|What's Next ?!
By "Dave Scott"
You Da Man!
Bill's Excellent Adventure
OK, it was 27 years too late as far as some of the more vocal critics back in America were concerned, but none-the-less, US President William Jefferson Clinton gave Viet Nam the "Full Monty" - and the people loved it.
Clinton is the kind of president who inspires either love or hate...there's really no DMZ anywhere. But I'll tell you this, anyone who proclaims to hate Clinton for whatever reason has never seen this man in person.
I was fortunate enough to see him in action from less than one-metre away during his trip to Ho Chi Minh City (formally known as Sai Gon - and will always be referred to as such by most everyone on the planet - especially those who live here) and I gotta tell ya, this man KNOWS how to work a room.
First off, the stage is set to properly generate maximum anticipation. All the trappings befitting the leader of the sole remaining Superpower nation are in place: Air Force One, a plane so famous that a feature film was made for it ; a back-up 747 (which brought the First Lady to Viet Nam following Leah Rabin's funeral in Israel); a press plane full of familiar faces and by-lines; a couple of C-131's loaded with equipment - including the Presidential Limo, Senators and business leaders, and of course; an army of Secret Service agents - ear phones and all.
Next comes the motorcade with outriders, sirens wailing and everybody and their brother lining the streets to get a glimpse of "Da Man".
This is a region of the world where leaders are often stern and foreboding, never missing an opportunity to remind everyone of their importance, and doing everything they can think of to stay IN power.
Thus, no one was ready for Clinton.
After waiting in the hot sun, and I do mean hot - read: 95 degrees in the shade, reports of the Presidential motorcade arriving swept the area. A hush came over the crowd following the obligatory reminder in both English and Vietnamese to "...remain in your seats and DO NOT make any sudden moves toward the US President..."
So naturally, as Clinton strolled in, exuding confidence, dignity and power, everyone rose to their feet and applauded. Nobody in the audience had any doubts that this was the most powerful man in the world. A man who could launch a war with a phone call, a man who could collapse a foreign country's economy with a comment, a man who could really ruin a tyrant's day just for the hell of it.
What came next was vintage Clinton. While waiting to speak, he slipped on a pair of Ray Ban's, looking very Blues Brother-ish, and threw a side-long glance at a pretty girl in the front row followed by a sly grin at the audience.
And the people ate it up.
It wouldn't matter what the content of the speech was, a bond had been formed. They loved this guy and would listen to ANYTHING he had to say.
Clinton hit them with "The Message". It was the same message that he delivered nation-wide live from Ha Noi a day earlier. It was a message that bespoke of the future, of putting the past behind us while never forgetting it, but learning from its mistakes. He spoke of future prosperity for Viet Nam, He urged the Vietnamese Government to accelerate reform across the board, He spoke of democracy and liberalisation. He spoke of hope.
And the people listened and responded.
In fact, they listened so well that it prompted a stern reminder that "Viet Nam's future is Socialism".
But it is unlikely that anyone listened.
In three days, Clinton did what bullets and bombs could never do. He won the hearts and minds of the Vietnamese people.
For those of you who have never been here during peacetime, let me clue you in on something The people of Viet Nam are the same as you and me. They share the same dreams, they share the same fears. They want the same things for their families that you want for yours. Better education for their children, enough food on the table, warm clothing in winter. But most of all, they want a future. One that they can call their own.
They want hope for a brighter tomorrow.
It's up to the Government of Viet Nam to decide what road to take. But I would like to point out that Viet Nams Declaration of Independence, written by Ho Chi Minh, contains the phrase: "the people are endowed with certain inalienable rights. Among them are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness". It was also Ho Chi Minh who wrote: "Nothing is more precious than independence and freedom. Both the Viet Nam and the American Declaration of Independence share another common bond - the same opening phrase:
"We The People".
Well, the people have spoken. It's now up to the leadership of Viet Nam to decide what road to take.
Hopefully, it will be a prosperous journey.
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