Henry Comes Home

By Ferguson, Niall | Newsweek, April 30, 2012 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Henry Comes Home

Ferguson, Niall, Newsweek

Byline: Niall Ferguson

Kissinger returns to Harvard--and America turns a corner.

A successful college graduate is, as a general rule, loved by his alma mater. The more prominent he becomes, the more phone calls he receives. If he really makes the big time, there are invitations to host grand dinners, receive honorary degrees, give commencement addresses ... and of course, bestow his name on this or that chair or building (as well as on a very large check).

There are, however, a few painful exceptions to this rule. No graduate of Oxford University did more to restore Britain's postwar economic fortunes than Margaret Thatcher. Yet in 1985 Oxford dons voted against giving the then-prime minister an honorary doctorate degree, an unprecedented snub.

There was a similar-though if anything more bitter-rift between Henry Kissinger and his alma mater, Harvard. But last week, after decades of estrangement, Kissinger returned to the university where he studied and taught. It was an emotional occasion. It was also a fascinating sign of how liberal America is changing.

Full disclosure: I am writing Henry Kissinger's biography. I also happen to teach at Harvard, as he did between 1954 and 1969. And, having been an undergraduate at Oxford when Thatcher was denied her degree, I have long believed that universities should show respect to alums who attain high office, regardless of political disagreements.

In the 1970s and '80s that was not a fashionable view. Back then, liberal academics took pride in repudiating their most successful conservative alumni because they disagreed with their policies. In the case of Oxford, it was Thatcher's cuts in university funding. In the case of Harvard, it was the war in Vietnam. On May 8, 1970, shortly after U.S. forces invaded neighboring Cambodia, a deputation of Kissinger's former colleagues--among them the economist Thomas Schelling--visited Kissinger in Washington.

Kissinger welcomed his "good friends from Harvard University." "No," retorted Schelling, "we're a group of people who have completely lost confidence in the ability of the White House to conduct our foreign policy, and we have come to tell you so." It was the beginning of a schism that would endure for 42 years.

Books like the late Christopher Hitchens's The Trial of Henry Kissinger have perpetuated the notion that the foreign policy of the Nixon administration was uniquely wicked.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this article

Cited article

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

Henry Comes Home


Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?