Stephen M. Walt on Henry Kissinger’s visit to Harvard

What Henry told Harvard
Foreign Policy, “A Realist in an Ideological Age” blog
April 12, 2012
Commentary by: Stephen M. Walt, member of the Belfer Center Board of Directors and Harvard Kennedy School’s Robert and Renée Belfer Professor of International Affairs
Topic: Henry Kissinger’s visit to Harvard 

“The big event at Harvard yesterday was ‘A Conversation with Henry Kissinger’ at Sanders Theater. The event featured the 89-year old statesman reflecting on his time at Harvard, his career in government, and the future relationship between the United States and China, along with several other topics. He was joined in the discussion by my colleagues Graham Allison (who moderated) and Joseph Nye, and by Jessica Blankshain, a graduate student from the Department of Government.

I won’t try to summarize the whole conversation, but instead merely highlight a couple of moments that I found especially interesting. First, at one point Kissinger said he thought the best academic preparation for government service was training in philosophy, political theory, and history. In particular, he argued that training in political theory taught you how to think in a disciplined and rigorous manner, and knowledge of history was essential for grasping the broader political context in which decisions must be made. It was clear that he also sees a grounding in history as essential for understanding how different people see the world, and also for knowing something about the limits of the possible.”

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