It Wasn’t Just Politics

Former Vice President Walter Mondale talks about helping refugees leave Southeast Asia for new lives in the United States after the Vietnam War in 1979.


The first people to arrive here were mostly old combatants who had worked with us, been in the mountains fighting for us and had escaped to get out of Laos before they were killed by the government and brought their families with them usually through Thailand. Yes, and we felt a responsibility toward them. So, that's definitely part of it, also true in Vietnam. But I also think there was a humanitarian dimension to this. It wasn't just real politics. It was also, you know, the heart because this was a tragedy. With modern television we could see it happening every night. We were getting the reports about how these poor people were out at sea, many to lose their lives, pictures of these refugee camps, arguments about what on earth we're going to do about it. And so it got into the homes of…every American knew about it who watched television or watched the news. And I think that is where national policymakers begin to say, “We better take a look at this.”

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