President Kennedy and Dean Rusk

While I was Assistant to the President at Davidson College during the 1978-79 school year, one of my jobs was working with the Trustees. Dean Rusk, the former Secretary of State, was a Davidson graduate as well as a Trustee.

At the time, I was also applying to law school, and in our conversations, Mr. Rusk encouraged me to go to school in the state in which I would practice so I could meet the people I would be working with over the years.

Dean Rusk was Secretary of State during the Kennedy and Johnson administrations from 1961 to 1969. His obituary in The New York Times phrased it mildly:

He felt driven to defend and justify the American involvement on the side of South Vietnam, when many in the public and in Congress turned against it in the later years of the Johnson Administration.

With Dean Rusk, I am one degree of separation from my beloved Kennedys.

But until I found that photo the other day and along with it a draft of a talk I had given about international law, I had forgotten so many of the details surrounding our knowing each other. For one thing, instead of answering a letter I had written to him, Mr. Rusk called me at work, and while he was in Davidson for a Trustees’ Meeting, apparently I bought him a razor. Also there was this:

I always enjoyed passing Dean Rusk in the halls of the law school, but especially during the fall because he would always tell me the latest Davidson football score.

It’s not just that these memories were fuzzy, but that they had disappeared. It’s hard to believe we can forget things so completely.


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