Introduction
Photo Album
Committee Assignments
American Indian Rights
Children / Education
Civil Rights
Civil Rights / Fair Housing
Consumer Protection
Elderly / Aging
Environment / Conservation
Filibuster / Cloture
Foreign Relations
Government Accountability
Intelligence
Migrant Workers
Public Welfare
Foreign Relations
Excerpts from Speeches       Proceedings and Debates       Hearings       Committee prints and reports


In a June 2011 interview, Gary Eichten of Minnesota Public Radio asked Mr. Mondale "How did you move, in those Senate years, from support for the Vietnam War ... to opposition? How did that evolution take place?" Mr. Mondale replied "Painfully, slowly, and it's the one part of my record that I have to apologize for."

Mr. Mondale explained that his position stemmed from believing the situation with South Vietnam was similar to the United States' experience with Hitler in World War II, and if earlier involvement in South Vietnam might contain communism, then it was the right thing to do. His position was also complicated by his close relationship to Vice President Hubert Humphrey and Mr. Mondale's reticence to break from the administration's position.[1]Minnesota Historical Society, Walter F. Mondale Collection. (http://collections.mnhs.org/cms/display.php?&irn=10872928)

Over time, however, he grew more skeptical and eventually became a vocal opponent of the war. In 1967 Senator Mondale gave a speech at Macalester College discussing his support of the Vietnam War, the importance of not letting Vietnam split the Democratic Party, and the need to keep the party unified for the "larger objective" of "human improvement." He returned in 1969 with an entirely different message. He stated:[2]90th Cong., 1st sess., Congressional Record 113 (november 22, 1967): 3369-33673.

In short, by not setting forth a clear policy which disavows the past and sets a new course for peace, we are clinging to old policies and old myths. It is this admission which we seek from our Administration. It is not their mistake they need admit, it is our mistake and it is my mistake. What we are paying for today is simply a price for pride, and the price is too high for any civilized society to continue to pay. I have a pride problem of my own. I once supported this war. I thought it was right.... I found out I was wrong; I admit it; and I think it is time for the U.S. Government to do the same.[3]91st Cong., 1st sess., Congressional Record 115 (November 21, 1969) at 35363.

In an impassioned speech urging his colleagues to pass the Hatfield-McGovern amendment to withdraw U.S. forces from Vietnam by December 31, 1971, Senator Mondale echoed a similar yet more urgent message:

How many more men must be killed? How many more billions wasted? With the overwhelming majority of our constituents wanting us to end this war once and for all, how much longer will the Congress go on appropriating the money to perpetuate the tragedy? And if we do not stop the war now, how much does this representative government mean in this country? That is why this vote is so much more than a trial of policy. It is a test of this institution and of its pretense to legislate in response to the will of the people. Most of all, it is a test of our ability as a nation to cleanse ourselves of incredible error and dishonor. I pray we will not fail this test any longer. [4]92nd Cong., 1st sess., Congressional Record 117 (June 16, 1971) at 20213.

He sponsored several pieces of legislation to curtail the administration's expansion of the war into Cambodia and Laos, to withdraw troops from Vietnam, and to try to regain congressional authority over military action.

Early in his Senate career, Mr. Mondale's foreign policy was focused on world hunger and an issue described as "brain drain" — the recruitment of educated people in developing countries to the United States. He felt that both issues were important not only because people were starving and the educated were leaving their countries, but because these conditions created instability in the world. When introducing an amendment adding $200 million additional dollars to the Foreign Assistance Act of 1968, Senator Mondale argued: "We are not talking here about idealistic humanitarian aid programs. We are talking about our own national security and the extent to which a starving world—famine and strife–ridden—threatens the peace of all mankind."[5]90th Cong., 2nd sess., Congressional Record 114 (July 30, 1968) at 24180. He stressed that foreign aid did not just include sending the needed supplies and food, but also emphasized and insisted "upon self–help and the development of self–sufficiency in those countries where population growth is outstripping food production."[6]90th Cong., 1st sess., Congressional Record 113 (March 16, 1967): 7047-7050. He described "brain drain" as a "national disgrace" because it was preventing these countries from becoming more self-sufficient: "The opportunities for health and even life leave many of the developing nations of the world along with medical personnel who migrate to the United States. . . . "[7]90th Cong., 1st sess., Congressional Record 113 (November 22, 1967): 33675-33676.

Senator Mondale was a strong proponent of efforts to open trade with Eastern Europe. He argued that by keeping trade open with these countries, they would be less dependent on Russia[8]90th Cong., 2nd sess., Congressional Record 114 (March 27, 1968) at 7885. while benefitting United States agriculture. He introduced and cosponsored legislation that would grant Czechoslovakia and Romania most-favored-nation status.

Senator Mondale was also a strong supporter of Israel. In recognizing Israel's eighteenth anniversary, he stated: "I understand that the Hebrew word for 18 is 'chai' which also means 'life.' A particularly significant birthday, I should think, for a state which has given dignity and opportunity to so many lives and which has in fact been responsible for saving the lives of a considerable part of its populace. To oppressed and homeless Jews throughout the world, living in lands where freedom is a myth and tolerance a vice, the word 'life' and the word 'Israel' can also be synonymous."[9]89th Cong., 2nd sess., Congressional Record 112 (May 3, 1966): 9557-9559. He often made requests for more financial and military assistance for Israel and felt that "what little peace or 'balance' is now being preserved in the Middle East is due to the superiority of Israeli air power. Given her absolute inferiority in terms of population and strategic position, her continued superiority in the air is essential to any reasonable concept of 'balanced power.'"[10]91st Cong., 2nd sess., Congressional Record 116 (March 24, 1970) at 8830.

Towards the end of his Senate career, Mr. Mondale became a strong spokesman for arms control. During debate on an appropriations bill for the Department of Defense, he argued against "first–strike programs." He submitted an amendment against the development of first–strike weapons, and argued for research and development of ICBMs that could be used to withstand a Soviet first–strike rather than ICBMs with the capability to carry out a first–strike.[11]93rd Cong., 2nd sess., Congressional Record 120 (June 7, 1974) at 18253. Senator Mondale also supported a strong military presence in Europe and opposed the proposed reduction of U.S. troops in Europe: "Making the scale of reductions the majority leader has proposed does not suit the political or security requirements of America today. The fragile nature of our transatlantic relations, the delicate balance which exists in Asia, the fact that we ourselves do not have the kind of political leadership that can effectively implement significant reductions and still retain U.S. influence abroad, all lead me to conclude that this is not the time for such massive reductions." [12]93rd Cong., 2nd sess., Congressional Record 120 (June 6, 1974) at 18043.

Senator Mondale's foreign policy views were certainly refined by his experience as Vice President, yet as a Senator he displayed a skilled understanding of the dangers inherent in sweeping generalizations and assumptions when he said: "The first step in revising our thinking about foreign policy should be to jettison the amorphous term 'national security,' and to get back to talking concretely about our diplomatic, military, economic, and other interests.... I believe the fog of national security helped to lead us into the tragic swamp of Vietnam, into the morass called Watergate."[13]94th Cong. 1st sess., Congressional Record 121 (June 2, 1975): at 16468. As Vice President, Mr. Mondale upheld this belief and focused on concrete issues such as the humanitarian crisis caused by refugees fleeing Vietnam, brokering peace between Egypt and Israel, and traveling to China to further economic and trade relations.

Excerpts from Senator Mondale's speeches on foreign relations: [Top]

"I have just returned from India, where I went to study the effectiveness of our food assistance effort. Wherever I traveled, in New Delhi and in rural farm areas, I learned that it was impossible to exaggerate the magnitude of India's food problem, or the importance of our wheat shipments. And in the year which has just begun, because of the disastrous drought and famine, India will need from us and other food–surplus countries up to 14 million tons of grain or more — more than twice the regular annual amount under Public Law 480— if millions of her people are not to starve.

But feeding hungry peoples is not enough. If we just keep people alive, without giving them the tools to provide for themselves, their dependence on us can grow from a temporary misfortune to a permanent habit....

America can never hope to feed the world, and recognition of this fact is the beginning of wisdom in our food–for–peace program. But neither can we refuse to do what we can. We must squarely meet the threat of human hunger and malnutrition, and use our unmatched farm potential to help hungry peoples feed themselves and, ultimately more important, help them to help themselves." 89th Cong., 2nd sess., Congressional Record 112 (January 26, 1966) at 1187.


Senator Mondale exchanges the Namaste greeting with an Indian boy as other children look on during a trip to India, Vietnam, Japan, and Thailand, 1967; credit: Minnesota Historical Society


Local residents welcome Senator Mondale to their village during Mondale's trip to India, 1967; credit: Minnesota Historical Society

"If we agree that ultimate peace in our troubled world depends on steady progress and development in these countries, the brain drain in its present magnitude is a threat to world peace.

We must be willing to find effective ways of seeing that human talents are used in the places where they are needed. We must find ways to keep our short-range advantage from becoming a long–range disadvantage. We must not retard the development of countries which we are trying to assist to join the international community on the basis of equal participation....

I would hope that as one of the most highly developed nations in the world, we would see intellectual migration from other countries as an opportunity to help these countries develop and not an opportunity to make up for our own irresponsibility in providing for our needs." U.S. Congress. Senate. Committee on the Judiciary. International Migration of Talent and Skills: Hearings Before the Subcommittee on Immigration and Naturalization. 90th Cong. 1st sess., March 6 and 10, 1967 at 89-90.


"Despite my deep frustration over Vietnam, my despair over the destruction of war, my concern for the dying—all the dying, I feel deeply that in all of its tragedy, our present course is the best that we have to pursue. And I cannot bring myself to magnify my reservations to the point where they would be seen—incorrectly, but probably enthusiastically—as a fundamental objection to our policy in Vietnam....

There is a larger objective. It could be shattered and paralyzed if we let our differences destroy the effectiveness of our party, if our great movement toward human improvement is further divided, split and shattered." Remarks at the Young Democratic–Farmer–Labor Issues Conference on Vietnam, Macalester College, St. Paul, MN, November 11, 1967. 90th Cong., 1st sess., Congressional Record 113 (November 22, 1967) at 33671 and 33673.


Senator Mondale tours a United States infantry division camp in Southeastern Vietnam, 1967; credit: Minnesota Historical Society


Senator Mondale looks out the open hatch of a military airplane in flight over Vietnam, 1967; credit: Minnesota Historical Society

"I once supported this war. I thought it was right. I thought many things would happen in Vietnam; a popular non–corrupt government, land reform, a South Vietnamese Army that would fight, and many other things. I found out I was wrong; I admit it; and I think it is time for the U.S. Government to do the same." 91st Cong., 1st sess., Congressional Record 115 (November 21, 1969) at 35363.



"The Hatfield–McGovern amendment represents... a reassertion of congressional authority in the fateful choices of war and peace—a reassertion so plainly required by the Constitution and so long overdue.... My colleagues and I rise today to stop at last the killing and maiming of Americans in Vietnam." 91st Cong., 2nd sess., Congressional Record 116 (August 28, 1970) at 30381.


"The Vladivostok agreement will do little to alleviate the arms race and, in fact, there is a grave danger that the agreement may stimulate it." 93rd Cong., 2nd sess., Congressional Record 120 (December 9, 1974) at 38487.


Senator Walter Mondale, appearing alongside Senators Edward Kennedy (center) and Charles Mathias (left), speaks at a news conference on the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT I); credit: Minnesota Historical Society
Selected U.S. Senate proceedings and debates on foreign relations, 1965-1976: [Top]
U.S. Senate hearings on foreign relations in which Senator Mondale participated: [Top]
  • Food for Freedom Program and Commodity Reserves: Hearings Before the Committee on Agriculture and Forestry, 89th Cong. (1966).

  • Emergency Food Relief for India: Hearing Before the Committee on Agriculture and Forestry, 89th Cong. (1966).

  • Food Aid for India: Hearing Before the Committee on Agriculture and Forestry, 90th Cong. (1967).

  • International Migration of Talent and Skills: Hearings Before the Subcommittee on Immigration and Naturalization, 90th Cong. (1967).

  • East-West Trade: Hearings Before the Subcommittee on International Finance, pt. 1, 90th Cong. (1968).

  • East-West Trade: Hearings Before the Subcommittee on International Finance, pt. 2 and 3: Appendix, 90th Cong. (1968).

  • Export-Import Bank Participation and Financing in Credit Sales of Defense Articles: Hearing Before the Committee on Banking and Currency, 90th Cong. (1968).

  • Export Expansion and Regulation: Hearings Before the Subcommittee on International Finance,

    91st Cong. (1969).
  • Vietnam Policy Proposals: Hearings Before the Committee on Foreign Relations, 91st Cong. (1970).

  • St. Lawrence Seaway Development Corp: Hearings before the Special Subcommittee to Study Transportation on the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway, 91st Cong. (1970).

  • CVAN-70 Aircraft Carrier: Hearings Before the Joint Senate-House Armed Services Subcommittee on CVAN-70 Aircraft Carrier, 91st Cong. (1970).

  • Extension of the Defense Production Act and Uniform Cost Accounting Standards: Hearings Before the Subcommittee on Production and Stabilization, 91st Cong. (1970).

  • Legislative Proposals Relating to the War in Southeast Asia: Hearings Before the Committee on Foreign Relations, 92nd Cong. (1971).

  • Amend the Export-Import Bank Act of 1945: Hearings Before the Subcommittee on International Finance, 92nd Cong. (1971).

  • Export Development Credit Fund: Hearing Before the Committee on Finance, 93rd Cong. (1973).

  • Trade Reform Act of 1973: Hearings Before the Committee on Finance, pt. 1, 93rd Cong. (1974).

  • Trade Reform Act of 1973: Hearings Before the Committee on Finance, pt. 2, 93rd Cong. (1974).

  • Trade Reform Act of 1973: Hearings Before the Committee on Finance, pt. 3, 93rd Cong. (1974).

  • Trade Reform Act of 1973: Hearings Before the Committee on Finance, pt. 4, 93rd Cong. (1974).

  • Trade Reform Act of 1973: Hearings Before the Committee on Finance, pt. 5, 93rd Cong. (1974).

