tv Early Life and Career of Henry Kissinger CSPAN October 30, 2016 4:25pm-6:01pm EDT
history tv? visit our website and look at our upcoming schedule or watch a recent program. at c-span.org/history. >> henry kissinger served as national security advisor and secretary of state for presidents richard nixon and gerald ford. next, neil ferguson discusses the first volume of the henry kissinger biography. "kissinger: the idealist." he argues that his approach to foreign policy is grounded in idealism, rather than the roots of populism that he is known for. the event is an hour and a half. >> good afternoon, everyone. thank you for coming out today.
i am the cochair of the washington history seminar. cochairing with me today is roger lewis, the founding chair of the seminar and former director of the national history center. , our aims eighth year is to foster conversation about the past and to make history and essential part of public conversation about these events here in the united states and across the world. possible inare made part by the efforts of many people, but in particular the people at the wilson center and the associate director of the wilson center. they handle the logistics and work out the logistics have. today is danes
kennedy. we are always grateful for the ,inancial support of shaver which generously helps to the history department in a number of anonymous donors with their , weort, making it possible the her week, to bring us scholars who do the work at the wilson center. i think that roger now will introduce the speaker. >> neil, as everyone here knows, is a famous historian. the author of many books, including "civilization: the great generation," and "the
: theaphy of kissinger idealist." he is a visiting professor in beijing. his many awards include the benjamin franklin prize for public service, the high prize for economic journalism. on top of all this, he has been a lecturer at the british study seminar. i can justify that he is very quick on his feet, because in the middle of the lecture his cell phone went off, slightly embarrassing because it belonged to my wife. room and put it in the freezer or refrigerator, i was hoping it would go away. neil did not miss a beat.
that gives me the opportunity to talk about the telephone, he said, and the origins of first world war. [applause] thank you very, roger. thank you. great pleasure to be here. and i thought i would say a couple of things by way of a presser. some of you, perhaps all of you, let's face it, are more interested in what is going to be said tonight beginning at 9 pm than anything i could possibly say now. [laughter] it's true, the stakes are lower. on the other hand, let's remember that henry kissinger's name came up in the primary debates, when bernie sanders launched the, as he thought, devastating barb at hillary clinton that she was a friend and admirer of henry kissinger. so, i shall be hoping tonight that dr. kissinger makes an appearance in the trump-clinton debate. who knows how that will happen?
debates, presidential elections, if they are uppermost in your mind. but there is an argument for reading this book, despite the fact that it delves back into what, for some of you, is ancient history. if you want to remind yourself that there is really nothing new under the sun, read kissinger's diary of the 1964 republican convention at which barry goldwater was nominated and nelson rockefeller was howled down, if you want to reassure yourself that american politics has always been crazy, that it didn't just suddenly get crazy. i recommend that particular section of this book. i want to do three things. in the 40 or so minutes that i'm going to ask of you. the first is to explain how i came to write this biography, which i think it's always right for an author to do. the second is to try to explain to you what about the first half
of henry kissinger's life is historically significant. most works, as you know, focus on, in effect, the second half, or to be more precise, the relatively small number of years that he spent in government. the third thing i want to do is to suggest four things that i learned from writing this volume. i now refer to this volume as henry the first. and i am in the process of still researching henry the second. and that's my way of thusly hinting that if you came here with a burning question to ask about, let's say, the bombing of cambodia, any answer that i give you will be so tentative as to be, in effect, useless, because i'm not there yet. i am in fact still gathering material for henry ii. this will be about henry i, a much less well-known, as the monarchs. you can tell from my accent, i
am british rather than american. [laughter] this might be seen as a disadvantage or it might be seen as an advantage, when it comes to writing a book about a great figure of the cold war. i in fact met henry kissinger first in london. it was 2003. and it was at what americans call a cocktail party. and it was a rather surprising thing to find myself standing next to this legendary figure. and i wasn't quite sure what to say. but he broke the ice, by saying "i've read one of your books." [laughter] now, if you ever want to disarm an obscure academic, the words "i've read one of your books" have a kind of magical quality, because that is what the obscure academic wants most to talk about. so we began talking about the book, which was about the first world war.
we were just getting going when he suddenly disappeared, then reappeared on the other side of the room, about where the people right at the back are sitting. he was standing next to the supermodel, elle mcpherson, who had just walked in. i remember thinking, i really can learn something from this man. [laughter] but in all honesty, that is a true story, i should say. but in frankness, perhaps, i had grave doubts when he subsequently wrote to me and suggested that i might consider writing his biography based on papers and letters that were in his possession or were in archives. this was, i suppose, partly because i could just imagine the review. -- review by christopher hitchens. it just seemed like tremendously reckless act to write a book that hitchens would be sure to loathe.
on the other hand, even if there were no hitchens, and of course there wasn't by the time the book was published, as hitch had died. i still reckoned it would be an enormous amount of work, given that few periods in history have been so perfectly documented, as the 1970's. this was the age of the xerox. also the age of the audio recorder. so one has a tremendous amount , of documentation, more than will be true, i think, of this age of private servers and e-mails. it just seemed daunting and fool hardy. so i said no. and i then received my introduction to kissinger in diplomacy, in the form of a letter, which i'm going to quote to you. it went like this. i won't do the voice. " what a pity. i received your letter just as i was hunting for your telephone number to tell you of the
discovery files i thought had been lost. 145 boxes, which had been placed in a repository in connecticut, by a groundkeeper, who has since died. these contain all my files, writings, letters, sporadic diaries, together with some 20 boxes of some private correspondence, from my government service. be that as it our conversations may, have given me the notion that you would have done a definitive, if not necessarily positive, evaluation." i think it was about three weeks later that i was in connecticut, looking through those boxes. and rather like a fish that's seen the fly settle on the surface of the river, i had bitten. and it didn't take me very long that day, when i began to leaf through the documents, to realize that i had in fact to
take this on, and that i would be a fool to pass up the opportunity to work on this material and on this subject. ing let me try and convey to you some of the excitement i felt that day, as i began to read through kissinger's private papers. this is, remember, 10 years down the road, more. i guess i've gathered i worked this out when i was writing the introduction to the book. over 8,000 documents totaling 37,645 pages from 111 archives. but i want to take you back before that long haul, to day one. one of the things that most grabbed my attention was a letter that he had written to his parents in the 1940's.
