Friday, January 29, 2016
I am truly honored to stand here today on this historic bridge, which once marked the demarcation line that divided this country. When I first came to this country in 1996, I was a young diplomat, sent to begin what President Clinton then called “a time to heal and a time to build.” Many images from that time remain vivid in my memory. One of them involves this bridge, which I visited when I rode a bicycle nearly 2,000 kilometers from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City. I stood here, gazing at what appeared to be ponds dotting the landscape. An older woman said in Vietnamese that those were not ponds, but places where bombs had been dropped, including on her village. When I told her that I represented the government and people of the United States, she replied using the familial terms that make Vietnamese such an intimate language: “Hom nay, chung ta la anh chi em.”
That conversation illustrated for me two important points. First, that the Vietnamese people remember their past, but are focused on building a better future. And second, that they want a new, better relationship with the American people to be part of that future.
On this bicycle trip, I have also met many Vietnamese people who I will always remember: people working to protect the environment, people working to provide an education for Vietnam’s youth. Looking at the growing cooperation and friendship we enjoy now, I realize that it’s true – hom nay, chung ta anh chi em.
Thank you for joining me today at this historical site and for sharing this moment.
Xin cảm ơn.