Click here for President Obama's full speech
Listening to his speech from the National Conference Centre in Hanoi one can understand why. He is a very eloquent speaker: warm, engaging and authentic. What was significant is that he was prepared to open his mouth and open his heart in what he uttered on that occasion. He spoke openly of past conflicts, of the warmth of the welcome he had received and of his desire to build on the normalisation of relations that his visit was encouraging.
What struck me was his fluency with cultural points, the quoting of authors from many distant ages, the referencing of historical figures as well as the placing of his speech in the modern context of political, societal and economic developments. For me, it was a moving speech and showed the importance of cultural awareness, sensitivity and relevance. At the same time, President Obama was at pains not to give the impression that the USA had all of the answers or was trying to determine policy or practice in this sovereign nation.
He several times mentioned the young in his speech, and as an educator myself, I was particularly heartened to hear this. His speech was very warm on the talent, potential and versatility of young people who are well-positioned in the years (maybe decades ahead) to make a significant difference to the future shape of Vietnam. It was from that point of view an encouraging speech; encouraging the young to make use of the opportunities that come their way in every facet of intellectual and economic life, to go out and grab all that life can offer in training and preparation for the enterprise and innovation. I could not agree more. Whilst we are not American at the BRITISH Vietnamese International School, these points deeply resonated and reminded us of the value behind the legacy that is being established through our school, and others like it.
Our challenge as educators, and as parents, is to provide those opportunities for the young, the next generation, building with huge gratitude, respect and focus, on the achievements of those who have come before. The theme raised by President Obama was one not just of self advancement but of the development of all the peoples of this great nation whom we willingly serve.
I wish you a very happy, and thoughtful, weekend.
Mr Mark Sayer - Principal of BVIS Hanoi