it was an isolated letter. there didn't seem to be others in the box. but it was obvious that it must be one of quite a number from his time in the u.s. army. now, for those of you -- and there may be some wholly unfamiliar with the story -- it's worth remembering that before he became richard nixon's national security advisor and then secretary of state and then worked for gerald ford, kissinger had multiple lives. he was born in south germany in 1923. so he was a kid when hitler came to power. he was a refugee, from the summer of 1938, when he and his family moved to the united states. and he was then a soldier. he was drafted and became an infantryman and found himself,
extraordinarily, back in germany, just over six years after he left. in a u.s. army uniform, a g.i. the letter came from that period, and it grabbed my attention like few other documents i've ever read. because it said -- i'm going to quote from memory, and this was addressed to his parents -- to you, the world is made up of black and white. but for me, there are multiple shades of gray in between. maddening thing was that it wasn't clear what had prompted him to write such a thing to his parents. there was no real context in the letter. so who could fail to be fascinated by such an extraordinary line or two in the letter? years later, just before i finished the manuscript -- in fact, i thought i had finished -- i was in kissinger's
office in new york when he handed me a folder containing the rest of those letters. finally. i had been asking for those letters again and again and again. and i'd always run up against the barrier of "it's just too intimate." there had always been this agreement between us that i would write exactly what i found. there would be no editorial power on his side. the only constraint related to quotations from family correspondence. it was only at the very end that he decided to allow me to see, well, what in effect was most of that family correspondence. and let me quote from a letter. he wrote home, from germany, november the 15th, 1944. "it is very late. i haven't much time.
but i must write a letter, just so that i can affix to it the legend -- somewhere in germany. so, i have made it. out in the darkness that envelopes this town, rows and rows of shattered buildings line the roads. people wonder through the ruins. -- wonder through the ruins -- ander through the ruins. war has come to germany. so i am back where i wanted to be. i think of the cruelty and barbarism those people out there in the ruins showed when they were on top. and then i feel proud and happy to be able to enter here as a free american soldier. -- soldier." at this point, kissinger had no the nazihe extent of crimes. it was only later, after the war was over, that he realized that every member of his family that had remained in
germany had been killed, including his grandmother. before he found that out, he was present at the liberation of a concentration camp, just outside hanover. and this produced one of those documents that i did see on the very first day. an extraordinary essay which he entitled "the eternal jew," a kind of two-page record for his own use or possibly for future publication. i'm going to briefly quote a passage from it. it's addressed to one of the inmates of the concentration camp, who had survived, who was still living, at the moment of liberation. kissinger wrote, " humanity stands accused in you. i, joe smith, human dignity, everybody has failed you. you should be preserved in cement, up here on the hillside,
for future generations to look upon and take stock. human dignity, objective values, have stopped at this barbed wire. as long as conscious existings as a conception -- exists as a perception in the world, you will personify it. nothing done for you will ever restore you. you are eternal in this respect. -- respect." now, some of you may have asked yourself the question, why did ferguson subtitle volume one, "the idealist"? was this a mere provocation designed to ensense the new york readers of "the new york times" and bernie sanders? well, no. well, it was intended to do that, but that wasn't the main reason. it dawned on me, within a very short space of time, as i read this material, that the kissinger in the boxes, in the paper, was not the kissinger i had been led to expect at all.
i had read it. i had read a number of books, highly critical of him. and these books had a common thread. that henry kissinger was the personification of an unscrupulous realism, immoral. -- anral realpolitik realpolitik. so influenced had i been that originally i'd considered giving the subtitle to the biography "american machiavellian" but there was no machiavellian here. none at all. in fact, that scarcely surfaces anywhere in kissinger's paper. what there was was a man whose experiences as a refugee and as a soldier and then as a student at harvard had molded him in quite the opposite direction. i want to suggest to you that in three respects, it is legitimate
to describe the kissinger of volume i -- notice -- as an idealist. the first is the practical one that he drew the lesson of his own experience in the 1930's and 1940's that realism had failed, that realism had produced appeasement. in a 1957 letter, he wrote " we like to smile now at the baldwin and chamberlain in 1938 but they thought of themselves as tough realists." very true. very insightful. secondly, and i think more importantly, the study of philosophy as an undergraduate, under the direction of william elliott, had turned kissinger into a kantian idealist. some of you may know the story of his senior thesis. modestily entitled "the meaning of history" -- [laughter]
which led to the still existing harvard rule about the length of senior thesis. it's fascinating to read that and realize this was a foundation on which kissinger, the historian, subsequently built. he really evolved from philosopher of history into historian. the argument that he makes in the thesis is that whereas perpetual peace might be the ultimate goal of history, quote, " whatever one's conception about the necessity of events, at the moment of their performance, their inevitability could offer no guide to action." kissinger, of the kant phase, is a strong anti-determinist, whose attempt to reconcile necessity and contingency is really a very powerful and interesting contribution for such a young man. the third respect in which he's
an idealist in this period has to do with his rejection of the materialism that was so mainstream in the early cold war. you have to remember that harvard, in the early 1950's, was not a place where you would naturally gravitate towards the study of the congress of vienna if you weren't an ambitious young man. it was deeply uncool to immerse yourself, as he did in his doctoral thesis, in 19th century diplomatic history. this was this age of social science, economics, systems analysis. one of the reasons i began to doubt the story that kissinger was ruthlessly ambitious, always trying to figure his way up to the top of the greasy pole was this choice of dissertation topic. then i began to realize this was a conscious intellectual revolt against the materialism of the early cold war. kissinger often has said in more
recent times that he doesn't know much about economics. but that's because he rejected the proposition that the cold war was a fundamental struggle between two economic systems. kissinger says at one point, in an early piece of work, that it wouldn't matter in the cold war in the soviet system turned out to be economically superior. and we know it wasn't, but it was much less clear to contemporaries in the 1950's that that was so. kissinger wrote the inward inward intuition of freedom would reject totalitarianism, even if it were more economically realistic." it seems to be very fundamental to the young kissinger. what i was fascinated by is how consistently he stuck to these un-kissinger like positions when it came to issues of policy.
