50 Years of USAID

Ed. note: This annual letter was originally published on the USAID blog.

Fifty years ago, John F. Kennedy wrote a letter to congress that called for the creation of the agency I am now privileged to lead – USAID, the United States Agency for International Development.

Having witnessed the devastation the Second World War caused in Europe – and the success the Marshall Plan had in rebuilding it – President Kennedy argued that advancing opportunity and freedom to all people was central to America’s domestic security, comparative prosperity and national conscience.

I wanted to commemorate President Kennedy’s letter by writing one of my own, describing our agency’s work to the millions of Americans who care deeply about overcoming global poverty, hunger, illness and injustice.

I also wanted Americans to know that by doing good, we do well. Our assistance depends on generosity from the American people. But it also derives benefits for the American people: it keeps our country safe and strengthens our economy. As Secretary Clinton has said, development is “as central to advancing American interests and solving global problems as diplomacy and defense.”

And because development assistance is so crucial, I wanted to stress our need to deliver it more effectively than ever before, getting results faster, more sustainably, and at a lower cost so more people can benefit. I hope this letter makes those points clear, sheds light on our agency’s future trajectory and establishes a lasting tradition that builds on President Obama’s strong commitment to transparency.

Rajiv Shah is the Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development.

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