The American poet Archibald MacLeish (1892-1982) was the Librarian of Congress during the Roosevelt administration from 1939 to 1944. In a career that bridged literature, the academy, and government, he later became Assistant Director of the Office of War Information, Assistant Secretary of State for Public and Cultural Relations, and a member of the U.S. UNESCO working group before returning to scholarship. In 1944 he traced the link between America’s freedom of the press and “exchange of information between the peoples of the world.”
The right to a free press — the right of the people to read and to hear and therefore to think as they please — is, I deeply believe, the basic right upon which freedom rests. Freedom of exchange of information between the peoples of the world is the extension into international relations of the basic democratic right of freedom of the press. Belief in the freedom of exchange of information rests upon the conviction that if the peoples of the world know the facts about each other, peace will be maintained, since peace is the common hope and the common cause of the people everywhere.
Source: Department of State, Bulletin, December 10, 1944, 693.
Donald M. Bishop is the Bren Chair of Strategic Communications in the Brute Krulak Center for Innovation and Creativity at Marine Corps University in Quantico, Virginia. Mr. Bishop served as a Foreign Service Officer – first in the U.S. Information Agency and then in the Department of State – for 31 years.