i'll give you three examples. in my experience, 90% of any audience is still skeptical at this point, because hitchens' influence has been very enduring and there's a mental influence -- image of kissinger as the arch realist that i have to somehow efface. it's july, 1958. you're glued to your television because a still somewhat obscure, named henry kissinger, has written a best-selling book, "nuclear weapons and foreign policy." and he's on abc, being interviewed by mike wallace. as you can watch online. he says an answer to a question about the third world, as it was then called. i think we should go on the spiritual offensive in the world. we should identify ourselves with the revolution. let me just allow those words to
sink in. it's henry kissinger in 1958. we should identify ourselves with the revolution. we should say that freedom, if it is liberated, can achieve many of these things. even when we have engaged in constructive steps, we've always justified them on the basis of a communist threat, very rarely on the basis of things we wanted to do because of our intrinsic dynamism. we should have said these are the things we want to do because of the values we stand for, not because we want to beat the communists." that seemed to me to be the very antithesis. the further i went into the material, the more i saw kissinger establish himself as a critic of realism, a critic of real politic in american foreign policy. he was briefly and unhappily an advisor, a consultant, to the kennedy administration. this is a less well-known part of the story. those of you who are connoisseurs of washington
politics will enjoy this, because bundy stitches kissinger up well eloquently. clearly bundy did not want kissinger encroaches on his new turf, so he persuaded kissinger that he could be a part-time consultant. how well do you think that would work, just on the first principles of washington life? part-time consultant? kissinger was driven mad by the fact. he just could not get any time at all with the president. and it was, in many ways, a pity, because the issue in 1961 that loomed largest was berlin. and there's no question that henry kissinger knew more about berlin and more generally about the germany question than bundy did. on the other hand, it may be just as well that bundy kept him at arm's length, because we now can see that kissinger was a good deal more hawkish on the berlin crisis than kennedy's closest advisors and kennedy
himself. he wrote, kissinger, that is, that realism -- he rejected, i should say, he rejected the view that, i quote, realism should compel us to confirm what we are incapable of changing and that therefore the united states should, quote, accept the vision of germany as final. kissinger argued, on the contrary, that the west must stand for the unity of germany, despite the experiences of two world wars. kissinger was livid when kennedy decided that a wall was better than a war. and although it must be said that dr. kissinger disagrees with my interpretation on this point, i argue that had he been in the heat of that time, american policy would certainly have been riskier, because it would have involved a showdown over berlin as opposed to what
in effect was a fudge. third, a most compelling piece of evidence. november 1963, as you know, if you recall, there was a coup in vietnam. and the government was badly overthrown. this was a coup that, perhaps unwittingly, kennedy had okayed. it had certainly been okayed through levels of the government in washington. kissinger thought it was a ghastly mistake to intervene in that way, in the politics of saigon. he drafted a statement for nelson rockefeller, whom he was advising, which was never used. but it's worth quoting from. " no american can take pride that our government should have been associated with events leading to the assassination of two leaders with whom we were formerly allied." again, take a breath. this is henry kissinger.
" i do not like our country to be thought of in terms of the cynical use of power. our strength is principle, not manipulative. our historical role has been to identify ourselves with the ideals and deepest hopes of mankind. if we lose this asset, temporary successes will be meaningless." well, i would say i rest my case, except my case is lying there, nearly 1,000 pages of it, with a good deal more supporting evidence. but i hope at least i've made you take seriously that, at least in this early period, in the first half of his life roughly, kissinger was no realist. if i had time and wasn't losing the attention of at least one gentleman on the front row -- you all got up too early. this is the biggest problem in washington, d.c. everybody is up so early, they just are done by 4:30. [laughter] the fourth -- welcome back,
sir. [laughter] the fourth example, if i wanted to give it, would be the great battles that kissinger had over the subsequent unfolding of the vietnam war. and in particular, the escalation of the war of -- the war by lyndon johnson. it actually dated back to 1965. kissinger started visiting vietnam, really to inform himself, but he was trying to advise the then-ambassador, one of the most extraordinary documents in the entire book is the report he wrote back from his first trip to vietnam, a trip which did not involve merely sitting in saigon, as most visitors from the u.s.
intended to, but involves some pretty hair-rising flying around into war zones. this report is devastating as a critique of the way the war was being waged. kissinger concluded that there was absolutely no way the united states would achieve a victory. it would need a diplomatic settlement, 1965. so i promised you a third helping. and the helping i'm going to conclude with is the four lessons of henry i, because i think it's important for us historians to explain to people who don't really feel excited by history that it has lessons that are applicable across time. and i think these four lessons are. i've moved recently from harvard to stanford. i can't tell you how dismissive the giants of silicon valley
are, by and large, of what we do. they are with henry ford. this is bunk. they want to study the future. i spent part of the plane ride, writing a long e-mail to one of the silicon valley kings, trying to explain to him why this was quite dangerous and why ignorance of history has turned this country into the united states of amnesia. i sent him the article that some of you may have seen, that allison and i wrote in the atlantic, earlier this year, arguing that the next president, whoever it is, should appoint a council of historical advisors. after all, the economists haven't really achieved a great deal with their council over the years. but the absence of what i call applied history from the way decisions are taken in this town is a recurrent theme of american history. it's something that kissinger
commented on, in the 1960's, when he complained about the complete lack of historical perspective when he encountered -- that he encountered when he went to washington. this brings me to lesson number one. kissinger argued in an early publication that history is to state what character is to people. it's the key to understanding their motivation, their action. "all states consider themselves as expressions of historical forces." to take a specific example, imagine trying to negotiate with president putin with almost no understanding or knowledge of russian history. if all you have is game theory, don't expect to read a russian president right. so, the first simple insight from the book is that history was kissinger's advantage. the reason that over time he became a more influential figure, and ultimately a
powerful figure, lay in the fact that, unlike most people commenting on american policy issues, he brought history to the table. second lesson of henry i, in foreign policy, most choices, practically all choices, are between evils. there isn't an option b, apple pie, that you get to pick. in nuclear weapons and foreign policy," published in 1957, wrote of the cold war, " we are certain to be confronted with situations of extraordinary ambiguity, such as civil wars and domestic coups. " to write. " there can be no -- once they have occurred, we must find the will to act, in a situation which permits only a choice among evils." and he went on.
