Secretary Clinton Addresses Historical Conference on Southeast Asia

Posted by DipNote Bloggers
September 29, 2010

As The State Department Historian, Ambassador Edward Brynn, noted this morning, today's conference on "The American Experience in Southeast Asia, 1946-1975" is the sixth in a series spanning more than a decade, and represents the office's “most ambitious effort to date to bring together those who played a seminal role in this conflict, and those who have dedicated their lives to identifying and assessing Vietnam's enormous consequences.”

Speaking at the conference today, Secretary Clinton said, "For Americans of my generation, the war in Vietnam shaped the way we view the world and our country. Like everyone in those days, I had friends who enlisted -- male friends who enlisted -- were drafted, resisted, or became conscientious objectors; many long, painful, anguished conversations. And yet, the lessons of that era continue to inform the decisions we make. And for Vietnamese of the same generation who saw their country torn apart by war and who shared also the anguish, the loss of loved ones, friends, and family members as so many Americans did, the memories are also vivid and, for many, still painful.

"People do not easily shake off the weight of history. All over the world, we see the bitter legacy of old conflicts and enmities. It is a source of many of our most persistent challenges. I see it every day as I work with governments on very intractable conflicts that are difficult to even imagine resolving because of the accumulated history of mistrust, of violence that has joined peoples together over time. But how remarkable it is that the American and Vietnamese people have decided to leave behind a history they could not change and embrace a future that we can shape together."

Recalling a visit to Hanoi ten years ago, Secretary Clinton said, "...the most moving experience was our visit to a site where Vietnamese and American archeologists, along with American and Vietnamese soldiers, were searching together for the remains of a missing United States pilot who had crashed 33 years before, Lieutenant Colonel Lawrence Evert. Bill and I stood there watching this work with Lieutenant Colonel Evert's children, now grown beside us. We watched the workers carefully sift through the mud. Knee deep, they painstakingly excavated the fragments of Colonel Evert's F-105 fighter plane and the tatters of his uniform. It was a sacred site and both sides were joined in that work. The Vietnamese Government had sent engineers to help, villagers had come forward with artifacts and information, and eventually the Everts were able to take their father home.

"...The image of that dig 10 years ago has stayed with me. Americans and Vietnamese covered in mud, searching together for traces of a shared and painful past, not because they sought to relive it nor to open old wounds, but because together we recognized we have to face our past if we're going to make peace with it.

"And that is what history, your work, this conference, and the many volumes that have been published, is all about. Historians are excavating, sifting, and straining, helping us know our history more fully so that we can put the past behind us and move forward together.

"The progress between Vietnam and the United States has been breathtaking. When I was in Hanoi to help commemorate the 15th anniversary of the normalization of relations, I addressed a large group of American and Vietnamese businesses that are working together. Our trade agreement has created jobs and spurred growth on both sides of the Pacific. Our friendship has become an anchor of security and stability in the region. An entire generation of young people has grown up knowing only peace between Vietnam and America, and the relationships that they are forming through educational and cultural exchanges, through new businesses and social networks are drawing us even closer together."

You can read the full text of Secretary Clinton's remarks here.



Maryland, USA
September 30, 2010

Patrick in Maryland writes:

Okay well,this was before my time. So i don't really think i can say what was right or wrong about the war in Vietnam. But i think we did what we thought was right in a bad situation. I have family members that say it was a difficult time in America, and the economy was worse than it is now. So alot of people thought the draft or enlisting was a good opportunity to improve the lives of their family's. And do what they thought was their Patriotic Duty for their Country.
I have a great respect for all the people who did their best in our country's time of need.

Anyways,I watched Ambassador Holbrook's and Hillary's Keynote addresses. And thought about, what a great sacrifice many people in our country made for us all.

