George Stevens, Jr. has devoted much of his career serving and leading institutions that courageously told America’s story abroad, enriched the nation’s cultural landscape, and advanced the art of American film. His career in public service began in 1961 when Edward R. Murrow persuaded Stevens to leave Hollywood for Washington to become director of the Motion Picture Service of the United States Information Agency. In 1967, he became the founding director of the American Film Institute (AFI). In the following decades, Stevens' service to the nation encompassed initiatives and historic celebrations that heightened the nation’s spirit, enhanced diplomatic relations, and championed arts education.

United States Information Agency

I believe you
can make a difference
Edward R. Murrow
Director of the United States Information Agency


During his leadership of the Motion Picture Service, George Stevens, Jr. led a transformational era for USIA films and documentaries. Stevens recruited a new breed of imaginative, quality filmmakers, launched the USIA’s first Student Filmmaker Program, led U.S. delegations to international film festivals, and advanced dialogue between U.S. institutions and their international counterparts through film diplomacy.

Stevens supervised over 1,500 films (averaging 300 films a year) that were translated into 80 languages and distributed internationally to over a hundred countries.
This was the most exciting time ever to be in Washington.
George Stevens, Jr.
My Place in the Sun
Jackie Kennedy's Asian Journey
1963 short documentary film directed by Leo Seltzer, produced  by George Stevens, Jr.


Five Cities of June tells five stories, the pageantry of the coronation of Pope Paul VI in Rome, Kennedy sending the National Guard to Tuscaloosa to enforce the admission of Black students to the University of Alabama, the launching of a female cosmonaut into space by the Soviet Union, American advisors assisting South Vietnamese soldiers in a hamlet in Vietnam and President Kennedy's visit to 1963 West Berlin.
The Five Cities of June
1963 short documentary film directed by Bruce Herschensohn, produced  by George Stevens, Jr.
It’s one of the best documentaries I’ve seen.
President John F. Kennedy
Letter to Edward R. Murrow -- 1963
John F. Kennedy: Years of Lightning, Day of Drums
1964. Written and directed by Bruce Herschensohn and produced by George Stevens Jr.

Favoring excellence

The United States Information Agency was responsible for America’s participation in international film festivals and designating American films for entry in Cannes, Venice, Berlin and Moscow. Before the early 1960s, the practice had been to send the least controversial Hollywood films which meant that America was often represented by mediocre work that rarely garnered admiration. Under George Stevens, Jr.’s leadership in the 1960s, the USIA established a committee of respected filmmakers to oversee selection of American films that favored excellence and showcased American ideals of freedom of expression, social justice, and tensions in a free society. 
The Cold War was high on USIA’s agenda as George Stevens, Jr. led the American delegation to the Third International Film Festival in Moscow in 1963. The U.S. Department of State was concerned that The Defiant Ones, Stanley Kramer’s film featuring Sidney Poitier and Tony Curtis as clashing chain-gang prisoners, would confirm the Soviet line that the United States was a racist country. Nevertheless, Stevens fought for the film’s inclusion in the festival and ultimately won, contending that Soviet filmmakers, whose creativity was constrained by the state, would respect the film.
“The young Soviet artists and intellectuals who are struggling for greater freedom of expression have reason to be gratified by what happened here during the Moscow’s Third International Film Festival.”
The Times
Sidney Poitier, Susan Strasberg, Stanley Kramer, and George Stevens, Jr. returning from the screening of The Defiant Ones at the Sports Palace in Moscow.
July, 1963


George Stevens, Jr. at the American Film Institute
While at USIA, George Stevens, Jr., in a report to the Secretary of State called upon the U.S. government to engage in a coordinated effort to preserve disappearing American movies. In 1967 he was named Founding Director of the new American Film Institute (AFI) and forged a collaboration with the Library of Congress to track down missing and endangered films for the Library to restore and preserve.

The partnership launched the American Film Institute Collection at the Library of Congress. Fifty years later, more than 60,000 films have been preserved and cataloged for future generations.


George Stevens, Jr. laid the foundation for the future masters of filmmaking by establishing the AFI Center for Advanced Film Studies.
George Stevens, Jr. welcoming new fellows at the AFI Conservatory. Jan Kadar, Filmmaker in Residence, seated center in plaid shirt; to his left, Dean Toni Vellani and Martin Manulis, director of AFI West.
September 1976

THE Center for Advanced Film Studies

George Stevens, Jr.’s own film education — learning the craft at his father’s side as he produced numerous masterpieces — provided Stevens with a vision for what AFI might achieve for young filmmakers.  As founding director, Stevens envisioned a conservatory where aspiring directors, writers and cinematographers would learn from the masters. The Center for Advanced Film Studies (later renamed the AFI Conservatory) continues to thrive since 1969, paving the way for future filmmakers.
I thought for sure I’d died and gone to heaven.
David Lynch commenting on his first days at AFI
My Place in the Sun

Honoring the U.S. Visit of Deng Xiaoping

President Jimmy Carter sought to normalize diplomatic relations with Communist China and invited Vice Premier Deng Xiaoping to visit the United States. Carter proposed entertaining the vice premier at the Kennedy Center Opera House to further his efforts in enhancing diplomatic relations and called upon George Stevens, Jr. to produce a two-hour show that would be America’s first live broadcast to China.
Commemorating the U.S. Visit of
Chinese Vice Premier Deng Xiaoping
January 29, 1979

America's Millennium

In 1998, First Lady Hillary Clinton enlisted George Stevens, Jr. to co-produce a visionary and celebratory gala on behalf of the White House to mark the new millennium. In partnership with Steven Spielberg and Quincy Jones, Stevens and his son Michael created an ambitious, three-hour New Year’s Eve extravaganza titled America’s Millennium, broadcast live by CBS. The Lincoln Memorial was the historic backdrop for the outdoor concert attended by 600,000 people, featuring America’s leading performing artists, musicians and poets.
America’s Millennium
December 31, 1999

We Are One:
The Obama Inaugural Celebration

George Stevens, Jr. and Michael Stevens were chosen by the Obama Inaugural Committee to write and produce the 2009 Gala Concert for the president-elect, Barack Obama. Joined by former Kennedy Center Honors colleague, Don Mischer, as co-producer and director, the Stevens team staged an outdoor, HBO television special for live broadcast before hundreds of thousands gathered at the Lincoln Memorial. The statue of Abraham Lincoln framed all-star performances and orchestral fanfare that were rich in symbolism and references to American history.
We Are One
2009 concert celebrating the inauguration of Barak Obama
The Lincoln Memorial event was simply extraordinary
Barack Obama
2009, My Place in the Sun
President Obama discusses arts policy with his President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities in the Roosevelt Room. Stevens on Obama’s right, Margo Lion to his left, Alfre Woodard at end of the table, Kerry Washington, far right.
May 11, 2011


Few people have observed the changing seasons of Washington politics and culture longer than George Stevens, Jr. He arrived in the nation’s capital during JFK’s New Frontier, became close friends with Robert Kennedy, collaborated with Washington political leaders, and advised numerous U.S. presidents and first ladies. The apex of Stevens' government service came in 2009 with his appointment as co-chairman of the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities. It was a role he energetically embraced throughout the Obama administration.
Our future as an innovative country depends on ensuring that everyone has access to the arts and to cultural opportunity... But the intersection of creativity and commerce is about more than economic stimulus, it's also about who we are as people.

The President and I want to ensure that all children have access to great works of art at museums. We want them to have access to great poets and musicians in theatres around the country, to arts education in their schools and community workshops."
Michelle Obama
Honorary Chairman of the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities.
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