"this," choosing between evils, " presupposes, above all, a moral act, a willingness to run risks on partial knowledge and for a less-than-perfect application of one's principles. the insistence on absolute is a prescription for inaction." lesson number three. and to me, the most exciting of the three, of the four. the key problem in decision making is the problem of conjecture. i think it was kissinger who formulated the problem of conjecture first, in a 1963 essay, decision making in the nuclear world." now, no matter how exhausted you are, even if the alarm went off at 5:00, listen carefully to this. no matter what you do in this town, it's relevant to your decision making process. " each political leader has the choice between making the assessment, which requires the least effort, or making an
assessment which requires more effort. if he makes the assessment that requires least effort, then, as time goes on, it may turn out that he was wrong. then he will have to pay a heavy price. if he acts on the basis of a guess, he will never be able to prove that his effort was necessary. he may save himself a great deal of grief later on. if he acts early, he cannot know whether it was necessary. he cannot know whether it was necessary. if you it you may be lucky or he may be unlucky. this is where the key is this inarly to identify the tray, particularly in democratic states. resistance is to kick the can down the road. european politicians specialize in this, but i think it is pretty much what the president
did about syria. to act preemptively is doubly risky. but if you are right, and you leverage disaster, nobody's grateful. we are not grateful for over to disasters. very few people think counterfactual he, to visualize their minds the parallel universe in which things turn out differently. kissinger had one example in mind. one that meant a great deal to him and his family. if democracies had moved against the nazis in 1936, he argued, we wouldn't know today whether hitler was a misunderstood nationalist, whether he had only limited objectives or whether he was in fact the maniac. the democracies learned that he was, in fact, a maniac. they had certainty. but they had to pay for that with a few million lives. the problem of conjecture is all around us. one might say it's precisely the problem that will confront
american voters on november 8. misunderstood nationalist? or a maniac? we don't know. [laughter] >> we can only conjecture. today in this town, there's one institution in particular who likes to make its decisions data-dependent. those of you who are students of monetary policy will know that the data are the answer for the federal reserve. but kissinger is telling us that the data can't give you the answer. the point of decision is now. you can't just wait for the data to come in and give you the answer. you must conjecture. your decision must be based on scenarios about the future that are not data-dependent, cannot be data-dependent, by their very nature.
and if you act, you could expect the wrath of those people who deplore the action you've taken. you will not receive gratitude from those people you save from a worst fate that might otherwise have befallen them. the fourth and final lesson i learned writing this book came from an unpublished manuscript, a biography of bismark that kissinger had written, not quite finished, never published. there was one essay extracted from it, but the rest of the manuscript simply vanished into the boxes that i was privileged to open. this is another of those exciting moments that historians don't generally get enough of. here was an unpublished kissinger book about the central figure, the figure he's most commonly identified. how many times have you read, in journalistic essays that he was the bismark of the united states?
well, i have the evidence. this was to be the second volume of a trilogy. volume one was published, "a world restored." brilliant work, maybe the best thing he ever wrote. volume two was to be the book on bismark. it didn't get finished. and i don't think it was just because worldly things intruded. i think it was because he volume two was to be the book on reached an intellectual impasse as he was writing it. the impasse was that the book is designed to critique bismark, a lack of idealism. its central theme is that one cannot base policy purely on power. let me quote from a passage that was much rewritten and characteristically crossed out and amended. there are very few pages that have been this much agonized over. societies are incapable of the courage of cynicism.
the insistence on societies as forces has always led to a tour de force eroding self-restraint. of course societies operate by approximation, and because they're incapable of fine distinctions, a doctoral of power means may end up by making power an end. the bismark book is an anti-bismark book. but he couldn't finish it, because as he was writing it, he was beginning to realize that only by bismarkian methods could the united states extricate itself from the quagmire that was vietnam. of course, volume two will be heavily concerned with the bismarkian strategy that he and richard nixon devised, with the opening to china in particular but with a great many other
moving parts that they thought could improve the powerless position that the white house was in when they entered in 1969. but let me leave you with what is, in effect, the who done it, at the end of volume 1. there's a mystery that volume 1 resolves. the mystery is why, of all people, richard nixon chose henry kissinger to be his national security advisor. there is a myth, and it is a myth, that this was because of a devious, conniving plot to betray the peace negotiations with north vietnam. there was an entire book written to this effect. it turns out not to be true. the puzzle is that kissinger was far more closely identified with nelson rockefeller than with nixon. he had repeatedly criticized nixon throughout the 1950's and
60's. when nixon reached out to him in 1960, kissinger went to great lengths to avoid even meeting him, claiming that he had a pressing engagement in japan. now, if you want to avoid something, really want to avoid them, that's what you say. you don't say, i've got to be in new york. they only met for the first time in december 1967, at a cocktail party. it was actually in the fifth avenue apartment in new york. and i think it's this occasion that helped supply at least a part of the answer to my who done it. there's one answer to the question, why did nixon pick kissinger that i'm fond of, but i think it's not true. it came from goldman, who was one of henry's longest serving ph.d. students.
he said to me, and i quote, henry was the only thing of nelson's that nixon could afford. [laughter] which you must admit is a good line. but no. it wasn't that. they met. nixon, as you know, was not a socially graceful man. the young kissinger was not particularly socially adept either. and they both had arrived early. fatal mistake in new york. there they were. in the doubtless, rather large room where the cocktail party was being held. and it was nixon who broke the ice. you know what he said to kissinger? "i've read one of your books." thanks very much. [applause]
>> so now we move to the part where we have some exchange and questions from the audience. if we could just lay it out, a few ground rules. please wait until you're called upon. please wait for the microphone. please identify yourself. please use the microphone. and so we can get as many questions in as we can, if you could keep your question on the brief side. we have a hand up in the far back. yes? and here comes the mic. >> i'm a fellow at wilson. you convinced me. so i'd like to ask you now, if you have a challenge, how you move in terms of
explanation and narrative. how do we move from henry, the idealist, to henry, the realist? why? why? was he conscious of it? does he agree with you, or does he see it differently? and when was this shift? >> well, thanks for those questions. i, as i said, will give a tentative answer about volume ii. but as i do it, i'm hoping to illuminate my methods, which may be of interest to a group of historians. i have in my mind, as i'm preparing to write, a structure, a narrative shape. but i'm not wedded to it. and indeed, i'm very careful not to allow it to skew my reading.
it's there as a tool. imagine it, an edifice. it helps me to guide me. i am always ready to jettison it, or at least modify it. that was how american machiavelli got replaced by the idealist. at the moment, i'm still amassing material. this second volume will contain many more documents or at least it will reflect the reading of many more documents than volume one, simply because there's such a vast mountain of stuff. and i'm still adding to it. part of my goal is to see this period from as many vantage points as possible. many books on the subject of u.s. foreign relations rely excessively on the u.s. documents. too few look at multiple governments and use multiple languages. i'm trying my best to achieve a
record number of collections in the book, because i think you can't really understand the policy, certainly of the 1970's, until you've seen it through russian eyes, chinese eyes, vietnamese eyes, but also germany, french, british eyes. i continue to accumulate material and interview. some of you here are already in the aspiring line for interview requests. and then i will sit down about a year from now and begin to work my way through tens of thousands of documents. i think that volume ii will be called "the realm of power." that was my wife's suggestion, after she heard me use the phrase, in the very first talk i gave about the book. she said that's what you should call volume ii, because there he is much less the subject and much more the object.
