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Landmark Speeches on the Vietnam War

Edited and with introductions by Gregory Allen Olson

Publication Year: 2010

Beginning more than sixty years ago, speechmaking supported the U.S. commitment to South Vietnam. Rhetoric helped send more than a half-million troops to defend the Vietnamese government the United States had yet sponsored; that policy led to dissent, and ultimately, Congress forcing the executive branch to terminate U.S. involvement. The fourteen key speeches collected in this volume, from Ho Chi Minh's "Declaration of the Independence of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam" in 1945 to John Kerry's "Testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee" in 1971, express the entire range of positions on the war, which contributed to the political and societal developments that ordained its course and outcome. They span the most volatile years of that period, framed in the words that shaped an era. These speeches include: Ho Chi Minh: "Declaration of Independence," September 2, 1945 John F. Kennedy: "America's Stake in Vietnam," June 1, 1956 Michael J. Mansfield: "Interests and Policies in Southeast Asia," June 10, 1962 Lyndon B. Johnson: "Peace Without Conquest," April 7, 1965 Paul Potter: "Speech to the March on Washington," April 17, 1965 George Aiken: "Vietnam Analysis--Present and Future," October 19, 1966 Robert F. Kennedy: "On Viet Nam," March 2, 1967 Martin Luther King Jr.: "Beyond Vietnam," April 4, 1967 Gen. William C. Westmoreland: "Vietnam: The Situation Today," April 28, 1967 Walter Cronkite: "We Are Mired in Stalemate," February 27, 1968 Lyndon B. Johnson: "The President's Address to the Nation," March 31, 1968 Richard M. Nixon: "Address to the Nation," November 3, 1969 and April 30, 1970 John Kerry: "Testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee," April 22, 1971

Published by: Texas A&M University Press

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Introduction

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pp. 1-13

It has been more than sixty years since the United States became interested in Vietnam and more than thirty since America’s first serious attempt at nation building ended in failure; the speeches in this volume span the first twenty-five years of that period. Speech-Vietnam, and when that nation seemed unable to stand on its own, ...

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Ho Chi Minh: "Declaration of Independence of the Democratic Republic of Viet Nam," September 2, 1945

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pp. 14-18

U.S. involvement in Indochina began at the end of World War II, with the surge in Third World nationalism and the beginnings of the Cold War. A nationalist and a communist, Ho Chi Minh became the foremost leader of both causes in Vietnam. ...

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John F. Kennedy: "America's Stake in Vietnam:The Cornerstone of the Free World in Southeast Asia," June 1, 1956

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pp. 19-28

John Kennedy first became involved with Vietnam after a visit to that country in 1951, while still serving in the House of Representatives. In 1953, by then a senator, Kennedy, along with Senator Mike Mansfield, was introduced to Vietnamese nationalist Ngo Dinh Diem by Supreme Court Justice William...

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Michael J. Mansfield: "Interests and Policies in Southeast Asia," June 10, 1962

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pp. 29-42

By the time President Diem visited the United States in 1957, significant failures in his leadership were evident. Both the Eisenhower administration and the press ignored his weaknesses and continued to talk about Diem’s “miracle.” In the spring of 1959, the armed Vietminh rebellion resumed in the South, catching the...

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Lyndon B. Johnson: "Address at Johns Hopkins University: 'Peace Without Conquest,'" April 7, 1965

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pp. 43-52

Lyndon Johnson assumed the presidency in late 1963 with little interest in Vietnam and no desire to plunge into a war in Southeast Asia. Yet Johnson retained the advisers who had pushed Kennedy toward escalation in the conflict, and he was not willing to become the first U.S. president to lose a war. In the 1964 presidential...

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Paul Potter: "Speech to the March on Washington to End the War in Vietnam," April 17, 1965

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pp. 53-64

In the spring of 1965, between fifteen and twenty-five thousand Americans descended on Washington, D.C., in an early anti–Vietnam War event sponsored by Students for a Democratic Society (SDS). The number far exceeded expectations, and at the time it was the largest antiwar protest in the history of the...

