The American Vision Modern Times © 2010
A Time of Upheaval, 1954-1980
Historical Thinking Activities
Assignment: Analyzing Positions on the Vietnam War
The Vietnam War bitterly divided the nation when it was fought and for many years afterwards. Supporters and opponents differed on the war in multiple ways—this was one reason the debate created so much anger and hostility. Issues being argued included: whether a communist government in Vietnam threatened the United States; whether communism was necessarily a bad political system for Vietnam; whether American intervention was justified; whether the war could be won; whether specific tactics, like bombing, were moral or effective.
In their speeches and written documents on Vietnam, public figures often mingled arguments. When you analyze primary sources that of meant to persuade, it is important to scrutinize them closely and separate them logically—you want to break each argument to its simplest component. This is what you will do with the sources below before you write up your analysis of 1) how persuasive the speakers or writers are; and 2) how well they are answering each other's arguments.
Assignment Task List
Step 1: Review how to analyze primary and secondary sources. Remember it is always useful to the historian to know two things about a source: biographical information on the author, and what was happening at the time it was written or produced.
Step 2: Review your textbook's material on the Vietnam War to remind yourself of the general course of the war and of public opinion.
Step 3: Read all of the primary sources below, researching the author where necessary. The sites for each are listed in order.
President Lyndon Johnson's Address at Johns Hopkins University, 1967:
Ho Chi Minh letter to President Lyndon Baines Johnson, 1967:
A letter from Clark Clifford to President Johnson, 1965:
A Time magazine report on a 1965 debate at Georgetown University:
Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum
President Lyndon Johnson's Address at Johns Hopkins University, 1967
CNN Interactive: Vietnam
1967 Letter Exchange between Lyndon Baines Johnson and Ho Chi Minh
George Washington University, National Security Archive
Letter from Clark Clifford to President Johnson, 1965
Time: The Debate
Time magazine's report on a 1965 debate at Georgetown University
Step 4: For each source, list the different arguments being made. There could be only one argument, but there might well be more than one (Someone could for example, say the war is too expensive and the war costs too many American lives – that is two arguments.)
Step 5: Compare your lists to see whether the arguments are on different issues or the same issue (just taking an opposite point-of-view).
Step 6: Write up a report on your comparison. In your report, answer these questions: Were the people addressing the same issues? Did you find one or another speaker or writer more persuasive? Why?
|A well-written report will:|
|•||include an introduction about the different points of view|
|•||answer the guidelines descrribed in Step 4|
|•||use correct grammar and spelling|