the working hypothesis i have is that at the moment he enters his new role in the white house, he is not a powerful figure. nixon is the decision maker. the united states is in one hell of a mess, not least because of vietnam. and between the sheer scale of the mess and the relative weakness of his position, he begins to compromise, very early on. to an extent that i think is overlooked, the strategy at the outset is nixon's battle. it's only gradually that it becomes -- many people have back-dated this process. in '69, it's not there. i think the narrative trick is that when the idealist enters the realm of power full-time, then the process of amending,
qualifying, compromising must begin. that's the best answer i can give you. >> we have a gentleman here in the middle, three people in. >> i was formerly with the defense department. formerly a student of henry kissinger. a small anecdote regarding his reluctance to take preemptive action. during the berlin crisis, we were in the lecture hall. there was much agitation amongst students and much concern in the headlines, and on the radio and t.v. and kissinger went on with his scheduled lecture and it was only at the end of the class that a student raised his hand and said, dr. kissinger, what's gonna happen in berlin? and kissinger said we will
proceed with diplomacy and things will go on, and there will be no war, and there will be no crisis. >> very interesting. i'd love to know the exact date he said that. >> i hope you kept a diary. >> it's very welcome, actually. i felt, as i was writing henry i, that i didn't have quite enough former students to testify to his role as a professor. i had some, but i mean, it felt like a kind of small sample. and they were conflicting in their accounts. some praised him as a lecturer. others were more critical of his relative distance from the undergraduates. he did very much what that generation of harvard professors did, and that was to banish regularly -- vanish regularly to washington and new york and appear just in the nick of time
for a lecture, and then vanish again. >> gentleman on the end, right there. >> i'm retired. how unusual is this transition? i mean, most people don't go through life holding one picture. they usually -- there are very few once-born people. isn't it much more common for people to go from heart to brains in a life, that what you're talking about is not very unusual? >> i think that's right. but we are, when we come to read and write history, in some measure, the prisons of literature. you see, literature encourages us to think of characters with internally consistent identities. there's always a certain pressure on the historian to iron out those quirks and inconsistencies. i don't think that history is really a branch of literature at all. because the historical process is more in common with the game -- it's more unpredictable -- than
with the novel. part of what i'm trying to do in writing this biography is to repeat what i did in an earlier book, a biography of a banker, and that is to make clear that human beings are not characters from fiction, that real human beings go through significant evolution and are often capable of believing and acting in contradictory ways. the challenge, if you're writing a biography, is to strike a balance between that realism that shows just how messy life is, and something that is readable. and the expectations of the reader are that it should all make sense. that goes right back to the question at the beginning. how do you make sense of the transition, from idealism to -- i'm going to hesitate about using the word realism, because i'm not sure it's the right word.
but how do you describe the evolution? you're right. this is life. every conservative is a liberal who got mugged by reality at some point. [laughter] >> usually after opening his or her first paycheck and seeing the deductions. but i think in this case, it's the more complex evolution, because kissinger was so clearly aware of the flaws of the doctrine of power as a means of becoming the doctrine of power as an end. for me, there's an interesting, illuminating point that he makes in his early work, when he says that the statesman is ultimately a tragic figure. and this brings the element of literature, perhaps of drama, back into our work as historians. kissinger says the problem of conjecture leads to tragedy, because the statesman who has the vision to see approaching disaster and act preemptively is doomed to be unthanked.
and is therefore bound to have a tragic fate. it's not an accident that the real hero of a world restored... he ends up killing himself, cutting his own throat with his shaving razor. when it is clear that britain is pushing for brexit after the concert of the and at. they did not use that word, but that is essentially what happened. i think it's also important for historians to recognize that it's quite hard to tell the story of someone who really moves quite a long way away from the early philosophical principles. >> gentleman here in the second row. >> jim dixon. it was september 30 of last year that the book came out.
i'd like to ask two simple questions. would you comment on what dr. kissinger thinks of your book? and being 66 years old, how much longer till number two comes out? [laughter] >> thank you, jim. let me take the opportunity to thank you, because you were one of those people who stepped up and read the proofs. you know, we, i think, all need eagle-eyed readers before publications. and when a reader approaches you and says, i enjoyed your book immensely, but i found the going -- the following mistakes on pages 15, 23, 35... you sit up and take notice. you've done this with three of my books? i realized that i had to surrender, and i said, okay, you're reading the proofs of kissinger volume i and ii.
that's an age. publishers only gave me nine. kissinger's relationship with me was bound to be fraught, from the outset. walter isaacson who had written an earlier and i'm sure you would agree more journalistic work, without anything like this documentary foundation, predicted that by the end, we wouldn't be speaking. that there would be a complete rift, whatever i wrote. and i think there were moments when the relationship came close to breaking down, because that commitment to tell the unvarnished truth, as it essentially was, is bound to be problematic for the subject, for a biography. we all have our own version of
the past. we all have things we have buried that we don't want to see exhumed. and i think for dr. kissinger, it was often hard to be confronted by things that he had written or done that he had forgotten about that were not particularly flattering to see on the page. the period after i'd finished it was a period of a very long silence. i had taken the decision -- i'd been through this once before, writing a history of the rothschild family, on the same basic principles. they gave me access to the archives. they had no editorial control. and i had, in that period, sent draft chapters as i wrote them so there wouldn't be a ghastly shock of one finished manuscript. anybody who is working in the
role of -- i don't like the word "authorized" -- but anybody who has access to documents should, i think, take that approach, because there are horror stories, certainly amongst the national historians, and historians of british government department, where the manuscript arrives and it's a shock. and it gets -- it disappears. so i thought in both cases that i would let the draft chapters be read so that there was no huge shock. but even so -- and it was a good strategy, because ultimately you discover that there's just stuff you can't find out from the archives. very important for you to find out that, if you're an archival purist like me. i had toiled and toiled and toiled to understand kissinger's role in the '67 attempts to start negotiations with the vietnamese. he was in paris most of that summer. and i had an elaborate story
line about how this was, and ultimately aborted but a well-intentioned attempt to start peace talks. until, after i finished, i asked nancy kissinger, what do you think henry was really doing in paris in the summer of 1967? then i realized i'd missed something crucial, mainly that she was there and he was having an affair with her that ultimately, years later, culminated in their marriage, an affair he kept completely secret from his children. he was divorced but still wasn't ready to present his children with the relationship. i think seeing the draft chapters was good because it jogged his memory and i got things i wouldn't otherwise have gotten. even so, when he saw the finished version, there was this long, painful silence. it took a while, i think, for him to come round to the view that the revelations of a personal nature, which included
things like letters to teenage girls, which i put in because i thought they were revealing of the young man, that i guess my letters to teenage girls would probably make me cringe if i saw them in print. so there was a long, kind of agonized silence. then i think he came to realize that they were a necessary part of the enterprise, in order to make it clear that the 93-year-old elder statesman was once a teenage refugee, writing love letters. how long will you have to wait? i think one more year research. two years writing. don't, you know, hold me to that. but that's... [laughter] >> that's -- yeah. that's about as fast as it can be done. you look in great shape. and he's 93.