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George Aiken: "Vietnam Analysis—Present and Future," October 19, 1966

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pp. 65-72

George Aiken came to the Senate in 1940 with little apparent interest in foreign policy. Pat Holt of the Foreign Relations Committee staff said that Aiken accepted a slot on that committee in the early 1950s only because he had the seniority to keep Joseph McCarthy (R-WI), the Senate’s rabid anticommunist, from this vital ...

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Robert F. Kennedy: "On Viet Nam," March 2, 1967

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pp. 73-92

As Senators Church and Fulbright had before him, Robert Kennedy (D-NY) tried, as much as possible, to express his growing disillusionment with Vietnam policy to President Johnson in private. But just as Church and Fulbright did, he came to believe that his arguments lacked influence at the White House. Unlike the...

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Martin Luther King Jr.: "Beyond Vietnam," April 4, 1967

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pp. 93-113

Martin Luther King Jr. started to express private doubts about the Vietnam conflict in early 1966. In January 1967, he was deeply disturbed by an article and photographs in Ramparts that claimed that one million Vietnamese children had been killed or wounded, many by American napalm. The Ramparts article contributed...

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Gen. William C. Westmoreland: "Vietnam: the Situation Today," April 28, 1967

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pp. 114-123

In 1964, President Johnson selected Gen. William Westmoreland to command U.S. combat forces in Vietnam, and Westmoreland continued in that position until 1968. LBJ asked Westmoreland to return to the states in 1966 to deliver a speech, but with the war in Vietnam unceasing, the general balked and was supported by...

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Walter Cronkite: "We Are Mired in Stalemate," February 27, 1968

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pp. 124-126

At the end of January 1968, the communist Tet Offensive stunned the public, the majority of whom still favored a “tougher policy” in Vietnam. The ability of our enemy to stage such a broad-based attack shocked President Johnson, too. Johnson’s approval ratings plummeted after Tet as did public support for the...

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Lyndon B. Johnson: "The President's Address to the Nation Announcing Steps to Limit the War in Vietnam and Reporting His Decision Not to Seek Reelection," March 31, 1968

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pp. 127-141

Rhetorical scholar Moya Ann Ball traces the genesis of this speech to January 31, 1968, as a reaction to the Tet Offensive. At least a dozen drafts of the speech were eventually submitted before it was finally delivered. Initially Lyndon Johnson wanted a “tough” speech, and the writing of it became a battle between advisors...

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Richard M. Nixon: "Address to the Nation on the War in Vietnam," November 3, 1969

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pp. 142-158

One communication scholar considers Richard Nixon’s “Silent Majority” speech “one of the most important policy addresses of the decade.”¹ While Nixon biographer Stephen Ambrose disagrees with the claim, Nixon himself hyperbolically called his speech “the most effective of my presidency” and “a turning point...

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Richard M. Nixon: "Address to the Nation on the Situation in Southeast Asia," April 30, 1970

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pp. 159-169

Prince Norodom Sihanouk had long managed to keep Cambodia out of the Vietnam conflict. While North Vietnam used Cambodian territory to infiltrate men and materials south, Sihanouk could do nothing about it, so he ignored these violations. Cambodian neutrality strained relations with the United States during the...

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John Kerry: "Testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee," April 22, 1971

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pp. 170-181

This address would be included in this volume even if John Kerry had not become the Democratic nominee for president in 2004. While this speech helped propel Kerry toward his political career, it might ultimately have prevented his election to the highest office in the land.

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Acknowledgments

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pp. 183-184

Many contributed to the completion of this volume. Martin J. Medhurst, as editor of the series, invited me to undertake the project, and even after he left that position, he continued to provide valuable advice and guidance. Marty has done more to promote rhetorical scholarship than any person I know, and this work...

Index

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pp. 185-194


E-ISBN-13: 9781603443500
E-ISBN-10: 1603443509
Print-ISBN-13: 9781603441643
Print-ISBN-10: 1603441646

Page Count: 208
Illustrations: Index.
Publication Year: 2010

Series Title: Landmark Speeches: A Book Series

Research Areas

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Subject Headings

  • Speeches, addresses, etc., American.
  • Political oratory -- United States -- History -- Sources.
  • Vietnam War, 1961-1975 -- Protest movements -- United States -- Sources.
  • Vietnam War, 1961-1975 -- Sources.
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