The Fat Lady Finally Sings: Bob Kerrey Quietly Resigns from Fulbright University Vietnam Leadership Position

Below is an excerpt from my latest CounterPunch article about Bob Kerrey and Fulbright University Vietnam.  Think of it as the 2017 bookend to my 2016 CP article, Bob Kerrey and Fulbright University – What were they thinking?, published a month after the controversy erupted.  Follow this link to read it in its entirety. 

MAA

“One simply cannot engage in barbarous action without becoming a barbarian… one cannot defend human values by calculated and unprovoked violence without doing mortal damage to the values one is trying to defend.”

– J William Fulbright, The Arrogance of Power

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List of victims of the massacre.  (MAA Photo:  War Remnants Museum, HCMC)

More than 48 years after mortal damage was inflicted with a vengeance on both human beings and human values in a quiet village in Bến Tre province in the Mekong Delta, justice, fairness, and common decency won a minor victory when Bob Kerrey, former Nebraska governor, U.S. senator, New School president, decorated veteran, and self-confessed war criminal, quietly resigned from his high-profile position as chairman of the Fulbright University Vietnam (FUV) board of trustees, according to reliable sources.

Kerrey, whose appointment was announced one year ago at the iconic Rex Hotel in Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) by then Secretary of State, John Kerry during President Barack Obama’s visit to Viet Nam, has stepped down behind closed doors.  He was reportedly replaced by Đàm Bích Thủy, a prominent Vietnamese businesswoman who is the current FUV president.

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Bùi Thị Lượm, the sole survivor of the attack. (MAA Photo:  War Remnants Museum, HCMC.)

It was Bob Kerrey himself who said in an interview last June, as all rhetorical hell was breaking loose, that he would not step down.  This about-face came after first saying, in response to questions emailed to him by a New York Times reporter, that he would resign if he felt his role was jeopardizing the U.S.-Vietnamese joint education venture.  I’m not a diplomat and therefore have no need to play the quiet game.  Bob Kerrey was appointed with much fanfare and some fanfare should accompany his surrender.

Never Say Never

Never say never and never forget this timeless wisdom from Proverbs 16:18:  “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.”  It was Kerrey’s arrogance that made him dig in his heels and delay the inevitable.  It was a firestorm of controversy and, most importantly, steely and steadfast official Vietnamese opposition, that forced him to do the right thing.  It wasn’t only about Bob Kerrey.  Jeopardize FUV he did, at the end of the day, as some predicted.

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The sewer in which three children were hiding.  All three were stabbed to death. (MAA Photo:  War Remnants Museum, HCMC.)

Kerrey’s long overdue resignation is a cause for celebration and a sense of vindication for many.  It is, however, a bitter disappointment for his supporters, both Vietnamese and U.S., who probably still cluelessly wonder why a man who led a U.S. Navy SEALS unit that murdered 21 men, women, and children in the village of Thạnh Phong in February 1969 would not be considered morally fit to assume such a leadership position.

Keep in mind that this is a man who has the dishonor and disgrace of having his very own war crimes exhibit in the War Remnants Museum in HCMC, one of many such incidents in the bloodbath and industrial-scale slaughter that was the American War in Viet Nam.

Summer 2017 VietAbroader Study Abroad Camp (VASAC) in HCMC & Hanoi

Dear Friends & Colleagues,

I’m pleased to share with you information about the summer 2017 VietAbroader Study Abroad Camps (VASAC) in mid-July.  These events are different than in years past because they will last for four (4) days instead of one (1).

For those of you who don’t about VietAbroader (VA), whose slogan is Empower Vietnamese Youth, it is the premier student-run organization in Viet Nam that helps young people who want to study overseas, in particular in the US.  I’m honored to have served as a VA adviser almost since the very beginning in 2004.  It started out as online forum and then expanded by offering events such as the VASAC, which was first organized in 2005.  (I was a speaker at the Hanoi conference.)

There are two ways in which you can participate in the VASAC:

1)  Institutional sponsorship: Please follow these links to download the institutional sponsor proposal and the institutional sponsor benefit package.

2)  Participation in the Education Fairs, which are free and open to the public.  This is free of charge and you can have a currently enrolled student who’s home for the summer, or an alum, represent you at the fair(s), if you’re not able to travel to Viet Nam.

If you’re interested in becoming an institutional sponsor and/or participating in the public fair(s), please contact one of the VA representatives listed on the last page of the sponsor proposal.
Help VietAbroader Pass the Torch and Empower Vietnamese Youth!
MAA

What is Your Ikigai?

Everyone I know who is happy is working well at something they consider important.  Abraham Maslow

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I had the opportunity to speak to about 150 10th graders at one of the more selective high schools in Hanoi earlier this week.  I chose to speak to them not about overseas study in general or study in the USA or another country in particular but about finding their ikigai, which is related to quality and quantity of life, what to study at university, and which career(s) to pursue after that. 

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A brave student answering the three (3) questions at the bottom – in English!

Ikigai, of course, is a Japanese concept that refers to reason for being, the thing that gets you up in the morning, the passion the drives your life.  While a seemingly simple concept to define and illustrate, it is not always so easy to find.  For students who are 15 or 16 years-old, it is the right time to begin exploring. 

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Another student answering the same questions in English.

I asked them some questions that get at the heart of the matter to help them think more concretely:

  1. What are you good at?
  2. What do you think you might be good at but are not sure yet?
  3. What do you enjoy doing?
  4. What do you have a passion for? 

While I didn’t have a projector because the presentation took place outside, I descrubed ikigai as being at the center of what I like to call an existential sweet spot.

