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Senator Robb and Lynda Bird Johnson Shape SAS Visit to Viet Nam

The Robbs field questions from students on foreign policy careers.

The MV Explorer sailed away from Ho Chi Minh City on the 29th of March, 39 years to the day after the American military withdrawal in 1973. Recent history was everywhere during the Spring semester’s stop in Vietnam—students met with Pulitzer-winning war photographer Nick Ut at the Museum of War Remnants, crawled through the Cu Chi Tunnels, and, most of all, experienced a welcoming society in a beautiful country. En route to Vietnam, the SAS community benefitted from conversations with two Americans indelibly tied to the Vietnam conflict—former Senator Chuck Robb and his wife Lynda, the daughter of President Johnson.

For the past 6 weeks, the 108th Voyage had the honor of living and learning alongside the Robbs. Chuck Robb served 13 months in Vietnam, being promoted from captain to major while in serious combat in the I-Corps. Prior to the War, Robb graduated top of his class in the Marine Corps and served as a social aide at the White House, where he first met Lynda. The couple corresponded frequently during the War, and Chuck’s letters brought the reality of Vietnam to President Johnson’s White House.

Although students learned about the Vietnam conflict in class, it was incredibly valuable hearing the history from Senator Robb, a combat Marine who served also as governor of Virginia, in addition to two terms in the U.S. Senate. “For most of the students in college today, Vietnam is just a blurry image,” he explained. “Most history courses don’t ever quite get up to the modern day, but in terms of impact on our country and on our policy, the War was a major factor for 20 or 30 years and it continues to be a factor in foreign policy.” In addition to Robb’s perspective, Vietnam Veterans on the faculty and Vietnamese-American students also shared their stories with the shipboard community. “I think it adds to the student’s understanding of the impact it had on their parents and grandparents and how it shaped their lives,” Robb concluded.

In addition to discussing Vietnam with students and veterans alike on the ship, the Robbs participated in everything the floating campus had to offer. Towards the end of their stay, the couple set aside every dinner, most lunches, and even a few breakfasts just to meet with students interested in foreign relations and public policy. Both provided guest lectures in class, and Lynda even talked with the ship’s children about life in the White House.

“I think this is such a wonderful experience, both for the young people and for us, too,” Lynda said of the SAS program. “Somebody talked to us about wanting to go into the Foreign Service because of this experience. It’s giving a lot of people ideas. I think bringing people together from different campuses and countries is wonderful.”

Although the Robbs disembarked in Shanghai, they had a significant impact on the 108th voyage. “It’s been a wonderful experience,” Lynda concluded.

Senator Chuck Robb and Lynda Johnson Robb on an SAS trip at the Taj Mahal



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