Veteran faculty member recalls Vietnam era
Adam Llorens | Thursday, November 10, 2011
As the United States celebrates Veterans Day today, Peace Studies professor and 1968 alumnus David Cortright said he will remember his unique experience as a Vietnam-era soldier actively involved in the anti-war movement.
“I became strongly opposed to the war effort while I was in the Army,” Cortright said. “I came to believe the Vietnam War was unjust, which brought me to a crisis of conscience.”
While Cortright was never deployed to Vietnam and instead remained stationed in the United States from 1968-1971, he was far from inactive during the war.
“I joined the underground anti-war movement while inside the Army, which was called the GI Peace Movement,” Cortright said. “I organized soldiers, as there was an active opposition to the war even among those inside the military.”
Cortright said the movement gave him a sense of purpose while he served.
“I found my involvement in the GI Peace Movement to be personally liberating and fulfilling,” Cortright said. “It gave me a sense that I was doing something that was necessary and I felt like I was serving my country more nobly by speaking out against an unjust war, rather than remaining silent about something that I felt was wrong.”
Cortright said his experience in the Army during the war inspired him to study public policy.
“Once I began to speak out against the war and learned more about the nature of militarism and the need to work for peace, I decided to dedicate my life to it,” he said.
He completed his doctoral studies in 1975 at the Union Institute in residence at the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington, D.C., where he received a Ph.D. in History.
“My dissertation was on the U.S. military during the Vietnam War, especially on the anti-war sentiment within the military in those days,” Cortright said.
Cortright returned to his alma mater in 1989 as a professor at the Kroc Institute for Peace Studies. Today, he is the director for Policy Studies at the institute.
Cortright said his experience as a soldier during the war enables him to bring a unique perspective to his teaching and research.
“I made some of the most important decisions of my life during the Vietnam War,” Cortright said. “It has shaped my passions as I search for the truth in a profound and distinct way.”