About the National Archives

Welcome Remarks for "Vietnam: Lessons Learned and Lessons Ignored"

Good evening. I’m David Ferriero, Archivist of the United States, and I’m pleased to welcome you to the William G. McGowan Theater at the National Archives. I’m glad you could be with us, whether you’re here in the theater or joining us on YouTube.

We are pleased to present this discussion of “Vietnam: Lessons Learned and Lessons Ignored” with the U.S. Association of Former Members of Congress, and we thank them for their support.

Before we get started, I’d like to let you know about two programs coming up soon in this theater.

On Wednesday, November 29, at noon, historian Edward L. Ayers will discuss his new book, The Thin Light of Freedom: The Civil War and Emancipation in the Heart of America. Ayers retells the story of the Civil War by focusing on two counties, one in Virginia and one in Pennsylvania.

And on Thursday, December 7, at 7 p.m., we present “Conflict Journalism in South East Asia.” a panel discussion on the role of the television journalist during the Vietnam War, and how it influenced subsequent conflicts. Participating on the panel will be journalist and former anchor of Nightline Ted Koppel.

To learn more about these and all of our public programs and exhibits, consult our monthly Calendar of Events online at Archives.gov. Check our website or sign up to get email updates. You’ll also find information about other National Archives programs and activities.

Another way to get more involved with the National Archives is to become a member of the National Archives Foundation. The Foundation supports the work of the agency, especially its education and outreach programs. Pick up your application for membership in the lobby or become a member online at archivesfoundation.org.


Now I ask all Vietnam veterans or any United States veterans who served on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces at any time during the period of November 1, 1955, to May 15, 1975, to stand and be recognized.

Veterans, as you exit the McGowan Theater after today’s program, National Archives staff and volunteers will present each of you with the Vietnam Veteran Lapel Pin. On the back of the pin is embossed:

“A Grateful Nation Thanks and Honors You.”

The United States of America Vietnam War Commemoration is a national initiative, and the lapel pin is the nation’s lasting memento of thanks.


Tonight’s program is one in a series of events we are presenting in conjunction with our new exhibit, “Remembering Vietnam,” which just opened in the Lawrence F. O’Brien Gallery upstairs.

The exhibit is a media-rich exploration of the Vietnam War, featuring historic analysis as well as interviews with American and Vietnamese veterans and civilians with first-hand experience of the war’s events. It is a fascinating collection of newly discovered and iconic original documents, images, film footage, and artifacts that illuminate 12 critical episodes in the war that divided the peoples of both the United States and Vietnam.

“Remembering Vietnam” draws on National Archives records from all parts of our agency—federal civilian and military records, Presidential libraries, still photography and motion pictures, sound recordings, and electronic records.

I encourage you all to walk through the exhibit—if not today, then another time in the coming year.

The title of the exhibit, “Remembering Vietnam,” was inspired by a line in a book by Viet Thanh Nguyen: “all wars are fought twice, the first time on the battlefield, the second time in memory.” Historical records, such as the documents and artifacts we display in the gallery, help us sort through the lessons of war, but those lessons are also formed by memory. I look forward to a stimulating discussion among our panelists.

It is now my pleasure to welcome Peter Weichlein to the stage.

Since 2003, he has served as the Chief Executive Officer of the U.S. Association of Former Members of Congress, which celebrates bipartisanship and a collaborative approach to legislating, and reconnects citizens with their representative governments. He plans and directs all policies, objectives, and initiatives for the Association, represents FMC in the community, and serves as its spokesperson to the public, the media and Congress. Mr. Weichlein holds two bachelor of arts degrees from the Pennsylvania State University. He attended law school at the Freie Universität in Berlin, Germany, and completed his legal studies in Washington, DC, at the Catholic University of America, Columbus School of Law. 

Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Peter Weichlein.