One million documents and objects that trace the life and career of Henry Kissinger have found a new home at Yale’s Jackson Institute.
The University announced in June that the works of Henry Kissinger, national security adviser and secretary of state to presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford, would lay the foundation for the new Johnson Center for the Study of American Diplomacy, housed in the institute. Before an evening ceremony at the Greenberg Conference Center, Kissinger led an hour-long seminar Wednesday with students from Grand Strategy, a program Kissinger regularly lectures in and which President Richard Levin said influenced the diplomat’s choice to donate his papers to Yale.
In his public remarks, Kissinger advised the 100 professors, Grand Strategy students and World Fellows at the ceremony to use his papers as examples of the “inevitable” issues that will define the United States’ involvement in international affairs in coming decades.
“All the key choices are 51 to 49, and it takes moral and intellectual strength [to pick a course],” Kissinger said of the lessons that can be gleaned from his work.
The Johnson Center will draw on the Kissinger archives and on papers from Henry Stimson 1888, Dean Acheson ’15 and Cyrus Vance ’39 LAW ’42 to encourage scholarship in United States foreign policy, and will bring prominent statesmen to campus as Kissinger Senior Fellows and host Kissinger Visiting Scholars in historical American diplomacy. The papers, which include accounts of meetings with world leaders, memoirs and written sketches of global figures, will be catalogued and moved to the Johnson Center over the next two years, said history professor and Director of the Brady-Johnson Program in Grand Strategy John Gaddis, who introduced Kissinger.
Gaddis said securing funding for the new center — which came from Charles Johnson ’54 and Nicholas Brady ’52 — took only a matter of weeks once donors heard about Kissinger’s decision to donate his works.
“We’re extraordinarily grateful for this gift,” University President Richard Levin said in his remarks at the ceremony, “and we will do all we can as an institution to make sure [the papers] are used as sources of lively conversation and deep scholarship.”
Kissinger said he has not held back any unclassified materials from the collection, save for some personal correspondences. Gaddis added that information related to Kissinger currently housed at the Library of Congress will be digitized for use through Yale’s library’s electronic resources.
“The timeless, transferable aphorisms in [Kissinger’s published memoirs] will be passed down and cherished for generations to come,” Gaddis said.
An immigrant who came to America in 1938 to escape Nazi persecution in Germany, Kissinger served the United States as the 56th secretary of state from 1973 to 1977 and as assistant to the president for national security affairs from 1969 to 1975. He has since held numerous positions, including chairman of the national Bipartisan Commission on Central America under President Ronald Regan and membership in the President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board and the Commission on Integrated Long-Term Strategy.
During the Cold War, he pioneered the policy of détente with the Soviet Union. He also orchestrated the opening of diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China in 1972 and negotiated the Paris Peace Accords, ending U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War.
Despite his accomplishments, Kissinger remains a contreversial figure for some, and critics allege he oversaw the commission of war crimes in Cambodia, Chile and Cyprus.
At age 88, Kissinger continues to advise the U.S. government on foreign policy issues as a member of the Defense Policy Board.
Before the event, Kissinger discussed his latest book, “On China,” with the Grand Strategy students. Kissinger, whom Gaddis called a founding father of the program, delivers a Grand Strategy guest lecture at least once each year.
“We always hear so much about him in class that it’s good to see him in the flesh,” Grand Strategy student Gabriel Perlman ’12 said.
He added that hearing such a prominent American figure speak with a thick German accent was refreshing.
In addition to his involvement with Grand Strategy, Kissinger has other ties to Yale. Kissinger said at the ceremony that he has learned a great deal from Yale scholars such as Gaddis, Paul Kennedy and Donald Kagan over the years, and is also the parent of two Yale College graduates.
Kissinger graduated summa cum laude from Harvard College in 1950 and received a Ph.D. from Harvard in 1954.