“History has treated Acheson more kindly,” Mr. Kissinger wrote. “Accolades for him have become bipartisan.”
Thirty-five years after his death, he said, Acheson had “achieved iconic status.”
Mr. Kissinger clearly became an icon of a different kind. And he was acutely aware that the challenges facing the nation had changed. At age 96, he plunged into questions surrounding artificial intelligence, teaming up with Eric Schmidt, Google’s former chief executive, and the computer scientist Daniel Huttenlocher to write “The Age of AI: And Our Human Future” (2019), in which he discussed how the development of weapons controlled by algorithms, rather than directly by humans, would change concepts of deterrence.
After donating his papers to Yale, Mr. Kissinger reconciled with Harvard — the institution where he had made his name — but he made clear that he had not been welcomed back after Vietnam.
Mr. Allison, the Harvard professor, and Drew Faust, the university’s president at the time, were determined to heal the wound. Mr. Kissinger was enticed to return for a talk in which he was interviewed by a graduate student; a dinner at the president’s house followed. “I would not have guessed I would be back inside these walls,” he said.
One student asked him about his legacy. “You know, when I was young, I used to think of people of my age as a different species,” he said to laughter. “And I thought my grandparents had been put into the world at the age at which I experienced them.”
“Now that I’ve reached beyond their age,” he added, “I’m not worried about my legacy. And I don’t give really any thought to it, because things are so changeable. You can only do the best you’re able to do, and that’s more what I judge myself by — whether I’ve lived up to my values, whatever their quality, and to my opportunities.”
Michael T. Kaufman, a former correspondent and editor for The Times who died in 2010, contributed reporting.