Gordon Goldstein ’82 Discusses Vietnam War

Gordon Goldstein ’82 returned to campus on Wednesday for a special Head’s Table dinner and a reception at the Andover Inn, sponsored by the Andover Ethics Society. Goldstein, who was an Associate News Editor for The Phillipian, is a former New York Times reporter. In 2000, he was also a member of the United Nations Strategic Planning Unit, where he helped then-Secretary-General of the United Nations Kofi Annan to plan for the future of the United Nations. Goldstein released a book titled “Lessons in Disaster: McGeorge Bundy and the Path to Vietnam” in November 2008. Bundy served as a Special Assistant for National Security Affairs during the John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson administrations. Goldstein said Bundy was a central player in the Vietnam War, “arguably the biggest mistake in the U.S. foreign policy history.” In 1995, Bundy began collaborating with Goldstein to write a book about the Vietnam War and addressed questions about the origins of and motivations behind the war. “[Bundy] was still questioning how it really happened even though he was there for all the key decisions,” said Goldstein. Having collaborated on the book for over 18 months, Bundy died six days after his final meeting with Goldstein. “[Bundy] died before the book was finished. [After his death,] I worked for over five years to create a book that captured the essence of our collaborations,” said Goldstein. During dinner, Goldstein also discussed the differences between Kennedy and Johnson as presidents, especially in relation to the Vietnam War. “Kennedy was a more cool and dispassionate decision maker: he stood his ground even when his political survival depended on it. He had the strength and foresight to see that the U.S. couldn’t win the Vietnam War,” said Goldstein. “Johnson was full of theatrics. He was a man who pulled himself up politically by the bootstraps,” he continued. While Kennedy emphasized noninvolvement of U.S. troops in the Vietnam War, after Kennedy’s assassination, Johnson deployed 175,000 soldiers into Vietnam, said Goldstein. During the dinner and reception, Goldstein spoke about his experience as an Andover student. “Being at Andover was an opportunity to be exposed to an enormously high standard of performance,” said Goldstein. “Nothing after Andover was ever quite as demanding.” “Andover remains one of the greatest institutions I am connected to. The friendships formed here last forever,” he added. To demonstrate his point, Goldstein said that his friend of 27 years, Pierre Valette ’82, was in attendance at the reception. Goldstein said that Literature of the Quest taught by the Reverend Philip Zaeder, a former Protestant Chaplain at Andover was especially formative during his Andover experience. “It was a phenomenal class taught by a phenomenal teacher. The life issues we discussed were as resonant today as they were when I was a 17-year-old,” said Goldstein. As a Lower, Goldstein took classes taught by Vincent Avery and Tom Hodgson, Instructors in Religion and Philosophy. Both were present at the dinner and reception. Avery, faculty advisor to AES, said, “It’s a little bit amusing. Students are just beginning to develop themselves here and we often don’t get to see the results after thirty years of growth. He was a good student, and he put these qualities into good use.”