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A Light in the Storm: The Power of Our Community

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Our Friends of Fulbright,

Over the past few weeks, we have perhaps all felt overwhelmed and anxious about the future. Every morning when we wake up, we wonder what awaits each of us while the world changes by the hour. Last night, as I stood on my balcony overlooking the pitch-black and deserted streets of Hanoi, which only a week ago bustled with traffic among the vibrant city lights, memories of a war time that our generation survived came flooding back. Those were the days when Hanoi was almost devoid of people, when families had to send their children away and evacuated to the countryside.

Those were the days when every single person braced in preparation for the worst. Yet, just like in those difficult years, despite being restlessly worried for myself and my loved ones, I feel bolstered by the caring warmth of those around me, their courageous hopes for the future, and the shared values ​​that help us face the most difficult challenges. From the bottom of my heart, I believe that love and hope will continue to be the compass that guides each and every one of us peacefully through this storm.

Like many other institutions, we are vulnerable. This crisis demands us to adjust our perception, and gaze upon a fragile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous world, one that will shape the future of Fulbright, of the country, the region and the very world we live in. But even in the darkest moments of the crisis affecting us now, as it was in the past, I see reasons for us to keep our faith in a bright future.

President of Fulbright University Vietnam Dam Bich Thuy

I am certain I was not the only one who was deeply moved when looking at photos of tired volunteers, taking  quick naps where they could: on stone benches, or in a corner of a corridor, after relentless and exhausting efforts providing support for the quarantined. There are ordinary working people in Saigon who went to great lengths to help buy necessities for residents in locked-down apartments. There are entrepreneurs, though struggling to sustain their businesses in this crisis, who did not hesitate to contribute generously to the country’s anti-epidemic efforts.

Despite not knowing what the future holds, each individual, including members of the Fulbright community, donated part of their income to fund protective gear and medical masks for health workers struggling on the frontline. There are countless acts of kindness and gestures of solidarity, and the list keeps growing. While practicing “social distancing” to protect ourselves and the community, we do not let fear overwhelm and set us apart.

While schools remain closed and all teaching and learning activities stay thoroughly disrupted, young people have risen to the occasion, showing maturity and community-mindedness. Many students have written to me asking how they can help alleviate the suffering of others, not as individuals, but together as an institution, as the Fulbright community.

Some of our freshmen suggested we organize training courses to help students understand, respond to and make appropriate contributions during crises such as this one. Their cohort also asked the school to facilitate their community relief and support projects. They are the ones who will create the future. Their willingness to engage, to take on challenges and to think deeply motivates educators like us greatly to persevere on this journey of creating a worthy education for Vietnamese students.

Even if we cannot yet predict how daunting tomorrow’s tasks can be, I believe that if “social distancing” protects us, and solidarity will save us. This epidemic, or rather pandemic has proven we are all equally affected, no matter where we are in this world. Once again, it shows us the vital importance of the community we are all building.

As we work together to create a path through these trying times, I look forward to hearing you share your stories, and more importantly, your ideas on the ways Fulbright can contribute to solving this crisis, to support you, to support Vietnam and the world more broadly. As an organization with a mission to create generations of positive changemakers in a turbulent world, with the precious heritage of the Vietnam-US relationship, we are committed to findings ways to serve our society and make it better.

With my deepest gratitude and appreciation,

Dam Bich Thuy

Founding President

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