I think we all should appreciate what we have because of them.:)

Best Regard :)

Susan C.
Florida, USA
September 30, 2010

Susan C. in Florida writes:

@ Patrick in Maryland Patrick, I always appreciate your kind "voice" and thoughtful comments. That said, I must comment on the Vietnam era/war. I believe that it was one of our worst policy mistakes. I do realize that we had "good" intentions and I am sure many believed we were going to stop the spread of communism, but we did not consider the country of Vietnam nor it's culture. The Vietnam war was a civil war and we underestimated the commitment of the Vietnamese people. Right or wrong, they had the right to determine their country's "destiny". Communism was, and is, a failing economic system. I absolutely believe what may have started out as an idealistic war, soon became a practice field for our "war machine". Fifty-eight thousand American soldiers died because we would not admit that we were losing, and that we were wrong to be there. The Vietnam Memorial Wall in D.C. is by far one of the most touching, and sad, memorials we have put up. I am silenced every time I visit it. We must understand that brave individuals die during war and we should be very, very aware of this fact each and every time we decide to go to war.

Maryland, USA
September 30, 2010

Patrick in Maryland writes:

Hi, Susan C. in Florida :)

I think you could be right, but i can't say anything about a time that i did not live through. I only have second hand information on what it was like in 1946-1975. Which is just their views on a difficult time in America History.

If you were there or lived in America during the war. I think you have a right to your opinion about the war in Vietnam. I can't really say anything about something that happened before my time.

Thanks for you Nice comments ,I like reading your thoughts on different subjects too.:)

Rickey L.
Oklahoma, USA
October 27, 2010

Rickey A.L. in Oklahoma writes:

Secretary Clinton, I so am glad to see that you have taken an interest in doing the right thing for our Vietnam era Vets that have and are suffering from the fallout of Agent Orange and other chemical toxins that was used during the war. Many of the families of these vets are suffering today due to genetics of the disease caused by theses chemicals.
I really wish that someone would care enough to a stronger look.
I was a shipper on KC-135 Aircrafts, loading and unloading all types of cargo to and from Vietnam while stationed on Guam USA
This is also where Agent Orange was mixed at a tank farm and sprayed on and around the flight line. I was sprayed on several occasions. I asked my supervisor if I should go to sick call because I had been heavily sprayed due to strong winds on the flight line where a POL personal were spraying something to kill vegetation (or) weeds. I was told at the time not to worry that our Government would not allow anything that would be harmful to us to be sprayed while we were working. Today at the age of 55 I find myself unemployable because of multiple diagnoses that are consistence with the same things Veterans who served in country and on the waters around Vietnam & Thailand. I have file for my social security and VA benefits as well and it is unbelievable how long it takes in this process.
If it was not for my fellow employee's assisting me I would have been out of my home and vehicle and possible homeless like many of the Vietnam era Vets
I have documentation from Airmen who mixed and sprayed Agent Orange on the flight line while I was stationed there on Guam.
My unit was under the 36th Air Wing (SAC) combat support unit at the 43 transportation Squadron. I served during 1974 & 1975 during Operation Baby Lift and Operation Freedom – (the Evacuation of South Vietnam.) which I was honored with a military metal for my service. I would gladly return this metal any day to have my health back. I know there are several other Vets that are in the same shape as I. As I recall it when we returned home from our tour of duty there were no parades, home coming or even thank you. I do remember so called peaceful demonstrations being held near the base I was stationed where I was called a baby killer just because I had my uniform on going to work. I am so thankful that these folks did not have the classified intel. of what really went on. I am not proud of some things that went on during this time yet, All I can say is that a good shoulder follows orders from Commander and Chief on down and that is precisely what we all did.
Please Contact the Government of Guam and look this over because a lot of the People of Guam are suffering and they were innocent by standers who now have children with the same deformities and diseases consistent with the children of Vietnam that can only be explained as direct results of Agent Orange.
I thank you for what you have been doing and what I hope and pray you will do to assist the Vietnam era Veterans that are still in the battle of surviving the outcome of War.


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