In this lesson, students will view video segments from The Vietnam War detailing the behind-the-scenes maneuvering of the Johnson administration and presidential candidate Richard Nixon related to the peace talks with North Vietnam prior to the election of 1968.
One to two class periods.
- Explore taped conversations and other primary and secondary source materials for analyzing Nixon’s and Johnson’s campaign strategies related to the Vietnam War.
- Formulate an argument to defend whether Nixon was guilty of interfering with the presidential election and whether that interference had an impact on the peace talks.
Use the link below to listen to more taped conversation between President Johnson and Everett Dirksen. This 4:37 tape does include some edits (portions not included). It is particularly helpful in that it includes a rolling transcript so that students can read the text as the tape is played.
About The Authors
Susan Tomlinson teaches U.S. History and Sociology at Franklin Central High School in Indianapolis. She has developed lesson plans for the Indiana Historical Society and the Indiana War Memorials Museums and has field tested lessons and reviewed curriculum for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund. She is a Past President of the Indiana Council for the Social Studies.
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.
Teachers will introduce this lesson as a study of Republican candidate Richard Nixon’s interference in the 1968 presidential election. South Vietnam President Thieu was advised, through messages from Anna Chennault (guided by Nixon), that if Thieu would postpone South Vietnam’s involvement in peace talks in Paris until after the 1968 election, a Nixon White House would provide better terms. This communication was suspected to have taken place for years, but only recently have released tapes and documents substantiated the claim.
(Note: Anna Chennault was a Republican party supporter and Nixon campaign fundraiser with connections throughout Asia. Born in China, she married General Claire Chennault, a US World War II hero and leader of the Flying Tigers. She was a supporter of Taiwan and Chiang Kai-shek.)
- Distribute copies of Activity 1: Video Segment Questions and Script. Go over the handout with students to set the scene, introduce the cast of characters, and show them the added transcript resources on the handout. Have students complete the graphic organizer from the segment.
- After students complete the questions in the handout, hold a discussion on their notes and any questions they have about these conversations. Use the script excerpts in the Student Activity Guide to review and further analyze the conversations.
- Next, distribute copies of Activity 2: Guilty of Interference? to all students. Review the instructions and the four positions, and allow time for students to complete the assignment.
Explore some historical examples where campaign strategies may have overstepped what would be considered a fair or legitimate strategy.