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        Popular Beliefs and Misconceptions: The Political Philosophy of Ho Chi Minh and US Foreign Policy | ​Ken Burns & ​Lynn Novick: The Vietnam War

        In this lesson, students will view selected video segments from The Vietnam War that address the brief history of Ho Chi Minh’s political activity.

        Lesson Summary

        In this lesson, students will view selected video segments from The Vietnam War that address the brief history of Ho Chi Minh’s political activity. Then, they will read selections of Ho Chi Minh’s writings. Students will examine Ho’s motivations and goals and compare those with the goals of the United States during the Cold War.

        Period​ ​Covered:​ ​1960-1962

        Learning Objectives

        • Analyze the writings of Ho Chi Minh.
        • Examine Ho Chi Minh’s meaning of the terms communism and nationalism.
        • Summarize Ho Chi Minh’s political views regarding communism and nationalism.
        • Analyze the importance of Ho Chi Minh’s political views to US policy makers.

        Supplies

        Video Clips:

        Student Handout:

        Readings:

        About The Author

        Greg Timmons has been a social studies teacher for over 30 years. He has written lessons for several PBS productions including The NewsHour, FRONTLINE, Black America Since MLK: And Still I Rise; and various Ken Burns productions including The War, Prohibition, The Dust Bowl, Baseball, The Tenth Inning, The Central Park Five, The Roosevelts: An Intimate History, and Jackie Robinson. He is the winner of the 2007 American Educational Publishers Award.

        Learning Activities

        1. After students have viewed the video segments as a full class or in small groups, ask them to describe what they learned from the clip or what surprised them from the clip. Inform students that one of the prevailing questions surrounding Ho Chi Minh at the time was whether Ho was a communist or a nationalist. (Here you might provide definitions for students.) 

        2. Have students work in small research teams to find examples from the provided readings that speak to Ho Chi Minh’s desire for Vietnamese independence and his feelings about communism. Ask students to cite examples from the readings where Ho’s rhetoric aligns with the ideology of nationalism or communism. 

        3. After students have completed their research, review these discussion questions:

        • What do you think was the main message in Ho’s writings and speeches? Is he persuasive? Authentic?
        • Explain whether you feel Ho meant what he said in his writings or if any of it was empty rhetoric for an intended audience.
        • What might have been the relationship between communism and nationalism in Ho’s mind? Was communism a means to achieve nationalism or the other way around? What was the appeal of either ideology for Ho and the Vietnamese?
        • How does Ho’s political ideology compare with Vladimir Lenin or Mao Zedong?
        • From your research, how would you summarize Ho Chi Minh’s political views? Do you think he leaned more toward communism or nationalism? Explain. Do you think it’s possible (or fair) to label Ho as one or the other? Explain.
        • Why would it matter to American policy makers whether Ho was a communist or a nationalist? How might their preference for one or the other ideology affect their policy making toward Vietnam?

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