Much earlier in my life during the period from 1954 to 1968, I was deeply involved in Vietnam, some years more intensely than others.
Only twice before have I had the chance to talk to a largely Vietnamese American audience about the meaning of my book and why I wrote it.
Late last year, I was privileged to talk at Harvard University to a summit of Vietnamese student associations from New England. Later I
was interviewed on Vietnamese TV. At Harvard, I said it was important to understand what happened in Vietnam for two main reasons. One
was to appreciate the fact that the cause for which the student's parents and grandparents fought, to remain free, was a worthy one and
how traumatic it had been for them to lose their country. The other was to understand as Americans what happened there and to avoid
committing the same mistakes in other countries where the circumstances are similar in many ways to the challenges the United States
faced in Vietnam.
The Reasons for "Why Vietnam Matters"
Why Vietnam Matters was written because I felt there was a side to the Vietnam War that had not been told. Many books have been written
about the War, mostly from an American perspective based primarily on a study of documents but almost none by anyone who was an eyewitness
to events and knew the actors first hand during the critical period from 1954 through1968. There was a story that had not been told about
the struggle of the non-communist Vietnamese to be free from French and from Communist domination - a struggle I had experienced firsthand
as an American in a close-up and personal way. Added to that was my appreciation, looking at it from both sides, of how the Americans and
Vietnamese too often failed to understand each other -- like ships passing in the night.