JFK Library to host talks on Vietnam

Breaking News

In the first such collaboration of its kind, the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library is announcing today that it will host a conference jointly sponsored by the National Archives and all 12 presidential libraries.

Among those set to participate in ''Vietnam and the Presidency" March 10-11 are two former secretaries of state, Henry A. Kissinger and Alexander M. Haig Jr., Republican Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, TV journalist Dan Rather, and Pulitzer Prize-winning authors Frances FitzGerald and David Halberstam. Halberstam will deliver the conference's keynote address on March 10.

President Jimmy Carter will make a video presentation, and NBC anchorman Brian Williams will serve as moderator for the March 11 sections.

''I think what's so special about this conference is the bipartisan nature, the level of participation, the incredible list of people we've been able to get," Deborah Leff, the library's director, said in a telephone interview yesterday.

The idea for the event, Leff said, came after a decision by the Richard Nixon Library last March to cancel a scheduled conference on Nixon and Vietnam that would have marked the 30th anniversary of the end of the Vietnam War. The library said the cancellation was the result of limited public interest. Several prominent scholars attributed the decision to the library's fear of criticism that might be directed at Nixon.

In libraries, as in politics, a Nixon loss once again meant a Kennedy gain.

Other conference participants include Theodore Sorensen, special assistant to President Kennedy; Jack Valenti, special assistant to President Lyndon B. Johnson; New York Times columnist Bob Herbert; Pete Peterson, first US ambassador to Vietnam; and historian Michael Beschloss. The conference sought to cast an even wider net, Leff said. A number of high-profile participants, such as former secretary of defense Melvin Laird and former national security adviser Brent Scowcroft, wanted to attend but were prevented from doing so by scheduling conflicts.


National Archives and Presidential Libraries to Host Historic Two-Day
Conference on Vietnam and the Presidency
-- Kissinger, Haig, Sorensen, Rather, Halberstam Among Participants --

For Immediate Release: January 10, 2006
Press Contact: Brent Carney (617) 514-1662;

On March 10 and 11, 2006, the National Archives and the nation’s
Presidential Libraries will host an unprecedented two-day conference
examining the history of the Vietnam War and the American presidency.
The conference, which is free and open to the public, will be held at
the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston.

"Vietnam and the Presidency" is the first national conference
sponsored by all the Presidential Libraries – from Hoover to Clinton
– and the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA).
Leading historians, key policymakers of the era, and journalists who
covered the war will examine the antecedents of the war, presidential
decision-making, media coverage, public opinion, lessons learned and
the influence of the Vietnam experience on subsequent U.S. foreign

Among those participating in the historic two-day conference will be
General Alexander Haig; Secretary of State Henry Kissinger; Special
Counsel to President Kennedy Theodore Sorensen; Special Assistant to
President Johnson Jack Valenti; Senator Chuck Hagel; New York Times
columnist Bob Herbert; Ambassador Pete Peterson; professors George
Herring, Robert D. Schulzinger, and Marilyn Young; journalists Steve
Bell and Dan Rather; Pulitzer Prize-winning authors David Halberstam
and Frances Fitzgerald; and historians Michael Beschloss, David
Kaiser and Jeffrey Kimball. Former President Jimmy Carter will speak
via video and NBC Nightly News anchorman Brian Williams will moderate
all of the second day’s sessions.

The Vietnam War was the longest and most controversial war that the
United States ever fought. It claimed the lives of more than 58,000
Americans and over three million Vietnamese. From the arrival of the
first U.S. military advisors in the 1950s to the fall of Saigon on
April 30, 1975, U.S. involvement in Vietnam was central to the Cold
War foreign policies of Presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson,
Nixon and Ford. The war has continued to affect the policies of
subsequent presidents and its legacy is particularly relevant today
during America’s war on terror.

"It is our hope and expectation that this conference will reveal a
wealth of new information on the history of the Vietnam War and its
impact on the office of the President," said Archivist of the United
States Allen Weinstein. "As keepers of the nation’s official history,
the National Archives and the Presidential Libraries are uniquely
positioned to provide a forum for examining the effect of the war in
Vietnam on our nation, and its citizens."

