Reinhold Niebuhr Timeline: Opposes Vietnam War

Reinhold Niebuhr Timeline: Opposes Vietnam War

Selected Correspondence on the Vietnam War


March 7, 1966

Dear Reinie:

What a delight it was for Muriel and me to visit with the Niebuhrs before the 25th anniversary banquet
of Christianity and Crisis. That indefatigable Niebuhr spirit and energy were so much in evidence that it gave me the extra kick I needed to do my best at the banquet.

Attached is the verbatim transcript of my remarks. I hope they did justice to your truly remarkable contributions to American political thought, and also presented in an honest and objective way the reasons for current U.S. policy in Southeast Asia.

I understand, of course, that there are differences on this matter, but these are surely differences over means, not ends, and these are differences which cannot do any-thing to alter the great affection, respect and admiration I feel for you.

I hope we can drop in and see you again soon. It was just like old times.

My best to the Niebuhr family.

Hubert H. Humphrey
Hubert H. Humphrey


July 29th

Dear Will:

I am glad you read the Humphrey speech which he did not deliver. And I am glad that he repudiated the LBJ policies In Viet Nam. Yet there are many who contend that he is stuck with the policy, both because he must run on the administration record and because he committed himself so much. I wrote HHH and said I would not support McCarthy. But, despite long friendship I would support Rockefeller if he was nominated because only a new tram would be able to defy the military brass, which had gotten us in this mess.

You are right, we miss our friends and now we are the last roses of summer. I thank God for you; and I look forward to that visit in October.

With love
from all of us,

Yours ever


May 14

Dear Will:

Glad you liked my new book. It was written in the five years since I had a visiting professorship at Harvard. So I was not spoofing when I said I was no longer writing.

Tonight our new President will explain to us why we have "Nixon's War" instead of "Johnson's war." Our boys are losing their lives just the same. Ridiculous. I am depressed because the student fever has now engulfed our old Seminary. The boys sure gong to force the trustees to pay one hundred thousand "Reparations". Which negro families will receive this reparation, and for what necessity? And which trustees will regard paying thousands of reparations under student threats As an act of justice? These YOUNGSTERS have all been going crazy. I have an old man's peeve against the new generation.

We rejoice that Mrs. Burrington is back with us. Ursula's health is approaching exhaustion through sheer overwork. You do not report on your health. I hope that is good news.

We all send affectionate regards; and the hope of a visit from you. You say "Not too long" We hope some time in the near future.

With much love your ever,

Reinhold Niebuhr Papers: Library of Congress, Manuscript Reading Room

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Paul Elie

is senior editor at Farrar, Straus and Giroux and author of The Life You Save May Be Your Own: An American Pilgrimage.

Jean Bethke Elshtain

is an author and Laura Spelman Rockefeller Professor of Social and Political Ethics at the University of Chicago Divinity School.

Robin Lovin

is Cary M. Maguire University Professor of Ethics at the Perkins School of Theology at Southern Methodist University, and the author of Reinhold Niebuhr and Christian Realism.