America’s cultural offensive throughout the world (1955)

I went looking for something in the Congressional Record and found an interesting statement relating to the Cold War. I’ve typed up the first part of it. It’s on pages 8389 and 8390 (1346 and 1347) here.


America’s Cultural Offensive Throughout The World
Extension of Remarks of Hon. Alexander Wiley of Wisconsin in the Senate of the United States
Wednesday, June 15, 1955

Mr. WILEY. Mr. President, I send to the desk a brief statement regarding America’s welcome cultural counter-offensive throughout the world.

I ask unanimous consent that it be printed in the RECORD.

There being no objection, the statement was ordered to be printed in the Record, as follows:

Statement by Senator Wiley

I have been pleased to comment previously on the Senate floor with regard to the need for a vigorous American cultural counter-offensive throughout the world—for getting across to foreign peoples the true story of American music, art, theater, literature, the ballet, and all the other aspects of American culture.

Our purpose is, of course, to demonstrate the absolute falsity of vicious Soviet propaganda to the effect that ours is a so-called barbarian materialist culture, allegedly interested only in the dollar sign.

Fortunately, we are making excellent progress in disproving Soviet lies and in making up for lost time by accentuating the positive as well.

All over the world, there are radiating American musicians, theatrical troupes and others, showing foreign peoples at first hand the real significance of American cultural pursuits.

Certainly, we can see clearly that there is a magnificent opportunity available to us when word comes in, as it has, from Tokyo, for example, that thousands of enthusiastic schoolchildren stood in line all night to buy student tickets to hear the American symphony of the air. Everywhere this orchestra is scheduled in the Far East, tickets are sold out far in advance.

I am particularly pleased that right now the House of Representatives and, in particular, its Appropriations Committee, has the opportunity to provide on a regular basis funds for this and similar cultural purposes.

I say that it should not be necessary to draw from the President’s emergency funds either to send troupes overseas or to assure United States participation in trade fairs. These should be part and parcel of the regular program of the United Stats Government.


From all sides, I note that evidences are pouring in of the increasing momentum of interest in this issue.

Not long ago, I arranged for a luncheon at which representatives of the American National Theater and Academy told many interested Senators and Representatives the story of ANTA’s work in this country and abroad. In particular a 40-theater circuit plan was discussed to vitalize the living theater at the grassroots of our own country.

Recently, Brig. Gen. David Sarnoff made a historic speech for a broad United States political, psychological, and cultural offensive throughout the world.

On the congressional front, Congressman Frank Thompson, of New Jersey, has been tireless in his efforts toward this same objective and has introduced several highly significant bills along this line—particularly with reference to developing the city of Washington, D. C., as a great cultural center.


I should like to cite now several additional evidences which prove, by the very diversity of their sources, that, at long last, we of the United States are awaking to our responsibilities, to our needs, and to our challenges.

The first is a very splendid page which was carried throughout our country in the Hearst newspapers’ March of Events Section last Sunday, describing the work of the American National Theater and Academy abroad. I want to congratulate the Hearst newspapers for their splendid contribution, as evidenced by these and many other articles and editorials.

The second consists of writeups in last Sunday’s June 12 Milwaukee Journal, by Mr. Robert W. Wells, of the Journal’s New York Bureau, and Mr. Laurence C. Eklund, of the Washington Bureau, on this same cultural theme.


Thirdly, I point out that, of course, this cultural counteroffensive could never have gotten under way if it had not been for certain outstanding Americans who have with vision, and with industry, given of their able energies to this cause .One such individual who, I am pleased to say, is an ANTA director and attended the ANTA luncheon which I held, was honored yesterday here in our own city of Washington. Father Gilbert V. Hartke had only recently come back from abroad where his troupe had entertained American servicemen. Before his departure, no less a person than the President of the United States personally bade his troupe and him farewell, indicating the deep interest of our President both in the cultural entertainment of Americans and of foreign peoples.

I am delighted that Father Hartke, a great man of the theater, an honored servant of the cloth, a fine human being, was so honored, and so I include the brief text of tribute to him as carried in the testimonial program, and a list of the devoted committee members who prepared the luncheon. Mr. Ralph E. Becker was general chairman of the event, and Mr. Patrick Hayes was master of ceremonies.


