JOHN F. KERRY, VIETNAM VETERANS AGAINST THE WAR, SPEECH BEFORE THE U.S. SENATE COMMITTEE ON FOREIGN RELATIONS (22 April 1971): TEACHING AND LEARNING MATERIALS

 

Classroom Activities

 

A. Discuss the extent to which questions of authenticity are central to contemporary politics in the United States today. Do you believe such questions should be a key component of political campaigns and a candidate's political image?

 

B. Develop classroom debates over the following propositions:

Resolved: Unquestioned loyalty to the nation during times of war is necessary to the United States.

Resolved: Anti-war protests are a marker of patriotism.

 

C. Identify the criteria for legitimate war-time protests in the United States while also considering when conditions make such protests damaging to the national interests.

 

D. Discuss the ethics of the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth advertisements during the 2004 presidential election. Also, discuss the ethics of John Kerry's decision to protest a war that he fought in while his fellow soldiers were still fighting that war.

 

E. Does the credibility of a protester impact decisions about a protest's legitimacy? Should veterans protest a war that they fought in? Should members of Congress lead and participate in anti-war protests? Do some people have more legitimacy to protest than others (e.g., veterans, family members of soldiers)?

 

F. Discuss how important it is for presidents to have military experience to serve as the commander-in-chief in the post-September 11 era.

 

Student Research

 

A. As a free lance writer in 1969, Seymour Hersh's wrote a series of articles on the My Lai incident. His articles were picked up by various newspapers around the country. Using the New York Times index, locate one of his stories on My Lai. Then, compare the arguments that he made about My Lai to the arguments that he made in exposing U.S. prison atrocities at Abu Ghraib as a journalist for the New Yorker. What are the similarities and differences in the arguments and his language use in exposing the atrocities at My Lai compared to his expositions on Abu Ghraib?

 

B. Compare the media coverage of the atrocities in My Lai during the late 1960s and early 1970s to the media coverage of Abu Ghraib at the early 2000s. What are the similarities and differences in the media coverage?

 

C. Discuss the relationship between the U.S. news media and presidential administrations. Is the U.S. news media too dependent on the U.S. government for information such that journalists lose their independent status as the so called "fourth estate?" Or, do you think that the U.S. news media exhibit minimal allegiance and respect for the presidents, exhibiting a lack of patriotic commitment? Ensure that you provide credible evidence for your position by either identifying an example that you uncovered through your research of the subject. Or, provide evidence based on books written by those who are familiar with the relationship between governmental officials and the U.S. news media.

 

D. Conduct a Lexis-Nexis search for the term "authenticity" in relation to the 2004 political election to determine how the term is used in relation to political candidates like Senator John F. Kerry and President George W. Bush as well as other candidates vying for political office during that election. Pay close attention to the ways in which the term is used in these political contexts. Whose authenticity is more likely to be challenged? Which candidates are assumed to be the most authentic? What appear to be the criteria used in discerning a candidate's authenticity?

 

E. Conduct an Internet search to determine to what extent veterans of more recent wars since Vietnam have returned from war to mobilize protests against the war, to create organizations that challenge the appropriateness of the war, or to raise awareness of the troubling conditions in which they fought.

 

F. Read President George Washington's Farewell Address (1796) as he prepared to leave the presidency. Identify the ways in which his arguments in this famous speech inform the debate about the appropriateness of internal dissension over U.S. involvement in a war that is still being waged.

 

G. Read President Richard M. Nixon's November 3, 1969 address (also known as the Vietnamization speech) to determine how his portrayal of the "silent majority" is reflective in the administration's response to the Vietnam Veterans Against the War.

 

Citizenship Resources

 

A. Do an Internet search for groups that oppose war (e.g., U.S.-Iraq war). Identify the strategies of protest, the primary arguments against war, the means by which the leadership establishes the group's credibility on the issue, and the ways in which the leaders grapple with questions about the patriotism of the organization.

 

B. Do an Internet search for groups that support war or U.S. soldiers who are involved in a war (e.g., U.S.-Iraq War). Identify the strategies of support, the primary arguments in favor of war and its soldiers, the means by which the leadership establishes the group's credibility on the issue, and the ways in which the leaders grapple with the ravages of war and a rising death toll.

 

C. Locate the Internet sites of your senators and representatives in the U.S. Congress to identify their positions on existing wars that either the United States is currently fighting (e.g., Iraq, Afghanistan) or that are taking place throughout other parts of the world. How do they justify their positions? Is the issue a key component of their issue page?

 

D. Some believe that the United States is founded upon notions of individualism, which is one of the highest order values in the nation's history. Others, however, believe that patriotism and a commitment to the collective is more powerful than the belief in individualism. Others recognize the importance of both values to the nation's core values, which at times, can exhibit contradictory logic. Take a position on this issue and provide support for your views based on a contemporary example.

 

E. Conduct an Internet search and try to identify the policies for public protest in your city. Also, see if you can identify such policies within other larger cities of your state or the nation's capitalóWashington, D.C. Where are protests allowed? What permits are required before protests can occur? Who makes decisions about such protests? What are the potential penalties if such rules are violated?

 

F. Review the web site of an archival depository like the Library of Congress, the National Archives, a presidential library, or a state historical society and identify the ways that such sites provide resources for research projects related to the study of public discourse.

 

G. Some believe that it is not appropriate for the private workings of presidential administrations to become public because it can negatively affect how other people throughout the world view the United States (i.e., the Nixon administration's attempts to undermine VVAW protests). As a result, there is an effort underway to limit the amount of presidential materials that can be opened for public review. Locate a scholarly essay or news article that addresses this subject and then be prepared to discuss whether the openness of such archival material is an important component of citizen engagement and education.

 

H. By conducting an Internet search, identify the processes by which U.S. citizens can submit a Freedom of Information Request to review previously classified material at various archival sites across the country. How have such requests changed over the course of time? Has the process been altered since September 11, 2001?