Note: For a brief period (1978-1982), the United States Information Agency (USIA, 1953-1999) was renamed/reorganized as the International Communication Agency; on the background of the creation of ICA, see.
From the newly-published papers newly by the Office of the Historian, U.S. Department of State:
FOREIGN RELATIONS, 1977–1980, VOLUME XXX [PUBLIC DIPLOMACY]
121. Memorandum From President Carter to the Director of the United States Information Agency (Reinhardt)1
Washington, March 13, 1978
As you and the International Communication Agency embark upon your new mission, I want to outline my views of the purposes and functions of the Agency, and the manner in which it should conduct its affairs.
In transmitting Reorganization Plan No. 2 of 19772 to the Congress, I said that the principal function of the Agency should be to reduce the degree to which misperceptions and misunderstandings complicate relations between the United States and other nations. In international affairs, as in our personal lives, the starting point for dealing effectively with others is the clearest possible understanding of differing points of view. The fundamental premise of the International Communication Agency is that it is in our national interest to encourage the sharing of ideas and cultural activities among the people of the United States and the people of other nations.
It is in the general interest of the community of nations, as well as in our own interest, that other nations and other peoples know where this great country stands, and why. We want them to understand our values, our institutions—the vitality of our culture—and how these relate to their own experience. We must share our successes, and look for help in learning from our failures. We must make available to people of other nations facts they would not otherwise learn about ourselves and our views.
It is also in our interest—and in the interest of other nations—that Americans have the opportunity to understand the histories, cultures and problems of others, so that we can come to understand their hopes, perceptions and aspirations. In so doing, the Agency will contribute to our capacity as a people and as a government to manage our foreign affairs with sensitivity, in an effective and responsible way.
You and your colleagues have five main tasks:
1. To encourage, aid and sponsor the broadest possible exchange of people and ideas between our country and other nations. It will be your job to:
—Continue successful government-sponsored exchange programs that now come under your Agency, and improve them wherever possible.
—Encourage private institutions in this country to develop their own forms of exchange and aid those that are in the broadest national interest.
—Provide counsel and information on our international exchange program as a whole, and assist in maintaining broad participation in the international exchange programs conducted by government departments and agencies, including those administered by the International Communication Agency.
2. To give foreign peoples the best possible understanding of our policies and our intentions, and sufficient information about American society and culture to comprehend why we have chosen certain policies over others. In so doing, you will wish to draw upon thoughtful and representative Americans, through the use of radio and television, magazines and other printed materials, and through seminars, personal contacts, the presentation of American art and culture, and the teaching of the English language where necessary and appropriate.
3. To help insure that our government adequately understands foreign public opinion and culture for policy-making purposes, and to assist individual Americans and institutions in learning about other nations and their cultures.
4. To assist in the development and execution of a comprehensive national policy on international communications, designed to allow and encourage the maximum flow of information and ideas among the peoples of the world. Such a policy must take into consideration the needs and sensitivities of others, as well as our own needs.
5. To prepare for and conduct negotiations on cultural exchanges with other governments, aware always that the most effective sharing of culture, ideas and information comes between individual people rather than through formal acts of governments.
In discharging these responsibilities, you must keep these goals in mind:
Since all the Agency’s activities bear a relationship to our foreign policies and interests, you will seek guidance on those policies and interests from the Secretary of State.
You will be responsible for maintaining the scholarly integrity and nonpolitical character of the exchange programs within your agency, and for maintaining the independence of the Voice of America news broadcasts. You will wish to assure that they reflect the broad interests of the United States and of the people served by these programs.
I look forward to your periodic accounting of your undertakings and your recommendations on the conduct of public diplomacy.
Finally, the Agency will undertake no activities which are covert, manipulative or propagandistic. The Agency can assume—as our founding fathers did—that a great and free society is its own best witness, and can put its faith in the power of ideas.
I’m sure the Congress and the American people join with me in wishing you every success in these important endeavors.3
2. See Document 93.↩
3. In an April 3 memorandum, Reinhardt responded to Carter, commenting that the President’s statement of mission “will serve as an inspiration to all of us at ICA as we undertake the task of fulfilling the goals and purposes you have outlined. It will also be the standard against which we shall measure the success of our efforts.” (Carter Library, White House Central Files, Subject File, Federal Government, International Communication Agency, Executive, Box FG 217, FG 298 1/20/77–12/31/78)↩