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The existential sweet spot of ikigai

I also shared some relevant quotes about time (The key question to keep asking is, ‘Are you spending your time on the right things?’ Because time is all you have. Randy Pausch, 1960-2008), how to follow your heart and  live your life (Steve Jobs, Stanford University 2005 Commencement Speech), and how to be happy in life (the “grand essentials of happiness” from George Washington Burnap). 

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Students working on their ungraded pop quiz

To underscore my point about the value of time as the most precious commodity in life, I helped put the finiteness of life in perspective.  “Let’s say you live until the age of 80, which is five years older than Viet Nam’s current life expectancy.  You’ve already lived 19% of your life.  What will you do with the remaining 81%?”

Then  I introduced the concept of psychological flow, which is related to ikigai.  It was developed by the Hungarian psychologist, Dr. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, who defined it as a “highly focused mental state” and “effortless concentration and enjoyment”.  He saidThe best moments in our lives are not the passive, receptive, relaxing times…  The best moments usually occur if a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile.  I also like this definition from the Wikipedia entry about flow:  Flow, also known as the zone, is the mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity.

In order to make the abstract concrete, we discussed examples of flow, including writing, composing music, writing code, playing chess, cooking, dancing, painting, solving a difficult math problem, etc. 

I concluded with a quote attributed to Confucius:  We have two lives, and the second begins when we realize we only have one.  Sadly, some people never come to this realization.  High school is the ideal time for young people to become aware of life possibilities and constraints. 

Finally, I had the students answer the following questions – in English or Vietnamese.  Some shared their answers with the group.

  1. What is your passion?
  2. When do you experience psychological flow?
  3. What do you hope for?

Looking out into the audience, I noticed that quite a few students were actually listening, a sign of interest and curiosity.  As for the others?  Hopefully, they get it sooner rather than later.  Young people naturally think of life as never-ending while those of us who are older and/or experienced death at an early age know that the clock is ticking.

Have you found your ikigai

MAA

“The key question to keep asking is, ‘Are you spending your time on the right things?’ Because time is all you have.”  (Randy Pausch, 1960-2008)

 

Just Because the Golden Arches are in Vietnam Doesn’t Mean the US Won the War

Here’s my latest CounterPunch article, in response to a statement in a TV interview by a Pulitzer Prize-winning Vietnamese-American author that the US won the war because Viet Nam shifted to a free market economy. 

Here’s an excerpt to whet your appetite:

Last December, Viet Thanh Nguyen, a chaired professor of English and American Studies and Ethnicity at USC, and the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Sympathizer, described by Amazon as “thrilling, rhythmic, and astonishing, as is the rest of Nguyen’s enthralling portrayal of the Vietnam War,” made the stunning pronouncement in a TV interview that “the US won this conflict” (8:03) because Viet Nam adopted a capitalist system, what is officially referred to as a socialist-oriented market economy.

I could see many viewers nodding their heads in solemn agreement.  “Yes”, I could hear them proudly and confidently saying to themselves, chests puffed out and hearts beating red, white, and blue, we belatedly yet ultimately triumphed because Viet Nam acquiesced and became like US.  Wasn’t that our goal from the beginning?

The Big Lie

This is a line, a fairy tale, a lie that I’ve heard many times.  It somehow makes US Americans feel good that the “commies” finally came around and saw the light.  It’s a psychological and emotional salve that reassures the gullible, the uninformed, and the nationalists that the sacrifices on their side were not in vain.  The problem is it’s dead wrong.

MAA

 

 

New Rector of the VNU-Hanoi University of Education

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Prof. Thanh with Prof. Nguyễn Kim Sơn, President of Vietnam National University-Hanoi (Photo courtesy of VNU-Hanoi)

Congratulations to Professor Nguyễn Quý Thanh on his appointment as rector of the VNU-Hanoi University of Education, one of Viet Nam’s most important institutions of higher education.  It was my pleasure and honor to be a guest at this ceremony last week.  Dr. Thanh, who previously served as director of the VNU Institute for Quality Assurance (INFEQA) in Hanoi, is an excellent choice, in my opinion.

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Photo courtesy of VNU-Hanoi

MAA

Breaking into Cambodia: Asia’s new tiger economy

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My latest article, this time about Cambodia, was published by The PIE Blog with this introduction:

An economic transformation, demographic change and greater access to digital resources are all driving demand for study abroad among Cambodian students. Mark Ashwill, managing director of Capstone Vietnam, shares why the market is ripe for overseas institutions looking to recruit international students, and what they should consider when they do.

Follow this link to read it in its entirety.

MAA

Riding the Wave: An Update on Student Recruitment in Viet Nam

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Riding the Wave: An Update on Student Recruitment in Viet Nam

An Unofficial Pre-NAFSA Annual Conference Seminar

Date:  Monday, May 29, 2017              Time:   10 a.m.- 12 noon

Seminar Leader: Dr. Mark Ashwill, Managing Director, Capstone Vietnam

  Co-Speaker: Phuc Phan, Founder and Instructional Designer, College Scout

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 Content by Dr. Mark Ashwill  

A comprehensive overview of current market conditions, recruitment tools and techniques and different types of recruitment strategies

An analysis of Vietnamese student enrollment at US higher education institutions based on the most up-to-date SEVIS information

Content by Mr. Théodore Phan

Academic and extracurricular challenges for Vietnamese undergraduates

 How to align college preparation of prospective students with the US general education curriculum.  Includes short videos of online 101 prep content.

Location: Will be sent to registered participants

Register here

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