Harvard president talks about war with Vietnamese students

March 24, 2017 | 02:11 am PT
Harvard president talks about war with Vietnamese students
President of Havard University speaks to students at Ho Chi Minh City University of Social Sciences and Humanities Thursday : Photo by VnExpress
She said studying Vietnam helps her understand the U.S. more.

Vietnam shall be a country with all its complexity, beauty and vibrancy, but not a name of a conflict that has shaped a generation of American people, President of Harvard University, Drew Gilpin Faust, said Thursday in Ho Chi Minh City.

Meeting with students of the Ho Chi Minh City University of Social Sciences and Humanities, Faust discussed how the American-Vietnam war has influenced her and the people of her generation.

“What you know as the War of National Salvation Against the Americans - what we call 'Vietnam'- indelibly shaped those of us coming of age in the United States in the 1960s and 1970s.”

“Even though I never came within 8,000 miles of Vietnam during those years, its names and places have reverberated in my mind for decades: names like Khe Sanh, Pleiku, Ap Bac, Dien Bien Phu, Gulf of Tonkin, Da Nang, Hue, Saigon, Hanoi,” she said.

The Harvard president mentioned the Vietnamese slogan which is directed at tourists: “Vietnam: A Country, Not a War.”

Faust said like many other Americans who have traveled to Vietnam, she has wanted to make the country a society and nation with all its complexity, beauty, history, vibrancy, and promise in her mind and not the name of a conflict that overtook a generation of American people.

“Seeing your country has come to seem for me necessary to understanding my own,” Faust said.

“American men of my generation confronted the military draft, which cast many into a struggle of conscience about whether they would comply with laws that required them to serve in a war they believed unwise and unjust. For young women, like me, the dilemma was less immediately personal, but it propelled us to ask unsettling questions about our nation, our democracy, and our very humanity,” she continued.

Vietnam and the U.S. fought against each other in a long and devastating war that ended in 1975, and now both separately and together, the two countries face its aftermath and both societies have to live with memories and legacies.

“History is indispensable in that effort. It helps us confront the ghosts and the demons that the tragedies of the past leave as their legacy to the present. It illuminates the blindnesses and cruelties that enable war and equips us to imagine and to strive for peace,” she concluded.

Faust is on a trip in Asia to promote Harvard’s global impact.

Harvard University is a private Ivy League research university in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The University is organized into eleven separate academic units, including 10 faculties and the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study. To date, some 130 Nobel laureates have been affiliated as students, faculty, or staff.

Currently, 16 Vietnamese students are studying at Harvard.

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