come on. >> i speak as a former kissinger come on. >> i speak as a former kissinger student. at harvard, he ran what was called a defense policy seminar. it wasn't really a seminar at all, because so many people came. it resembled -- we had to move it out of the center into the law school. we, as graduate students, had the impression of henry kissinger as extremely ambitious. every week there would be two star generals and admirals, showing up at the seminar. at that time, there was a sort of power struggle going on over who was going to control the center for international affairs at harvard. the opponent was someone we regarded as having a great deal of honesty and integrity, robert buie. and so our sympathy was on that side. i wonder whether you could just correct my memory or tell me what was really going on. >> well, you're right that there was a battle going on between kissinger and buie.
and there are all sorts of stories to illustrate this. about their refusal to speak to one another. i suppose the surprising thing to me was that that battle began almost immediately. and i don't think it was entirely related to differences over policy. i mean, they did have differences over policy. there was the multi-lateral force argument. but it seems to have started from the outset. i think they were temperamentally incompatible. it was one of these cases of which there are a great many, in the story, when kissinger, the immigrant, pushy, opinioned, rubs out the more established figure the wrong way. i think it was, in some measure, the problem with bundy too.
they had -- and i think -- you can correct me if i'm wrong, but i think it's fair to say they had done an impressive job at harvard of allowing a very large proportion of students and faculty to come from the predominantly jewish immigrant community. in the 20's, there had still been debates about quotas. that had all been set aside by the late 40's and 50's. but i think it would be amazing if there hadn't been some tension between the old harvard and the new, because it was such a rapid change. certainly kissinger's account of how he was treated as an undergraduate suggests that he did not feel much affection for representatives of the old guard.
the relationship was elliott was interesting. i wondered why elliott had become his mentor. why wasn't he a historian? why did he go to government? why did he go to elliott? elliott seems, at least from this distance, some what absurd. a bombastic figure who's written work was inferior in every way. so i tried my best in the book to explain these puzzles about the academic career but i do come back to the famous observation that the reason academic life is so poisonous is that the stakes are so low. that still seems to have a lot of truth in it. it's certainly been my experience. i think one thing someone should always be wary of -- and this is true of oxford and cambridge and harvard, and no doubt yale, the more worldly success an academic has, the more he appears in newspapers or television, the more he consults with people who
are not professors, the more hated he becomes. this is a guaranteed law of academic life. you can be as nice as you like to those pure academics, and they will hate you behind your back. i think henry was a classic in that respect. he had the exactly same experience. taylor was not close to government, he just did it on tv. >> i would like to follow up with a different kind of question and it takes, the point of departure, the subtitle about the idealist. i'm going to venture a guess that many readers and many young readers in particular will, if they read the book not necessarily come to the same conclusion that henry kissinger was an idealist in any form or fashion. you offer a series of quotes today that you amplify in the
book itself with kissinger talking about the need of the united states to go on a spiritual offensive. we need to identify ourselves with the revolution. we must put forth our values to make the case, not just because we're opposed to communism. this seems to be in at least my reading of the book, a talk of the seminar table quality to those claims that kissinger seems to be very unconcerned or even unaware of what's going on in what was called the third world, the nationalist revolutions. these are very -- europe is his main center of attention except when he goes to vietnam. he doesn't seem to grapple with, at least in my reading of the book, nationalism, certainly has little sympathy, the revolt of the world of color against european empire imperialism, this doesn't quite register. and so the world spiritual offensive almost rang hollow.
-- the word spiritual offensive almost rang hollow. what values will you put forward other than the abstraction notions of democracy to which the entire continent of africa doesn't quite sound right given the u.s. role vis-a-vis european empire. so if you could talk about that, the issue there, because i come away with the book just not quite convinced of the idealism that you're putting forth here. he seems a very kind of conventional or at least kind of bounded figure for his time. >> one of the gravest dangers facing any historians is the -- to lapse into anachronistic thinking and -- thinking. we are asked to apply the criteria of 2016 in judging you offer a series of quotes people whose active lives were the 1950's, 60's and 70's, to
say why want he move involved in -- i think it is dangerous to say why wasn't he more involved in black power? it would have been extraordinary if a man with kissinger's background had been involved with the civil rights movement. relatively tiny number of academics of that generation became involved. i found photographs of martin luther king paying a visit to harvard yards in the time when it was maybe when you were studying in the 1960's. this doesn't surface in, it doesn't surface in kissinger's papers that this is happening at all. then i think we need to be as scholars mindful of what was paramount concern of somebody working in a specific field, u.s. foreign policy with a background in european diplomatic history.
