HANOI AND HO CHI MINH CITY—Mr. Thomas J. Vallely, chairman of the Board of Trustees of Fulbright University Vietnam, spoke at Alumni Gathering Events in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City.
In his remarks Mr. Vallely acknowledged the individuals and institutions that contributed to the vibrant academic exchange relationship between Vietnam and the US. He acknowledged the historic roles that Vietnam veterans in Congress including Senators John Kerry, John McCain, and Bob Kerrey played in creating the Fulbright Program, the Fulbright Economics Teaching Program, and the Vietnam Education Foundation and cited organizations including the Ford Foundation and the World Bank that joined the Fulbright Program of the US State Department in awarding scholarship to Vietnamese students in the years before and after the normalization of relations between the two countries.
Referring to the fact that Vietnam today ranks among the leading countries of origin of foreign students in the United States he said: “This truly remarkable statistic is due above all else to Vietnamese families who believe deeply in the transformative power of educational opportunity and are willing to sacrifice and spend to give their children the chance to benefit from an American education.”
Highlighting the importance of higher education for Vietnam’s future, he said: “In the current century, universities have a vital role to play in the economic, technological, social, and political development of nations. Vietnam’s ambitions to transition to a high-growth, technology-intensive model of economic growth require the high-quality human and knowledge capital that only universities can provide. The grand challenges Vietnam faces—from climate change and urbanization to cybersecurity and public health—can be only be addressed with insights and discoveries that come from university-based research and innovation.”
Mr. Vallely described Fulbright University Vietnam as representing “the future of the US-Vietnam educational partnership.” He cited other examples of innovative new model universities—including the Vietnam-Japan University, Vietnam-German University and Vin Universities—as valued collaborators and healthy competitors for Fulbright and other Vietnamese universities.
Mr. Vallely asked for Vietnamese alumni of US universities and colleges to contribute to Fulbright’s continued development. “No single community has more to contribute to Fulbright University Vietnam than [the alumni of US educational exchange]. Fulbright benefits every day from the talents of members of this community. Alumni of the Fulbright exchange program, of the Vietnam Education Foundation, and of dozens of US colleges and universities currently contribute to Fulbright as members of the board of trustees, as faculty members and administrators, and as trusted advisors and generous donors,” he said.
Mr. Vallely identified Fulbright’s ambition to develop innovative computer science and engineering programs as an area where the expertise of US alumni can be particularly impactful, and called on alumni to “serve as ambassadors for Fulbright’s unique brand of education, which is inspired by the finest traditions of American higher education including the liberal arts philosophy and tailored to Vietnam’s unique circumstances and cultural traditions.”
Mr. Vallely acknowledge the vital support Fulbright receives from multiple US government agencies including the State Department, USAID, and the US International Development Finance Corporation. “The support Fulbright receives from the Vietnamese government has been equally catalytic, robust, and important,” he said, citing the central government, including the Ministry of Foreign Affairs; the People’s Committee of Ho Chi Minh City; and the Central Ideology and Education Commission of the Communist Party of Vietnam as valued counterparts.
On the future of the bilateral relationship, Mr. Vallely said “I believe the formal elevation of the bilateral relationship to the level of a comprehensive strategic partnership is long overdue. In my view there are many opportunities to operationalize a closer relationship.” He highlighted climate change and defensive cybersecurity as two specific areas that are ripe for enhanced cooperation.
Full speech of Mr. Thomas J. Vallely, chairman of the Board of Trustees of Fulbright University Vietnam, at the Alumni Gathering Events in Hanoi and HCMC:
Photos from the events: