HENRY KISSINGER’S return to Harvard this week was a homecoming of sorts for a man who has conspicuously avoided his alma mater for at least three decades. Kissinger attended Harvard College on the GI bill, received his doctorate at Harvard, and became one of its most celebrated professors. But after he left in 1969 to become President Nixon’s national security advisor, Harvard faculty and students issued such scathing criticisms of his policies in Vietnam and Cambodia that he turned down every opportunity to return to the school, including his own 50th reunion.
“The blood of dead and homeless Indochinese is on Kissinger’s hands,’’ read an editorial in the Harvard Crimson in 1973, on the eve of his appointment as secretary of state. But, in a testament to how the rift over Vietnam has passed increasingly into history, the current crop of students welcomed Kissinger with rock-star treatment, rushing the stage to shake his hand, take his photo, and get his autograph. Only one protester - who appeared to be about 60 years old - was escorted by police from Kissinger’s talk.