As an undergraduate at the University of California, Santa Barbara in the mid-1950s, I was excited by the teaching of Robert Kelley, a young and vibrant teacher and who was making his mark in the profession with his accounts of intellectual and cultural influences on past American and British politics. When I arrived as a graduate student at UCLA in the later 1950s, Bradford Perkins was also lecturing about Anglo-American relations while he was working on his renowned trilogy of books dealing with the run-up to the War of 1812. Like Kelley, Perkins in his teaching spoke learnedly and amusingly not only about his specialty in Anglo-American relations but also about U.S. relations with the entire world. He inspired me to take up diplomatic history in part because the field was so broad that I could read almost anything I wanted and call it work.
I arrived at Princeton in the summer of 1975, just months after the fall of Saigon. At the time I was a serving officer in the United States Army and a veteran of the Vietnam War. The army, generously from my point of view, was sending me to graduate school to prepare me to teach at West Point. To emphasize: The army sent me to Princeton not to become a professional historian but to acquire knowledge sufficient to enable me to convey to cadets some basic grasp of U.S. history. After a three-year teaching stint, I would return to soldiering.