Students Discuss Impact of Vietnam War with Professor Miller

On February 2nd, 2017, Professor Edward Miller joined the Thought Project Living Learning Community for dinner to discuss the Vietnam War. Professor Miller spoke about his recent trip to Vietnam with former Secretary of State John Kerry. A Vietnam War veteran, Kerry was decorated with a silver star for his service. In the fall of 2016, Kerry visited Vietnam, and he relied on Professor Miller to guide him through the territory with World War II-era maps. It was fascinating to hear Professor Miller discuss his interactions with John Kerry, which were never one-on-one. “The Secretary of State doesn’t go anywhere alone,” Miller explained. While in Vietnam, Kerry happened to meet one of the Viet Cong soldiers who was on the opposing side of the ambush. “The meeting,” Miller explained, “was the perfect symbol of reconciliation between the US and Vietnam.” The two governments now have now become closely aligned: the ideology of communism has died out in Vietnam completely. Vietnam sends the sixth largest proportion of all foreign university students in the United States.

Professor Miller also spoke about his work advising Ken Burns on his new documentary series “The Vietnam War.” Miller discussed the contested memories and controversy that the war still provokes to this day, and he predicted that the Burns documentary will resurrect conflict within our society about the historical meaning of the Vietnam War. People will be talking about the Vietnam war like it was yesterday in September, the month the films will release. The issues remain relevant to our current political climate. Burns’ personal views will be difficult to identify for viewers of the film, Miller explained. Burns did his best to present a balanced perspective. Miller concedes that the documentary is America-centric, and does not give as much attention to the Vietnamese experience (a choice which Miller urged Burns to reconsider during the production of the film). Miller noted that this documentary is different from Burns’ previous works, since the film features first-hand accounts of men and women who lived through the war.

Professor Miller also discussed his role in curating the “Politics and Culture and Southern Vietnam” exhibit which is now on view at the Independence Palace, a major landmark in Vietnam that sees over one million visitors per year. Professor Miller encouraged students to apply to get involved with the Dartmouth Vientam project, which trains students in oral history methodology and pairs them with Upper Valley residents who are Vietnam war veterans.

- Submitted by Julia Marino '17, Rockefeller Mini-Grant Recipient 

The Rockefeller Center's Mini-Grants program funds registration fees for students attending conferences, as well as the costs of bringing guest speakers to Dartmouth. The views and opinions expressed here are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views and opinions of the Rockefeller Center or constitute an endorsement by the Center.