  • Trade Reform Act of 1973: Hearings Before the Committee on Finance, pt. 6, 93rd Cong. (1974).

  • Emigration Amendment to the Trade Reform Act of 1974: Hearing Before the Committee on Finance, 93rd Cong. (1974).

Selected Senate committee prints and reports on foreign relations: [Top]

    Committee Prints

  • Staff of Comm. on Finance, 93rd Cong., Summary and Analysis of H.R. 10710: The Trade Reform Act of 1973 (Comm. Print 1974).

  • Staff of Comm. on Finance, 93rd Cong., Comparative Analysis of Existing Trade Laws with H.R. 10710: The Trade Reform Act of 1973 (Comm. Print 1974).

  • Staff of Comm. on Finance, 93rd Cong., Analysis of the Trade Agreements Program and the Trade Reform Act of 1973 (Comm. Print 1974).

  • Staff of Comm. on Finance, 93rd Cong., Summary of Trade Reform Act of 1974, as Ordered Reported by the Senate Committee on Finance (Comm. Print 1974).

  • Staff of Comm. on Finance, 93rd Cong., Trade Act of 1974 Summary of the Provisions of H.R. 10710 (Comm. Print 1974).

  • Staff of Comm. on Finance, 93rd Cong., Summary of Senate Amendments to H.R 10710, Trade Act of 1974 (Comm. Print 1974).

  • Committee Reports

  • Comm. on Agriculture and Forestry, Emergency Food Relief for India, S. Rpt. 89-1101 (1966).

  • Comm. on Agriculture and Forestry, Food for Peace Act of 1966, S. Rpt. 89-1527 (1966).

  • Comm. on Agriculture and Forestry, Emergency Food Assistance to India, S. Rep. No. 90-70 (1967).

  • Comm. on Banking and Currency, Export-Import Bank Act Amendments of 1967, S. Rep. No. 90-493 (1967).

  • Comm. on Banking and Currency, Extend Authority for Export-Import Bank, S. Rep. No. 90-1100 (1968).

  • Comm. on Banking and Currency, Export Expansion and Regulation Act, S. Rep. No. 91-336 (1969).

  • Comm. on Banking and Currency, Extension of the Defense Production Act, S. Rep. No. 91-890 (1970).

  • Comm. on Foreign Relations, Suspension of Military Assistance to Pakistan, S. Rep. No. 92-105 (1971).

  • Comm. on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs, Equal Export Opportunity Act and the International Economic Policy Act of 1972, S. Rep. No. 92-890 (1972).

  • Comm. on Foreign Relations, Equal Export Opportunity Act and the International Economic Policy Act of 1972, S. Rep. No. 92-981 (1972).

  • Comm. on Finance, Foreign Assistance Act of 1973, S. Rep. No. 93-386 (1973).

  • Comm. on Finance, Trade Reform Act of 1974, S. Rep. No. 93-1298 (1974).

  • Comm. on Labor and Public Welfare, Indochina Refugee Children Assistance Act of 1975, S. Rep. No. 94-432 (1975).

  • Congressional Research Service Reports

  • Ellen C. Collier, Cong. Research Serv., F 296, U.S. Foreign Policy on Nuclear Energy (1968).

  • Donald S. Bussey, Cong. Research Serv., 69-145 F, Safeguard Anti-Ballistic Missile System: Some of the Issues (1969).


Endnotes:[TOP]
  1. Minnesota Historical Society, Walter F. Mondale Collection. (http://collections.mnhs.org/cms/display.php?&irn=10872928)
  2. 90th Cong., 1st sess., Congressional Record 113 (november 22, 1967): 3369-33673.
  3. 91st Cong., 1st sess., Congressional Record 115 (November 21, 1969) at 35363.
  4. 92nd Cong., 1st sess., Congressional Record 117 (June 16, 1971) at 20213.
  5. 90th Cong., 2nd sess., Congressional Record 114 (July 30, 1968) at 24180.
  6. 90th Cong., 1st sess., Congressional Record 113 (March 16, 1967): 7047-7050.
  7. 90th Cong., 1st sess., Congressional Record 113 (November 22, 1967): 33675-33676.
  8. 90th Cong., 2nd sess., Congressional Record 114 (March 27, 1968) at 7885.
  9. 89th Cong., 2nd sess., Congressional Record 112 (May 3, 1966): 9557-9559.
  10. 91st Cong., 2nd sess., Congressional Record 116 (March 24, 1970) at 8830.
  11. 93rd Cong., 2nd sess., Congressional Record 120 (June 7, 1974) at 18253.
  12. 93rd Cong., 2nd sess., Congressional Record 120 (June 6, 1974) at 18043.
  13. 94th Cong. 1st sess., Congressional Record 121 (June 2, 1975): at 16468.