Monday, May 23, 2016

DIPLOMACY - U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam

"Meet bicycle diplomat Ted Osius, America's modern ambassador to Vietnam" PBS NewsHour 5/20/2016

NOTE:  I am retired U.S. Navy (22yrs) and a Vietnam Vet.


SUMMARY:  Ted Osius' path to becoming U.S. ambassador to Vietnam began with bicycle diplomacy, soon after relations with Hanoi were restored in 1995.  As a consular officer, he pedaled the countryside and endeared himself to the Vietnamese.  Osius is gay and married, and represents a modern America: “I'm white, my husband's black and our kids are brown,” he says.  Special correspondent Mike Cerre reports.

MIKE CERRE (NewsHour):  Breakfast at the U.S. Ambassador's residence in Hanoi, with a side order of Vietnamese language lessons.

TED OSIUS, U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam:  I can speak what is a pretty difficult language, and I speak it pretty well.

I think, more often than not, people like to get out and mix it up, really learn what's going on in the countries where they serve and make a difference.

MIKE CERRE:  The closest most locals will ever come to a U.S. ambassador abroad is a passing motorcade or a heavily staged official event.

But given the tortured relations between the United States and Vietnam over the years, U.S.  Ambassador Ted Osius is dispensing with traditional protocols to help create a new reference point on U.S.-Vietnam relations.

His mission in Vietnam started with a 1,200-mile bike ride, the length of the country, as a U.S. consular officer in 1995, soon after official relations between the two countries were restored.  His bike diplomacy continues to be his signature style for interacting with the Vietnamese people, as well as local government officials.

While crossing the former demilitarized zone, once separating North from South Vietnam, a local woman offered a rare, but indelible Vietnamese perspective on what they call here the American war.

TED OSIUS:  And I asked her, “So, why are there so many ponds right here?”

And she said, “Well, that’s where the Americans dropped bombs.”

And she said — she went on to say:  “They dropped bombs on my village.  They dropped bombs, and I lost family members.”

And I said:  “Well, I need you to know I’m American and I work for the U.S. Embassy.”

And she said well, “Today — today, you and I are brother and sister.”

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