[From the Hearst newspapers’ March of Events section]

Arts Sell the United States Way—Export of American Culture Wins Friends Around Globe

We’re giving the world a good look at American cultural achievement, to show we’re not the mere materialists our enemies paint us.

And our export of United States culture is returning big dividends in good will and appreciation of the American way of life throughout the free world.

Some samples, like Porgy and Bess and Oklahoma!, are uniquely American—as native as corn-on-the-cob. And on a ore international level, our drama, ballet, music and visual art match or surpass anything yet produced by Russian competition.

It’s part of the United States counteroffensive against Soviet cultural propaganda. And the rave reviews and enthusiastic audience response is awakening Washington to the fact that exporting culture pays off.

Before summer’s end, more Americans will have sung, danced, acted, and otherwise performed abroad than ever before in times of peace.

They’re being financed in part by funds appropriated by Congress last August. Credit is due to the American National Theater and Academy (ANTA) which is spearheading the State Department’s United States drive.

Big Artistic Smash

Currently the big United States artistic smash in Europe is Salute to France, a privately financed ANTA project which is offering Parisians the New York City Ballet plus top stage productions of Oklahoma!, Medea, and the Skin of Our Teeth.

In addition, the program for France includes the touring Philadelphia orchestra, which has already scored a signal triumph, and a visual arts exhibition organized by the Museum of Modern Art.

ANTA’s international exchange program calls for sending the New York Philharmonic Orchestra to Europe, the Ballet Theatre to Latin America and Martha Graham’s dancers to the Orient.

Now touring the Far East for ANTA is the American Symphony of the Air, the orchestra created by the now retired Arturo Toscanini. It was a sensation in Japan.

United States performers have made a good impression abroad, have outshone closely-guarded Russians by mixing socially.

Success of United States artists as good-will ambassadors has pointed up the recommendation of William Randolph Hearst, Jr., editor-in-chief of the Hearst newspapers, who last February 29, on his return from Russia, urged establishment of a National Planning Board to win the battle of competitive coexistence.

What We Must Do

Noting the stress the Russians were giving to cultural propaganda outside the Iron Curtain, Hearst told the National Press Club in Washington:

“The lively arts are another field wherein the commissars are operating with the professed intention of proving * * * that Russian achievements surpass the West.

“Ballet, theater, literature—all are shaped toward aiding communism’s long-range scheme of world domination * * *. It is not enough for us to advocate large sums for foreign military and economic aid and think we have met the challenge.”

More recently Brig. Gen. David Sarnoff, of the Radio Corporation of America, called for a competitive coexistence strategy board along similar lines.

United States funds now available for sending performing artists abroad are a mere $3,500,000. Startling contrast with Soviet expenditures is shown in figures of the Institute of International Education. In 1950 the Russians spent $150 million for cultural propaganda in France alone, with 2,000 artists touring there. Current Soviet spending is at the rate of $1 1/2 billion a year for all propaganda activities.

United States performers may prove our best envoys in winning friends and influencing people. But this will require much more money than we’ve put up so far.

As one Cairo newspaper commented on Porgy and Bess:

“If this is propaganda, let’s have more of it.”


How ANTA Got the Ball Rolling

Uncle Sam’s homegrown artists are carrying Broadway lights around the world on a scale wider than ever before.

Until Congress stepped in with funds to help finance American groups, export of United States art was carried out on a meager scale, financed by the American National Theater and Academy out of its own pocket.

The current “Salute to France” now going over big in Paris is being backed by funds raised by an ANTA committee under Robert W. Dowling and Mrs. H. Alwyn Innes-Brown, president of the Greater New York chapter.

No Government funds were available at the time the project was launched at the suggestion of the French Ministry of Fine Arts last fall.

Chartered in 1935

Salute, although independently financed, is now an integral part of ANTA’s International Exchange under impresario Robert C. Schnitzer, aided by United States Ambassador C. Douglas Dillon. Most of the groups appearing in Paris will now be sent on to other European capitals, financed, if need be, by Washington.

