Beyond Viet Nam: A Time to Break Silence, a speech Dr. King gave at the Riverside Church in New York City on 4 April 1967, a year to the day before he was assassinated is always worth a read and a listen on this or any other day: text and audio. His friendship with Thích Nhất Hạnh, a Zen master, global spiritual leader, poet and peace activist who is now back at his “root temple,” Từ Hiếu Temple near Huế in central Viet Nam, is one of the reasons he gave that seminal speech.
Here’s some information about the latest TedX Hanoi event on 19 January 2019 that will attempt to provide some answers to this very timely question.
The signs of Vietnam’s amazing progress are all around us. Increased growth from Vietnamese companies, and increased investment from international firms, lead to better jobs and rising incomes. With a new high-rise on seemingly every corner, more and more families can afford high-quality housing, and cars to keep their loved ones safe. Increasing numbers of students are studying overseas, while private schools and local universities are rapidly innovating to keep up with this demand. Rising incomes and improved education have unleashed a burst of creative energy, evidenced in the cool cafés, quirky restaurants, and innovative start-ups that populate Hanoi.
At the same time, these developments are uneven. The benefits of better housing, private vehicles, and private education are not shared by everyone. Air pollution has steadily worsened, and Hanoi now regularly ranks among the most polluted cities in the world. The lust for growth threatens traditions. A city once defined by its ancient temples, Old Quarter, and 1,000 years of history, now looks in many areas like any other modern Asian metropolis.
As more and more people attain the quality of life that Vietnam has been striving for, let’s take a moment to ask ourselves: Now what? How has Vietnam made this amazing progress? What direction do we need to focus on for the future? And how do we get there?
I’m happy to see this kind of discussion and debate taking place though I do think they could have had more key fields represented among their chosen speakers. Here is the official answer to this obvious question, “How do you select the speakers for TEDxHanoi?”
The answer is not a simple one. As curators, we read everything we can find that has to do with new ideas worth sharing, and we hear recommendations from our community. There are so many great choices, women and men with ideas worth spreading and stories worth sharing.
Check out the list of speakers here.
Another question is one of follow-up and finding a way to track the short- and long-term results of this conference. Talk is cheap. as the saying goes, but it is an important first step.
A word about access in a country with a nominal 2018 per capita income $2,603 ($7,882, PPP). Either the ticket cost should be much lower or the sponsor (cash) subsidy much higher.
As of 15 January, 92.42% of the tickets had been sold. The early bird rate was 880,000 VND ($38) and the regular ticket cost 1,080,000 VND ($46.56). That is not a lot of money for people of means but it is for most Vietnamese, including students.
Here’s the budget breakdown.
- 100 guest tickets, presumably gratis.
- 101 early bird * 880,000 = 88,880,000 VND
- 262 standard = 1,080,000 = 282,960,000 VND
371,840,000 VND/23,193.80 VND = $16,031.87
16K is pocket change for the event sponsor, a company with a market capitalization of $14.03 billion, as of 16 January 2019. Speaking of which, a smart PR move by Vingroup via Vinschool The Harmony to host this high profile event.
Shalom (שלום), MAA
Given events of the past few years, these are two phrases that mix like oil and water. Think textbook cognitive dissonance. Or a feeble attempt at rehabilitation in the eyes of the public, an audacious means of gaining the moral high ground from the morass of historical tone and gross insensitivity.
My first reaction upon reading about this 10 January 2019 lecture and, more importantly, the series of which it is a part, was “that’s rich coming from an institution that engineered not one but two consecutive PR disasters related to the US War in Viet Nam.”
The first involved Bob Kerrey, who was offered and accepted the position of chairman of the board of trustees. That misguided appointment was the source of considerable controversy and ultimately became a thorn in the side of a budding bilateral relationship – at the highest levels.
The second involved another war veteran and “one of the most influential figures in the US-Viet Nam relationship you’ve never heard of,” Thomas Vallely. He made a series of cruel and insensitive statements about civilian deaths during the war in an interview that was published in early 2018 in Politico.
In case you’re just tuning in, dear reader, or are not entirely up-to-date, have a look at the articles and posts below.
Bob Kerrey and Fulbright University – What were they thinking? by Mark Ashwill (MAA) (8.7.16)
How a U.S.-Backed University in Vietnam Unleashed Old Demons by Isabelle Taft (4.2.18)
The Importance of Speaking Up About “Things That Matter” by MAA (26.12.18)
Make amends and come clean, FUV; then you’re entitled to launch a Moral Leadership Speaker Series in good conscience.
Shalom (שלום), MAA, The Unquiet US American
I received a number of comments in response to my recent article entitled A “Patriotic” Education Study Abroad Program in Viet Nam: God Bless America, Right or Wrong!, mostly from US veterans of the war in Viet Nam, or “Vietnam-era” veterans. One who falls into the latter category decided to take it one step further and send a letter below to the College of the Ozarks. The “lessons from the American War in Vietnam” to which he refers are contained in this 2012 article The Racket of War: Dying for Lies, a copy of which he included with his letter.
Shalom (שלום), MAA
Sanford Kelson– Attorney at Law
December 14, 2018
Valerie Coleman, Public Relations, Director, College of the Ozarks, Point Lookout, MO 65726
Re: Patriotic Education Travel Program, Vietnam
Enclosed is the story of my lessons from the American War in Vietnam.
Boy, did that war wake up in a naïve, idealistic, perfectly indoctrinated young man a curiosity to learn, to study, to read, to discuss, to critically think and to teach. I have never stopped learning. That war made me who I am to this day at 74 years of age. I consider myself a patriotic citizen but not a nationalist.
Don’t you agree that students who are exposed to multiple interpretations of history have a more quality educational experience than those who are exposed to only one interpretation? Multiple interpretations help provoke, oh my God, critical thinking. Do not forget, young students in the deep south of the 1700 and 1800s were taught only one interpretation of slavery, that it was just fine. Even God approved. “It says so in the Bible!” And, that immoral institution lasted for hundreds of years and its effects are still adversely affecting our nation.
Yes, the vets who go on the tour are heroes but in what cause, a just one or not, or a mixture of just and not just? If the lessons of the American War had been widely known, our leaders may not have able to mislead so many of us into supporting the current wars of choice.
Accordingly, I volunteer to go on the College of the Ozarks’ patriotic tours to Vietnam as a concerned veteran and a patriot. Or to present at the college. I believe in education and assisting young people with development of critical thinking skills, so I will gladly pay my own way for an opportunity to educate.
The contrast between my story and the other vets’ presentations may cause some of those young students to think critically and embark on their own investigations, as I did. If so, the lessons they learn will be based upon their own investigation and critical thinking. This I believe, should be the major goal of formal education. Does Hard Work U have sufficient confidence in the intelligence and critical thinking abilities of its student body to expose them to alternate interpretations? I certainly hope so.
Please pass this letter along to those at the college who are involved with the Patriotic Education Travel Program.
I look forward to the possibility of a positive reply to this letter.
Very truly yours,