409. Memorandum From the President’s Special Assistant (Rostow) to President Johnson 1


  • Ambassador Goldberg’s Speech at Howard University

I have2 read the draft of Ambassador Goldberg’s speech. It is a thoughtful and dispassionate analysis of our attitude toward settling the Vietnam war and of Hanoi’s publicly stated positions. It is not, as stated on page 3, an assessment of “the present status and prospects of our efforts for peace.” It does not get into any recent diplomatic moves. Nor does it try to measure what the chances of peace are.

It deals more gently than I would with Hanoi’s equating of our bombing and their willingness, perhaps, to talk (see page 14). I believe the analysis used may leave some of his listeners thinking that Hanoi’s position is not so unreasonable.

The formulation (on page 15) might be strengthened. He says we would stop bombing if Hanoi assured us a “tangible response toward peace.” Some people might well consider the starting of negotiations as that kind of response. Perhaps it should be something like “a corresponding action to limit the conflict.”

On page 16, he mentions our points, Hanoi’s points, and the Liberation Front’s points. He should note that the Government of South Vietnam will undoubtedly have points it will wish to discuss.

The discussion of the Liberation Front is weak. The main argument used to question its role is that it did not exist in 1954 when the Geneva Accords were reached. He really ought to point out with more emphasis that the Front speaks for only a limited number of the people of South Vietnam, as the dismal failures of its efforts to launch general strikes and disrupt elections have demonstrated so clearly.

In conclusion, I do not think this address will raise any particular problems as far as present efforts to achieve peace are concerned. I doubt it will raise any trouble in the public affairs area. But it is a lot softer on Hanoi than I would be.

[Page 888]

P.S. I have made these points available to Sect. Rusk who will review the speech tomorrow A.M.3

  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Agency File, United Nations, Vol. 6. Confidential. This memorandum was included in the President’s night reading.
  2. Rostow crossed out “I have” and replaced with the handwritten annotation “Bill Jorden and I have.”
  3. Rostow added the P.S. by hand. Goldberg delivered the speech February 10; see footnote 3, Document 410.