Ambassador Kritenbrink Remarks: Acceptance of Donation of Masks from Vietnam Red Cross Society (VRCS) and Vietnam-U.S. Alumni Club (VUSAC)

Wednesday, April 29, 2020
Vietnam Red Cross Headquarters, Hanoi

Thank you for inviting me here today. It is a pleasure to be among friends.

Thank you to our hosts today – Associate Professor Nguyễn Thị Xuân Thu, President of the Vietnam Red Cross Society.

I am pleased to see so many faces I know well – my good friends from the Vietnam-U.S. Alumni Club — Ms. Nguyễn Thu Hà, VUSAC Hanoi President; Ambassador Bùi Thế Giang, VUSAC Hanoi Vice-president; Ms. Thảo Griffiths.

And all the way from Ho Chi Minh City we have Đoàn Hữu Đức, the Vice-president of VUSAC-Ho Chi Minh City. Finally, welcome to Ms. Phạm Thị Ngọc Trâm from the Communist Party of Vietnam.

Like everyone during this crisis, I have been frustrated staying at home, and I worry about family and friends all over the world.

But I have also been gratified to see positive changes in my life – I spend more time with my family — valuable time with my kids who are growing up very fast. I talk to my friends and family online more than I ever did before the COVID-19 crisis.

I bet you are seeing much of the same in your own lives. This crisis has given us a time to think, to prioritize, and appreciate much of what is good in the world.

The people of Vietnam have come together with determination to control COVID-19 in this beautiful country. Vietnam was one of the first countries hit by the pandemic, sharing a border with China over 1,200 kilometers long. Yet, no lives have been lost from COVID-19 here.

I would like to commend the Government of Vietnam, which has done an outstanding job in leading the COVID-19 response and has been proactive, cooperative, and transparent.

This crisis has also given me the opportunity to see the generous, kind-hearted nature of the Vietnamese people first-hand. I have been overwhelmed by the outpouring of generosity from thousands of Vietnamese friends from the North, Central, and South, and even from overseas.

Recently, I was honored to accept a donation of 250,000 masks from the government and people of Vietnam to my government and the American people. I was so pleased to join my good friends, Minister Mai Tiến Dũng and Vice Foreign Minister Bùi Thanh Sơn, for that donation event.

Fighting COVID-19 together has shown the U.S.-Vietnam partnership for what it is — strong, resilient, and multi-faceted. The long-term collaboration by health officials in our two countries means that, since the first days of this crisis, the U.S. and Vietnam have been working together to monitor and respond to the evolving COVID-19 situation.

Today, I am honored to stand with good friends and accept this generous donation of 420,000 medical face masks to the American Red Cross.

This includes 120,000 masks donated by the Vietnam Red Cross, and 300,000 masks donated with funds raised by members of VUSAC – the Vietnam-U.S. Alumni Club. This gift — which comes from the entire Vietnam-U.S. alumni community — is special because each and every member of VUSAC has a personal connection to the United States.

Many VUSAC members were participants at some time in their lives in U.S.-sponsored exchange programs – Thao Griffiths was a Fulbrighter at American University and an Eisenhower Fellow. Ms. Hà was also a Fulbrighter — at Georgetown University.

Some VUSAC members attended university in the United States – like Ambassador Giang, who attended SAIS at Johns Hopkins University. And, as I have found out, some of the more than 900 individuals or organizations who donated to VUSAC have never even set foot in the United States – but they still came forward with donations – large and small – to ensure that Americans have the medical masks that they need.

Through the leaders of VUSAC Hanoi, I wish to extend my heartfelt gratitude to the hundreds of individuals and organizations who contributed to this generous donation. I am not able to mention them all here. The love and care you show for the people of America is phenomenal and touching.

I have always believed that people-to-people relations are the most solid foundation for close and lasting ties between nations. I am so honored to be witnessing this outpouring of love and support.

And to our partners at the Vietnam Red Cross, it is a comfort to know that an organization as storied as the Red Cross is doing what it does best – taking care of people during the worst times of their lives.

I am grateful that the Red Cross will be working with our partners, the Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry, to help needed donations get to the United States, into the hands of the people who need them most.

I know that throughout Vietnamese history, whenever Vietnam was in danger, the Vietnamese would exercise the greatest unity in their fight against the common threat. This great spirit was best summed up by your great leader, Ho Chi Minh: “Unity, unity, great unity; success, success, great success!”

This spirit is still alive and well, as you are showing in this fight. This tells me that once the Vietnamese people have set their minds to achieving something, they will succeed.

I am also happy to see the spirit of unity this crisis has brought out, all over the world, but especially between the people of Vietnam and the people of the United States.

So, in a spirit of optimism, I wish a better future for all of us, as we fight together against COVID-19. And in a spirit of gratitude, I am thankful to my friends, old and new, who personify the bonds that connect us.

Thank you.