Fifty years ago today, President Dwight D. Eisenhower sent in elements of the 101st Airborne Division to integrate Little Rock High School over the objections and active opposition of Arkansas' Governor Orval Faubus.
A little appreciated aspect of President Eisenhower's move was his desire to counter the major Soviet propaganda campaign that emphasized racism in the U.S.
Secretary of State John Foster Dulles warned the president about the exploitable danger to our international reputation of letting the Arkansas governor get away with putting an official government sanction on segregation contrary to the Brown vs. Board of Education Supreme Court ruling of 1954.
Eisenhower, the longtime proponent of Psychological Warfare, immediately rose to the occasion.
In his speech to the nation fifty years ago tonight -- which was transmitted to USIA facilities worldwide for dissemination -- the counterpropaganda motive is there for all to see:
At a time when we face grave situations abroad because of the hatred that Communism bears toward a system of government based on human rights, it would be difficult to exaggerate the harm that is being done to the prestige and influence, and indeed to the safety, of our nation and the world.
Our enemies are gloating over this incident and using it everywhere to misrepresent our whole nation. We are portrayed as a violator of those standards of conduct which the peoples of the world united to proclaim in the Charter of the United Nations. There they affirmed "faith in fundamental human rights" and "in the dignity and worth of the human person" and they did so "without distinction as to race, sex, language or religion."