I’m resurrecting a unique people-to-people diplomacy project that I’ve had on the back burner for a few years. It gives Vietnamese, mostly but not exclusively young people, the opportunity to ask questions about any aspect of U.S. society and culture that interests them. I then identify U.S. colleagues and others (e.g., Vietnamese who have studied in the US for at least several years) who are willing and able to provide essay-length answers that are clear, concise, informative, and accurate.
The purpose of this project is to inform and educate, as well as strengthen relations between the two countries on a grassroots level. The final product – a book consisting of essays in English and Vietnamese – will be used in a variety of settings and sectors, including educational, governmental, nonprofit and private, and by individuals who are interested in learning more about the U.S. from an unfiltered source. Good Question, Vietnam! is slated to be published next year.
The original working title of this project was FAQ About America, which I later changed to Good Question, Vietnam! based a piece that appeared in Harper’s in January 2005. An editor who had heard about the project asked me to send him all of the questions – about 300 at the time – from which he selected 20 for the enlightenment and amusement of his readers. (Note: USIEF was a small nonprofit that I founded in 2000.) I plan to use some of the original questions and collect some new ones.
While this project is a labor of love, there are certain costs associated with administration, translation of questions from Vietnamese into English and the essays from English into Vietnamese, the creation of glossaries and, possibly, an IT person to assist with the creation of a CD. Please contact me for a list of sponsorship levels and benefits.
To Potential Contributors: Please contact me at good_question_vn[AT]yahoo.com, if you’re interested in writing an essay. The basic requirements are: 1) passion for the project and its goals; 2) some knowledge about your topic(s); 3) the ability to write reasonably well; and 4) the ability to meet a deadline. Vietnam-related experience, while helpful for some answers that require a cross-cultural perspective, is not required for most.
If You Would Like to Submit a Question about US Society and Culture: Please send me your question, along with your name, gender,hometown and affiliation (e.g., student at University X in Y city), to the above email address. Only your first name, gender, status (e.g., student, professional) and hometown will be used. You may submit this information in either English or Vietnamese.
For more information, visit the project website.