When it comes to the Vietnam Way, Craig McNamara has a unique perspective and experience unlike any other in America – his father Robert McNamara was the Secretary of Defense during the war. At an early KVIE screening of The Vietnam War, Craig spoke with my boss, Vice President of Content Creation Michael Sanford, in front a live group of donors. I started recording on my phone and never stopped. The video is not PBS quality – it’s my smartphone. But the content and the words shared here must be heard.
I believe we must learn from the past. At times, history has a scary way of repeating itself. So many lives were crushed in the Vietnam War; Americans and Vietnamese were killed and wounded. American soldiers were treated horribly upon their return home. The 60s and 70s were a horrendously uprooting time for those who served and those in the antiwar movement at home. But for Craig McNamara, the pain is deeply personal in a very different way. Craig, a life-long objector to the Vietnam War, is the son of Robert McNamara, known as the “Architect of the Vietnam War,” making him one of the most controversial figures in American history. When Craig was in elementary school, his dad left his powerful position as President of Ford Motor Company to answer the call of the President of the United States. President John F. Kennedy had just been elected and the McNamaras moved to the nation’s capital. Robert McNamara served as the Secretary of Defense through the Kennedy and Johnson administrations. Craig was tormented for more than a decade as he tried to make peace with the fact that he loved the caring man that was his father – but not the politically explosive figure his dad had become. Craig, his mother, and his sister were totally against the Vietnam War. Regardless, that was Craig’s daddy, and that ripped him apart for decades.
I have worked closely with Craig at many events, mainly at the California State Capitol, watching him literally pound the dirt for agriculture across the Golden State. He is one of the finest men I know and has had to search his soul – and the world – to find peace. I would like to think that him agreeing to me sharing this story with you will help bring a little more light into your own heart. Craig’s message is one of grace and forgiveness. His deep love of both veterans and Vietnamese is what I believe has helped transform his soul to a place of healing. So, listen to this interview. Craig looks exactly like his father. Hear his words – his story – and add it to every Vietnam story that is so deeply important to marinate your mind and heart inside.
You can also get to know this history by watching Ken Burns and Lynn Novick’s latest documentary The Vietnam War. All 10 parts are available to stream online for KVIE members. It’s hard to watch, but so important to see. And you can see other perspectives on the Vietnam War from people who live in our region with My Vietnam War Story.
California is a better place because of Craig McNamara, his journey to peace, and his passion for making California’s agriculture the sustainable staple of American food. Craig is the president and owner of Sierra Orchards, a diversified farming operation that includes field, processing, and marketing operations, producing primarily organic walnuts and olive oil. Craig also serves as the founder and president of the Center for Land-Based Learning. The goal of this innovative program is to assist high school students in becoming lifelong learners, overcoming barriers to change, and building greater social and human capital in their communities.