Reservations for "Vietnam and the Presidency" are required and may be
made by calling (617) 514-1642 or by writing the John F. Kennedy
Presidential Library and Museum, Columbia Point, Boston,
Massachusetts, 02125, Attn: "Vietnam and the Presidency." The program
is subject to change due to speakers’ schedules. For more
information, and an updated schedule of the conference, access the
John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum’s Web site at

"Vietnam and the Presidency" is sponsored by the National Archives
and Records Administration (NARA); Herbert Hoover Presidential
Library and Museum; Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt Institute; Harry
S. Truman Library Institute; Eisenhower Foundation; John F. Kennedy
Presidential Library and Museum; John F. Kennedy Library Foundation;
Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum; Richard Nixon Library and
Birthplace; Gerald R. Ford Foundation; Jimmy Carter Library and
Museum; Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation; George Bush
Presidential Library Foundation; William J. Clinton Presidential
Library and Museum; and the Foundation for the National Archives.

Conference Schedule as of January 9, 2006:

Speakers for the "Vietnam and the Presidency" Conference Friday,
March 10 and Saturday, March 11, 2006

John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum
Columbia Point, Boston, MA 02125

Friday, March 10

How We Got In: The United States, Asia, and Vietnam
1:00 – 2:30 p.m.

Professor George Herring, Alumni Professor of History, University of
Kentucky, author of America's Longest War: The United States and
Vietnam, 1950-1975.

Professor Robert D. Schulzinger, Professor of History, University of
Colorado, Boulder, author of A Time for War: The United States and
Vietnam, 1941-1975.

Professor Marilyn Young, Professor of History, New York University,
author of The Vietnam Wars, 1945-1990.

Moderator, Allen Weinstein, Archivist of the United States.

Vietnam and Presidential Tapes
2:45 – 4:45 p.m.

On Johnson: Presidential Historian Michael Beschloss, author of The
Johnson White House Tapes, 1963-1964.

On Kennedy: Professor David Kaiser, Professor of Strategy and Policy,
Naval War College, author of American Tragedy: Kennedy, Johnson, and
the Origins of the Vietnam War.

On Nixon: Professor Jeffrey Kimball, Professor of History, Miami
University, author of The Vietnam War Files: Uncovering the Secret
History of Nixon-Era Strategy.

Moderator, Sharon Fawcett, Assistant Archivist for Presidential

Keynote Speaker
5:00 - 5:30 p.m.

David Halberstam, Pulitzer Prize-winner for his coverage of the
Vietnam War for The New York Times; author of The Best and The
Brightest, the acclaimed critical history of how and why the United
states went to war in Vietnam.

Saturday, March 11

Moderator, Brian Williams, Anchor and Managing Editor, NBC Nightly News

The Media and the Role of Public Opinion
9:00 - 10:30 a.m.

Steve Bell, news correspondent for ABC News from 1967-1986, reported
from Vietnam and Indo-China in the early ‘70s.

Frances Fitzgerald, non fiction author and journalist, received both
the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award for Fire In the Lake:
The Vietnamese and the Americans in Vietnam.

Dan Rather, CBS News anchorman from 1981 to 2005 and 60 Minutes II
correspondent; covered Vietnam for CBS News in the mid 1960s.

Inside the White House
10:45 a.m. – 12:45 p.m.

General Alexander Haig commanded a battalion in Vietnam from 1966 to
1967; he was Military Assistant to President Nixon’s National
Security Advisor Henry Kissinger, eventually becoming Nixon’s White
House Chief of Staff. He was Secretary of State from 1980 to 1981
under President Reagan.

The Honorable Henry Kissinger served as Secretary of State from 1973
to 1977. He was President Nixon’s National Security Advisor from 1969
to 1973. He was a co-recipient of the 1973 Nobel Peace Prize for
negotiating a ceasefire between South and North Vietnam.

Theodore Sorensen was Special Counsel to President Kennedy from 1960
to 1963. He is Senior Counsel for the New York City law firm, Paul,
Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison.

Jack Valenti was Special Assistant to President Johnson from 1963 to
1966. He was president of the Motion Picture Association from 1966 to

Lessons Learned
2:15 – 3:45 p.m.

The Honorable Chuck Hagel earned two Purple Hearts during his service
in Vietnam. He is Nebraska’s senior U.S. senator.

Bob Herbert served in Korea in the 1960s. He has been an op ed
columnist for The New York Times since 1993.

The Honorable Pete Peterson, a captain in the Vietnam War, was shot
down in 1966 and remained a prisoner of war for six and a half years.
He was the first American Ambassador appointed to Vietnam since the war.

Read entire article at Boston Globe

comments powered by Disqus