​On reconciliation with Vietnam

U.S. Senator John McCain, R-Ariz., holds up photos of himself as a 30-year-old man wounded and captured in 1967 in North Vietnam, outside the Army Museum in Hanoi October 19, 1992. The photos were delivered by Colonel Pham Duc Dai (left), director of the Army Museum, and Colonel Tran Bien, representative on the MIA issue at the Ministry of Defense as a gift for visiting the museum.

HOANG DINH NAM/AFP/Getty Images

This Memorial Day comes in a year when we mark the 40th anniversary of the fall of Saigon, when the Communists came to power.

They still rule there, but we call Vietnam an ally now, in a part of the world where we need friends.

Vietnam is one of the countries with which the administration hopes to sign a massive trade agreement that will cover 40 percent of the world's gross domestic product.

Vietnam has become a place where Americans are welcomed now, a place where English is spoken as a second language.

Much of the credit for that goes to Senator John McCain, who for five years was a prisoner of war there. Yet, it was McCain who went back to Vietnam to reconcile with those who had brutally tortured him.

In so doing, he opened the way to restore diplomatic relations, and showed us that sometimes forgiveness can be as powerful a force for change as any weapon we might possess.

America learned some hard lessons in Vietnam. That may have been one of them.

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    Bob Schieffer is a CBS News political contributor and former anchor of "Face The Nation," which he moderated for 24 years before retiring in 2015.