that was kissinger's role and in my experience and i think it was true also then, academic to -- stick to their specialty and not expected to comment on anything under the sun. in fact, kissinger was unusual because he was prepared to talk about the third world on tv rather than confine himself to his academic brief. i'm struck more than you are because i'm using the criteria of the time by his rank, by the -- by his range, by the 1950's, he is talking about the third world at considerable length and references a number of countries that are in play. it's not just in vietnam that attracts his attention. more over, i think we must be careful and i think this would be a big part to remind ourselves of the ruthless way in which the soviet were seeking to
expound their influence in what was then called the third world. far too many write books about the diplomacy of the 1960's or 1970's without the soviets featuring. that was one of the surprising things of hitchens 'characterization of kissinger. you wouldn't be aware of the extraordinary things this is covered by jeremy freedman, the soviet, the k.g.b.s and other agencies were up to in the third world. i don't think we should blame our statesman of the cold war for prioritizing the soviet threat. i think it was unusual for kissinger to say our approach is too negative. he was actually talking about latin america in the point that i read to you. he felt that the united states approach to latin america was entirely framed negatively as an anti-communist strategy. the point he is making to wallace is that's not enough. if all we do is negatively resist soviet influence, never
make credible appeal to the people of these countries. i expect that is because you are applying in anachronistic approach. a professor of that era to think and do, yes, kissinger was certainly to the right of the harvard faculty from an early stage. he was seen as unusual even by his close friend arthur schlesinger jr. because he was a republican. being up to the right at harvard is an uncomfortable place today, i suspect even more than it was then and it's not easy to make arguments the privilege power but if someone puts kissinger in the 1964 setting this is the key moment, i think, that reveals the idealist. kissinger goes to the 1964
republican convention and he is utterly appalled by what he has seen, utterly appalled by the goldwater supporters, completely clear about the racial signaling that is coming from the goldwater acceptance speech and he thinks it's like fascism. he writes in his diary, this is terrifying. it's what i saw as a boy in germany. so i think one has to remember what you care about, if you grew up in nazi germany left at the age of 15 and come back in your early 20's and find your entire family, at least a dozen people dead, your priority is the german question, your priority is the totalititarian threat. that's what you care about. you definitely attach lower priorities to the kind of things that we care so much about today.
>> a hand in the front on the aisle. >> my name is dmitri, i don't have an affiliation. dr. ferguson, thank you very much, very interesting, your other books, too. two quick questions, the first one piggybacks off the other one. how does dr. kissinger see himself as a young person, he has never used the word naive to refer to himself, does he think of himself as naive and has never used the word naive to idealistic. and the other question is about the united nations. when you look at his writings, how does he see the united nations as a young person, does he have high hopes for it and how does it change, et cetera, thank you. >> i think it is fair for me to of the that his view book is that it is an accurate account of his young life. there are no major issues, interpretation that he refutes. on the united nations, it's interesting from very early on, he is a skeptic about -- partly
-- about collective security. upon theased partly failure, but it is also because kissinger in writing comes to the view that collective security can never produce real alliances and that alliances are the essential building block of balance of power. it's fascinating to read, it contains a very elaborate and i think profound account of balance of power, a phrase that gets bandied about far too casually in our time, kissinger makes a couple of really important points in the book. one is that it's not spontaneously occurring and that you have to have an active balancer there to achieve equilibrium in any order, european or global. the second point is the balance
needs legitimacy. these are the key ideas of the early work that are still there in the recent book "world order." i think that presupposes that collective security can't really deliver because you live in a world of combinations of powers, of alliances, not in a world of which the entire body of nations will come together and use law to achieve peace. kissinger is always very hostile to that notion that there is a sort of legal solution to the problem of international conflict and in that respect, he is definitely not a wilsonan, given the wilson sense. they're saying that kissinger's later writings were usually critical of wilson, but there is not that much of that explicit
critique in the first part of his life. it's interesting how little he writes about the 1920's and 1930's. the project of kissinger's academic life unfinished was a trilogy that would go from the 1800's to 1914. the problem to be solved in kissinger's mind was not world war ii, it was world war i. so in that sense, very little of the early work is engaged with the project that wilson had so believed in, nor was it second incarnation in the form of the u.n. so i think that's the respect in which the idealist doesn't apply. >> wonderful presentation. you mentioned the polarities of idealism and realism. the other polarities of theory and practice, they're not?
>> i think kissinger would not have as a young man necessarily seen theory and practice as distinct from one another. his complaint was that practitioners, people making decisions in washington, didn't bother with theory and didn't bother with history. the insight that he has early on is that the place is full of lawyers and lawyers by training take each crisis as a separate case and deal with foreign policies in six years of cases. kissinger's point was you can't do that because the international system isn't just a series of litigations. it's actually a system and you have to understand it, it's property.
so i think that the role that he saw himself as playing was the man with the theory and the man with the history who had come to this town full of lawyers and set them straight, i think he was certainly capable of being effective in the situation room because the theory and the history gave him an edge when it came to sizing up the situation. i heard it said by a diplomat who worked with him in 1973, but no one reacted more quickly to the news of the civil war than -- the yom kippur war than kissinger. everybody else was flailing their arms because it came as a surprise. kissinger within seconds understood what the implications were and how to play it. i think that was the advantage, that the theory and the history allowed him quite quickly to size up a crisis, a situation
because it wasn't just an isolated case of him. it was part of an evolving international order. >> your description of kissinger's 1965 memo on vietnam reminds me of the vietnam chapter in roger hillsman's book. he came out of the c.i.a. if you are familiar with it, could you compare and contrast them because the hillsman was profoundly, gives a profoundly negative portrayal of the regime.
>> i haven't read the book, i should confess, but thanks very much for the reference. all i can give you is more flesh on the bone of what i said. the key point to bear in mind, it was pointed out when the book was read is that kissinger never was seeing the world as a counterintelligence agent which was the role he played in the later phase of world war ii. when he reported on the u.s. presence in south korea, he wrote a very professional critique of how the army was performing relative to its world war ii performance. when he got to vietnam, he approached the problem in much the same way. so the critique that he writes in 1965 at the end of his very adventure-filled tour, is that essentially that different government agencies in south vietnam are totally at odds with one another, lack of coherent strategy and are essentially working against one another in
key respects. so it's a critique of the interagency in part but also a critique of the the disconnect between the senior officers and the people of the front line. one of the things that he did which seems impressive to a total coward like me was to go to front line positions and talk to really quite junior people and also to spend a lot of time with c.i.a. people in saigon and elsewhere around the country. it was their testimony that persuaded him it was all going horribly wrong. he starts always with huge skepticism about what the senior military commanders are saying in their briefing. he is really interested, the question he keeps coming back to is, yes, but who is in control
at night and, ok, tell me what's it like here at night? he has a sense of granularity of the war because he served. i think that's what makes the report so striking. he has a sense of granularity of it's very well researched. he really did do his due diligence on how the operation was going. and he also spoke to a great many south vietnamese leaders across the spectrum from government to opposition, buddhists, catholic, and he ends up painting this picture of a war that's already irretrieveable. then he has the problem that nobody wants to read a report saying that back in washington. he is certainly -- the ambassador didn't want anything to do with it. he has to write a toned-down version that will be acceptable to the bureaucracy. the original was devastating.
