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The Student News Site of Great Neck North High School

Guide Post

The Student News Site of Great Neck North High School

Guide Post

The Life and Legacy of Henry Alfred Kissinger

Henry A. Kissinger, political scientist, geopolitical consultant, and United States Secretary of State of the Nixon and Ford administration, recently passed in his home in Kent, Conn. He was 100.

Henry A. Kissinger, a German-American diplomat and political scientist who was an influential secretary of state in the postwar era and played a prominent role in U.S. foreign policy died on Nov. 29 at the age of 100.

Henry Kissinger in 1979 (Credit: Neil Leifer/Sports Illustrated).

As CNN stated, “[Kissinger’s] life was as improbable as it was consequential.” Kissinger had relatives were killed in the Holocaust and experienced anti-Semitic attacks himself.

During his swearing-in as secretary of state, Kissinger said, “There is no country in the world where it is conceivable that a man of my origin could be standing here next to the president of the United States.”

Kissinger was born on May 27, 1923, in Fürth, Germany. Kissinger immigrated to the United States in 1938 as a Jewish refugee fleeing Nazi persecution. He then served in the U.S. Army during World War II. After the war, Kissinger was educated at Harvard University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in 1950 and a Ph.D. in political science in 1954. Kissinger then taught at Harvard University and became a well-known scholar in international relations. He wrote extensively on foreign policy and military strategy, such as On China, Years of Renewal, and World Order.

Sophomore Ethan Lam said, “Through hard work and motivation, Henry Kissinger sculpted a promising future for himself from nothing.”

Kissinger developed a realist perspective on international relations, emphasizing the role of power, national interest, and the balance among states. Having witnessed the horrors of Nazi Germany, he became deeply skeptical of idealistic approaches to foreign policy and believed in the pragmatic pursuit of national interests.

Kissinger served as the National Security Advisor to President Richard Nixon from 1969 to 1975. In this role, he played a crucial part in shaping U.S. foreign policy, particularly regarding the Vietnam War and the opening of diplomatic relations with China.

“It’s really important to foster a connection between China and the United States, which are the major world powers in today’s age,” junior James Zhou said.

Kissinger meeting with top Chinese officials in July (Credit: Jason Lee).

For decades, Kissinger remained the country’s most important voice in managing China’s rise and the economic, military, and technological challenges this posed. He was notably the only American to deal with every Chinese leader from Mao to Xi Jinping. This July, he met Jinping and other Chinese leaders in Beijing.

In 1973, Kissinger became the Secretary of State under President Nixon and continued in that role when Gerald Ford became president later that year. He played a crucial role in the negotiations leading to the end of the Vietnam War and was involved in the strategic arms limitation talks with the Soviet Union.

On Dec. 10, 1973, Kissinger was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for negotiating a ceasefire during the Vietnam War contained in the Paris Peace Accords on “Ending the War and Restoring Peace in Vietnam.” However, the award was controversial, as some criticized his involvement in the war.

Kissinger points during a press conference after the signing of the Vietnam Peace Accords (Credit: AFP via Getty Images).

The controversy surrounding Henry Kissinger’s Nobel Peace Prize in 1973 stems from the fact that although he made efforts to negotiate a ceasefire during the Vietnam War, he was seen by some as a key architect of U.S. foreign policy decisions that escalated and prolonged the conflict. The war had been a deeply divisive issue in the United States, and Kissinger’s role in shaping the Nixon administration’s policies attracted both praise and condemnation.

Critics argued that Kissinger was instrumental in expanding the war into Cambodia and Laos, leading to an increase in civilian casualties and the destabilization of those countries. The secret bombing campaign in Cambodia, Operation Menu, and the expansion of military operations in the region drew significant criticism due to its secrecy and impact on civilians.

Henry Kissinger’s legacy is marked by both praise for his diplomatic efforts, particularly in the context of the Cold War, and intense criticism for his involvement in controversial policies and actions, specifically regarding the Vietnam War and American support for authoritarian regimes in various parts of the world.

Kissinger’s approach to international relations was deeply influenced by his experiences in Nazi Germany during World War II and his observations of the power dynamics among nations. He believed that nations should prioritize their interests and maintain a balance of power to prevent conflicts and maintain stability in the international system.

“Henry Kissinger was a connection to an earlier time,” junior Adam Smulovics said. “He is the defining player in 1970s foreign policy, and an authoritative advisor for the last 50 years.”

Despite criticism from some quarters, Kissinger’s ideas continue to influence foreign policy debates and discussions today.

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About the Contributor
Ashley Dong
Ashley Dong, Associate Editor
Ashley Dong is one of Guide Post’s associate editors. She is the president of the junior class and loves public speaking. She is also the captain of her club volleyball team and enjoys cooking, baking, reading the New York Times and eating mangoes.

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