University President Drew G. Faust paid homage to the lives lost in the Vietnam War in a speech at a university in Ho Chi Minh City Thursday.
During her speech, Faust remarked that Harvard alumni from the class of 1967 will take part in a special remembrance event for the war at this year’s 50th reunion. She said these alumni, “now in their seventies, feel an urgency to confront experiences more than five decades old, memories of a time when ‘Vietnam’ asked them to define themselves and their nation.”
“That is why I am so glad to be in your country at last, for I too am of their generation,” Faust said at the Ho Chi Minh City University of Social Sciences and Humanities.
Faust spoke about how the war affected Americans on the ground in Vietnam, and men and women back home. She also highlighted the devastating aftermath of the war to the Vietnamese population—an estimated 3 million Vietnamese civilians and soldiers died in the war.
“I was not a member of the Harvard class that will have its reunion this spring, but I am close to their age, and like them, I was shaped by the war in ways I still am not sure I fully understand,” Faust said. “But one influence I can clearly identify has been upon my work as a historian.”
Drawing on her research as a historian of the antebellum South, Faust also outlined how the Civil War and its aftermath affected life in America.
“We continue to struggle over the war’s meaning for the nation’s abiding racial divisions,” Faust said. “Americans still battle over the use of the Confederate flag, the emblem of the would-be white southern nation that fought to preserve black slavery, a symbol that today is seen by most Americans as an affront and an obstacle to racial justice.”
Faust also visited a Vietnamese military cemetery at Ap Bac, which she called a “great privilege.”
“Created a century after our American Civil War and half a world away, this graveyard represents the same human urgency to honor the dead and their sacrifice,” Faust said.
Vietnam is the second stop on Faust’s trip to Asia, where she has been meeting with academic leaders and alumni. She also attended events in Singapore, where she met with National University of Singapore President Tan Chorh Chuan and spoke at a Harvard Alumni Association event with 400 alumni.
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