Posts like those in Bonn, Mexico, Japan and, again, India have excelled at integrated programs.
—Employees throughout USIA and CU, including many of our foreign colleagues at posts abroad, have demonstrated the skills and incorporated the approaches required in the International Communication Agency.
This list of achievements is by no means complete. It is meant simply to be illustrative. Nonetheless, our performance in Washington and in the field is far from uniform, either in quality or in focus. We have a new organization and a new mission. And I think it only fair that we all understand what is expected from the outset in the International Communication Agency.
I have talked at length with you this morning. Still it is only a beginning. You will all recognize that I have but skimmed the surface. There are details to be worked out, questions to be raised, answers to be found—many more than we can deal with today.
I trust, however, that I have given you a framework. I hope I have conveyed a sense of direction, a sense of potential.
Before concluding, there are several other points I would like to touch on very briefly.
First, I should like say a few words about our relationship to the Department of State. The International Communication Agency is an independent agency of the Federal Government. It is responsible for its own budget, its own personnel system, its own programs. Its Director reports both to the President and to the Secretary of State. It is from the Secretary of State that we shall seek and receive guidance on the foreign policies and interests of the United States.
I look forward to the closest, most collegial working relationship with the Department of State. I think it highly desirable that we have an equitable interchange of officers and employees with our sister institution. Our work, and our mission, are different from those of the Department. But they are closely related. We must work cooperatively with the Department of State at all times and at all levels.
Second, a personal confession: Over the past year, I have had to confine myself far more than I would have liked to Washington. We have had a new Administration, new policies emanating from that Administration, new leadership in both USIA and CU and, above all, a reorganization to work out. All of this hindered the kind of direct personal involvement I would have liked with our posts abroad. That [Page 374] is a condition I plan to remedy shortly. I will be opening our exhibit in the Soviet Union, visiting several posts in Europe and joining our European colleagues at a PAO conference in Brussels later this month.6 The field can expect to see more of me in the year ahead.
Finally, I want to end where I began this morning—with ideas. They are the lifeblood of our Agency. They should be blossoming at all levels of our Agency. One of the great advantages of a new beginning like ours is that we can generate ideas together. We have a new mission and we must now, jointly, give this mission life and meaning. In so doing, we are limited only by our imaginations. New ideas may not always be adopted, but they will always be welcome. I encourage each of you to think imaginatively about what we can do differently, how we can do better.
We are confronted with a rare, open moment in history. That prospect is challenging. Whether and how we seize the moment is largely up to us. It will be a test of our beliefs, our vision, our will—and, surely, of our energies.
I am reminded, in closing, of a story I first heard some 20 years ago when I arrived in the Philippines as a new employee of the United States Government. Some of you may be familiar with it. The story is about the journey of a traveler across a vast and lonely plain. In his progress, the traveler comes across workers cutting stone. And of each he asks: “What are you doing?” Repeatedly, he is told: “Can’t you see? I am cutting stone.” Finally, he stops once again and asks: “What are you doing?” And this time the reply is different: “I,” says the worker, “am building a cathedral.”
Our choice is similar. We can see ourselves as stone-cutters; or we can be cathedral builders. I hope it will be said of all of us that we fashioned a cathedral.
We begin a new adventure today. We have a new Agency, at an inviting moment in history. President Carter has charged us with an exciting mission. He has wished us the best. I take great pride in working with you. Now let us be about our work.
- Source: National Archives, RG 306, USIA Historical Collection, Reports and Studies, 1953–1998, Entry A–1 1070, Box 95, Reorganization Plan No. 2, 1977. No classification marking. Reinhardt delivered the remarks at the inaugural ceremonies of the International Communication Agency, held in the ICA auditorium.↩
- The President made this statement during his May 22, 1977, commencement address to graduates of the University of Notre Dame. See footnote 2, Document 57.↩
- The President made this statement in the message to Congress, transmitting the text of Reorganization Plan Number 2; see Document 93.↩
- Reference is to Sadat’s November 19, 1977, trip to Jerusalem, making him the first Arab leader ever to officially visit the Jewish state. Documentation on this can be found in Foreign Relations, 1977–1980, vol. VIII, Arab-Israeli Dispute, January 1977–August 1978.↩
- John Stuart Mill, On Liberty, 1859.↩
- References are to the “Agriculture-USA” exhibit in Kiev, scheduled to open on April 21, and the PAO Conference in Brussels, scheduled to take place April 28–30. The trip to Kiev marked Reinhardt’s first overseas trip as ICA Director. During 1978–1979, the “Agriculture-USA” exhibit also traveled to Tselinograd, Dushanbe, Kishinev, Moscow, and Rostov-on-Don.↩