Oral History and the Present

At bottom, oral history is about telling stories and thinking about their meaning. John Del Vecchio, author of The 13th Valley and other books about Vietnam and Vietnam veterans, once wrote that “The story we tell ourselves of ourselves, individually or culturally, creates our self-image. Behavior, individually and culturally, is consistent with self-image. Story determines behavior. As story changes, self-image changes; as self-image changes, behavior changes; as behavior changes, so too changes the results of behavior. That is, personal and cultural story have ramifications.”[1]

Del Vecchio is right. How we think about ourselves, and how we tell others about our past, has a direct and practical impact on the present. Oral history makes this clear.

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[1] John M. Del Vecchio, “The Importance of Story: Individual and Cultural Effects of Skewing the Realities of American Involvement in Southeast Asia for Social, Political and/or Economic Ends,”  (http://www.vietnam.ttu.edu/vietnamcenter/events/1996_Symposium/96papers/story.htm) 6 June, 2004.