This Week in Amherst History

It was a sensitive time, 31 years ago this week, when Dolf Droge, a member of Henry Kissinger’s Vietnam unit and a staff member of the National Security Council, came to Amherst College to discuss the situation in Vietnam. The chaos and unrest of this era was evident in the student body’s response to the Droge talk.

“Droge spoke with persistence through comments and questions shouted at him, repeating the beginnings of sentences until the voices were silenced,” reported The Student.

Throughout the discussion, Droge defended ‘Vietnamization,’ much to the chagrin of the students, but also attempted to provide insight on the complexity of the war. He addressed Americans’ obligation to consider both sides of the conflict and he insisted that one could be neither fully in support or fully against the war; rather, one should make educated and watchful decisions.

“You can’t be a hawk or a dove,” Droge said. “You must be an owl.” A speech given by President Nixon addressing the nation was broadcast in Johnson Chapel, interrupting the talk. Thereafter, the student audience grew more hostile and “Droge … was visibly more nervous as the questioners became more emotional,” The Student reported. The students’ response to the talk culminated when two tomatoes were thrown towards Droge. Droge did, nonetheless, provide “a final, noble concession” according to The Student, by stating, “we have wasted lives-Vietnamese and American.”