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What Is the Commission on National Goals?

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  • Written By: R. Stamm
  • Edited By: Shereen Skola
  • Last Modified Date: 29 August 2016
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The United States President’s Commission on National Goals was an independent body who set out to define the nation's direction during the 1960s. Policy makers hired a nonpartisan panel of writers and experts to consider current and future problems facing the nation, both internally and externally, to determine the most prominent concerns. With the assistance of experts, the Commission decided on 15 objectives for the United States to work toward over a 10 year period. They presented the report to President Dwight D. Eisenhower in November of 1960 and published it in book format in December of that same year. The idea for the Commission came from President Eisenhower’s American Assembly which was established at Columbia University during the 1950s.

In the late 1950s, Americans experienced a period of self-doubt about the purpose and direction of public policy. Debates centered on the effects of capitalism and private wealth over the deteriorating conditions of the public sector and foreign policy. President Eisenhower ordered the Commission on National Goals to determine which of these problems were the most serious and to fix them. In order to formulate a plan, politicians and experts needed to gain an understanding of social and international problems. In addition, policy makers needed to motivate citizens to work towards those goals.

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A primary focus of the Commission on National goals was to assist in determining the American foreign policy. The industrial revolution placed America at the center of world politics and made the country a world power. Foreign policies regarding communism and fostering global democracy were needed to ensure a safer environment for all world citizens. There was also considerable concern for how the United States should respond in instances of naked aggression such as in World War II. The Commission also set out to determine the role America would play in the world economy.

There were national debates about how to improve societal conditions along with the external problems that the Commission on National Goals needed to analyze and resolve. Educational experts were dissatisfied with the amount of resources devoted to programs and claimed that additional funding was needed to prepare children for the future. Environmentalists accused businesses of polluting the environment and water supplies, and they wanted government action and regulations in place to prevent it. Others wanted improvements made to the infrastructure of local and state municipalities. It was the Commission’s focus to determine how government funding should be allocated and which programs would benefit Americans the most.

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