A private nonprofit organization, ANTA has been operating under congressional charter since 1935 for the purpose of widening interest in the theater. After a number of lean years, it now has a membership of 2,000 individuals and theaters in the United States, Hawaii, and the Canal Zone.

For the past 5 years, ANTA has expedited the exchange of performing arts between America and foreign countries. During that time it has sponsored United States participation in the Berlin Festivals of 1951-53, the Paris Festival of 1952, the Denmark-Hamlet Festival of 1949, and the Ballet Theater’s 1950 European tour.

The Sporting Thing To Do

Some of the best salesmen for the United States way of life have been American athletes sent abroad by the Amateur Athletic Union in cooperation with the State Department.

Among them are two great Negro track stars, Mal Whitfield and Harrison Dillard, who got tumultuous receptions in tours of Africa and South America.

Olympic diving champion Maj. Sammy Lee, an Army doctor of Korean parentage, was similarly hailed when he performed in the land of his ancestors.

Still another goodwill athlete is the Reverend Robert Richards, the preacher who won the Olympic pole vault title in 1952.

The athletes won friendship for the United States by being free and easy mixers, lecturing, and coaching native youngsters wherever they went.

Where Music Broke the Ice

A sample of how exporting our culture can assist in cementing relations with our allies was vividly demonstrated in Iceland early this year.

Since the establishment of United States bases on this key outpost of Atlantic defense, Russia and the local Communists have conducted a continuous propaganda offensive, stirring hatred of American troops stationed there.

The Soviets strengthened their campaign with a parade of artists and intellectuals who toured the island to acquaint the population with Russian culture.

United States-Iceland relations were at their lowest when ANTA sent famed violinist Isaac Stern and pianist Ervin Laszlo on concert tours, highlighting the works of American composers.

Iceland’s hearts were thawed, relations have been less frigid since.

United States Minister to Iceland John J. Muccio announced the impact of the recitals upon the Icelandic people was “the greatest of any to date.”


[From the Milwaukee Journal of June 12, 1955]

United States Cultural Commandos Abroad

An American cultural counteroffensive—quietly and somewhat timidly launched by the United States State Department in cooperation with private groups—is gathering worldwide momentum.

For too long, many observers feel, the Russians have paraded their ballet troupes, theatrical companies, musicians, and athletes over the face of the world, virtually unchallenged in their claims of superiority to the culture of the “decadent capitalist world”.

Recently the Red Chinese have elbowed into the act, with the successful Paris run of a Peiping theatrical troupe which had never before performed outside China.

The Communists are working hard to perpetuate the myth—widespread among many otherwise sophisticated Europeans and Asians—that the United States is a nation of gadgetmakers, clever in turning out bathtubs in overdecorated automobiles, but barbarians in their indifference to the finer products of the mind and spirit.

Now at last the United States is striking back with what amounts to exploratory raids by a few cultural commandos. The money so far assigned to these operations is petty cash by comparison with outlays for military and economic programs abroad, but it has produced results little short of amazing.

In order to conduct the program through private channels insofar as possible the State Department has been working with the American National Theater and Academy, a nonprofit organization, headquartered in New York. The ANTA acts as agent, selecting the best talent to send abroad, and arranging the overseas bookings through its international exchange program.

To get the facts about the new American cultural export program, Milwaukee Journal bureau men in Washington and New York talked to State Department officials and personnel of the American National Theater and Academy. Their stories appear below.

(You can read the rest at the link.)

2 responses to “America’s cultural offensive throughout the world (1955)

  1. Frog Do December 19, 2016 at 6:18 am

    “The nations in cold locations, particularly in Europe, are filled with spiritedness, but relatively lacking in thought and art; hence they remain freer, but lack political governance and are incapable of ruling their neighbors. Those in Asia, on the other hand, have souls endowed with thought and art, but are lacking in spiritedness; hence they remain ruled and enslaved. But the stock of Greeks shares in both–just as it holds the middle in terms of locations. For it is both spirited and endowed with thought, and hence both remains free and governs itself in the best manner and at the same time is capable of ruling all, should it obtain a single regime.”

  2. Pingback: America’s cultural offensive throughout the world (1955) | Reaction Times

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