[inaudible] >> there is no microphone, so some people can't hear you. if you could keep this very brief. we have a few more questions to get to them. >> hillsman describes various americans coming back to washington from visits to vietnam reporting to kennedy and kennedy's comment is did you people go to the same country? >> yes, i think it's also striking that kissinger realizes very quickly that most people who are near the front line have only just arrived. the american habit of rotating people at a high frequency ensures that no local knowledge is built up. this speaks to my interest of how empires succeed or fail.
if you don't build up local knowledge or partnership, six months, bound to fail. it is amazing to read this stuff and realize this all happened again, that nothing was really learned, but certainly not in ways that influence what happened in iraq. an eminent figure in the bush administration, i can say this without draining a confidence did write me an email having read the book saying it was utterly shattering to him to see how much iraq had resembled vietnam when he read kissinger's critique of the vietnam operation. >> i'm a retired foreign service officer. what did you find about kissinger's relationship with kramer? >> this is in some ways the most important relationship of all aside from the relationship to nancy. kramer was the, as i describe it in the book, the -- in
-- the mephistopheles in kissinger's life, this was quite conscious on kramer's part. kramer was the one who spotted kissinger's talent when they were both privates in the u.s. army. kissinger had heard kramer speak and had approached him afterwards and they hit it off. the relationship was very intense in those subsequent months of war. they were together in the battle of the bulge when they're very close indeed to the front line and come under heavy army altill artillery bombardment, he wrote that and it was part of their experiences. they were so close, he would write something from their joint vantage point. i think it's a motif in the book that the relationship with kramer is in some ways the barometer of the idealism
because kramer is the ideal. kramer is the man who has kind of invented himself as the embodiment of prussian conservative values having come from a quite different background, jewish background which he has done his utmost to conceal. it's kramer who sets kissinger on the trail. it's kramer who says to kissinger, you can't go back to city college. you have to go to harvard. kramer is the inspiration for a huge amount of what kissinger subsequently does and retains his influence over him. the letters between the two, particularly at monetary letters that kramer writes, were crucial to the excelment of the story. overtime they become more critical. already in volume one, kramer is warning about the compromises he
made in his associations with rockefeller. there is no question in my mind that in volume two, an absolutely pivotal moment will be the breach when kramer breaks with him. so it's a hugely important part of the story. it's also important because most of the time they continue to correspond in german. most of the time kissinger he -- kissinger is reluctant to use german. he said he would rather speak in english. having been learned as a teenager, but with kramer it's in german until very late on. it's all handwritten and therefore some of the most painful parts of the research were plowing through those. they're terribly, terribly important and revealing. >> another gentleman who has
asked to speak, second row. >> thank you, thomas julian and i teach a course in history of nuclear policy for the air force, primarily from documents and primary sources. i think i may have gotten a bit ahead because i'm fascinated by your comments. would you agree that dr. kissinger decried the lack of historical perspective. to what degree did anything you read reflect his attitude toward the senior officers with whom he dealt in that respective. you have to start with knowledge and what was taught history except that about two decades ago, american history was out of the core curriculum at the academy. what was his perspective on those senior officers for which he associated. >> he hadn't had much to do with
senior officers in his war service or even as a reserve officer. he was a lowly figure. but when he accepted the invitation from the council of foreign relations to act as the, i suppose first minute keeper and then author of the book that became nuclear weapons, when he went to c.f.r., then he came into contact with senior military figures for the first time and quickly had his favorites that he would take considerable knowledge from. so nuclear weapons and foreign policy is kind of an amazing book for a man who specialty was -- whose specialty was the congress of vienna. what it is a book that selects from the different committee ,embers and expert witnesses
the doctrine of limited war was contested at the time, but it was a very big deal in the u.s. military because if the weapons could only be used once in the case of armageddon, that was kind of frustrating. if you had all kinds of different nuclear weapons from tiny to medium size to huge, there was a whole lot more money to ask for. i think he gets sucked into this, this world, perhaps a little unwittingly. nuclear weapons and foreign policy is an extraordinary book because he subsequently breaks with it. not many academics so soon after the publication of the book say you know it's kind of wrong. that's what he did. it's not that he did it because i have come to see that the vision there that you needed a range of different nuclear capabilities, you couldn't have
all or nothing, that insight was correct and became the basis of nato's strategy right down to the end of the cold war. nato's strategy by the 1980's is nuclear weapons and foreign policy. kissinger should never have got cold feet. he did because the book came under such a fierce onslaught. a very interesting case of the dangers of moving out of your field of expertise into one you don't have, which i have done by writing this book. many in this room have spent their lives studying foreign policy. i have not. there is a terrible need to -- four -- first humility when you do that. you are ultimately going to learn from people who always will know more than you. that's how kissinger approached writing the book. he relied heavily on a couple of people whose names of course because i'm tired, i'm forgetting, it's documented in the book, you know much more about it than i do. >> unfortunately, i have to draw this session to a close. i have a feeling that we could
probably go on for many more hours with questions, conversations and discussion. i will tell you that can find a copy of the book outside for purchase, kissinger, 1923-1968, the idealist. you can check it out on your way out. we will be on holiday for the next two mondays, but we'll resume the seminar on october 17 when katherine turk speaks or -- on equality on trial, gender and rights in the modern american workplace. thank you to our participants and thank you to our speaker. [applause] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2016] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org] >> you're watching american
history tv. 48 hours of programming on american history every weekend on c-span3. follow us on information on our schedule, and to keep up with the latest history news. >> after i came up with the idea of reproduction rights, i went and researched. i knew i could find information on that, and that would also find -- help me figure out what it,ts i wanted to say about and how to for my outline for my piece. >> i tried a very methodical approach to this process. you could come if you wanted, but i think with a piece as condensed does this, it is really just a process of reworking and reworking. as i was trying to come up with what my actual scene was, i was doing research at the same time and was coming up with more ideas for what i could film. i came up with an idea and
thought that it would be a great shot. i would think about that, and that would give me an idea of something else to focus on. process is just about building on of the things and scratching what does not work until you finally get what is the finished product. >> this year's theme -- your message to washington, d.c. tell us, what is the most urgent issue for the new president and congress to address in 2017? our competition is open to all middle school and high school students grade 6-12. students can work alone or in a group up to three to produce a 5-7 minute documentary on the topic selected. be0,000 in cash prizes will rewarded and shared between 150 students and 53 teachers. the grand prize of $5,000 will go to the student or team with the best overall entry. the deadline is january 20, 2017.