PARIS, June 8, -- U.S. President Bill Clinton is to return Wednesday to Oxford University and receive a degree that he was never awarded during the two years he spent there as a Rhodes scholar in the '60s.
Clinton was winding up a fast-paced two-day Paris visit with a state dinner at the Elysees Palace and private tour of the Louvre Museum led by French President Francois Mitterand at midnight Tuesday. The two presidents were accompanied by architect I.M. Pei, who designed the dramatic pyramid-style entrance to the famed museum.
The trip to Oxford will be a sentimental journey for Clinton but it also will serve as a reminder that this was the place where he made his strongest protests against the Vietnam War, echoing the feelings of thousands of students in the United States.
Political commentators have indicated that it is mistake for Clinton to visit Oxford in the aftermath of the 50th anniversary ceremonies marking the heroism of war on D-Day at Normandy. The critics say the Oxford trip would remind Americans of his failure to serve in Vietnam and damage his relationship with veterans after the emotional moments in France.
But White House Communications Director Mark Gearan defended the trip saying, 'he was invited by Oxford to receive the degree and this is an honor for him and the country. This seemed to be the logical time.'
Clinton will receive a doctorate in civil law and make a brief address. He also plans to do a lot of mingling with the current class of Rhodes scholars.
The president attended the university from the fall of 1968 to the spring of 1970. He had the opportunity to became a Rhodes scholar in England by virtue of his high academic standing and leadership qualities while attending Geogetown University.
In several television interviews Sunday night aboard the USS George Washington, a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, Clinton acknowledged his ambivalence about whether he should have served in the military. He said he now believed that a military experience might have been worthwhile. But at the same time, he made it clear that he had not changed his conviction that the Vietnam War was wrong.
The president was in a buoyant mood as he wound up the moving D-Day tributes and many observers believe that he struck the right generational note by spotlighting the veterans of the costly invasion of Normandy that turned the tide of World War II.
In Paris, the president also had to deal with the reality of the nuclear threat from North Korea and the difficult negogiations over the ongoing warin Bosnia-Herzegovina. In discussions with French officials he won France's support for U.S. policy in both trouble spots.
Clinton will depart Wednesday evening from Oxford for Washington and return to the White House at 0100 GMT.