Electronic Thesis/Dissertation


The Fishbowl World: Edward R. Murrow, John F. Kennedy, and the Cold War Open Access

This dissertation provides the first in-depth examination of Edward R. Murrow's service as director of the United States Information Agency (USIA) during the presidential administration of John F. Kennedy (1961-1963). Despite the significance of public diplomacy in shaping Cold War international relations, Murrow's role in developing messages used to inform and influence global audiences about the domestic and foreign policies of the Kennedy administration have been largely overlooked or assessed in isolation from one another in studies on Murrow and Kennedy. The research for this work relies heavily on USIA documents and Murrow's personal papers to examine one of the most internationally visible arms of the U.S. government that deserves greater scrutiny by scholars of Murrow and Cold War public diplomacy.The first two chapters chronicle Murrow's decision to depart from his twenty-five year career as a journalist at the Columbia Broadcast Service and accept a federal appointment in Washington, D.C. Subsequent chapters analyze USIA operations in support of the major foreign policy issues of the Kennedy administration. The Cold War crises examined are the Bay of Pigs invasion (April 1961), the Berlin crisis (August 1961), and the Cuban missile crisis (October 1962). Other chapters assess how USIA explained the American civil rights movement to Africans, the Alliance for Progress to Latin Americans, counterinsurgency operations to Southeast Asians, and nuclear disarmament and the space race to an inquisitive global population. Murrow's integration of new technologies, including television and satellite communications, and his efforts to solicit volunteers from Hollywood to improve the quality of documentaries produced by USIA's Motion Picture Service are also explored.Murrow embraced the directorship with a determination to explain the truth, "warts and all," through USIA's various means to people around the world. Although failing health and budget constraints hindered his ability to fully achieve all of the goals that he established for his agency, Murrow departed Washington, D.C. in January 1964 having fundamentally improved the morale of USIA employees and the clarity of U.S. public diplomacy messages. In doing so, USIA played a major role in fostering the favorable international opinion of President Kennedy and his foreign policies, as evident in public opinion polls taken throughout the 1960s.

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