This article uses recently declassified archival documents to reassess public opinion in the United States regarding East-West détente. When Henry Kissinger was U.S. secretary of state during the Nixon and Ford administrations, he made dozens of speeches intended to educate the public in what he considered the proper methods of diplomacy. By analyzing those “heartland” speeches using recently released documents, the article shows that Kissinger and the State Department tried much harder to create a foreign policy consensus behind détente and realism than previously understood. Despite these efforts, Kissinger's message was lost on the public. The article provides the first extended analysis of a series of fact-finding “town meetings” held by the State Department in five locations across the United States—meetings that revealed how badly Kissinger had failed. By February 1976, all those involved in U.S. foreign policymaking—Kissinger's opponents, his advisers, and the wider public—desired a greater role for moral values in foreign policy.

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