Remark of Amb. Le Bang at Hamline University, MN

Remarks of His Excellency Le Van Bang, Ambassador of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam at the Third Annual Presentation of the Immortal Chaplains Prize for Humanity.

Hamline University, Minnesota, February 4, 2001

Dear - Dean Davenport
- Mrs. Koch
- Senator Wellstone and Senator Dayton
- Ambassador Yanai
- Prime Minister Rwigema
- Honorees and Honored Guests
- Friends

On behalf of the Embassy of Vietnam, I would like to thank the Immortal Chaplains Foundation and its Executive Director, Mr. David Fox, for inviting me to join you in honoring two brave men, who risked their lives in the service of humanity. As we celebrate the lives of Pastor Martin Neimoeller and Huge C. Thompson, Jr., we call for the best in all of us - which values human life and dignity above all else.

The actions of Hugh C. Thompson, Jr. along with Larry Colburn and their late comrade, Glenn Andreotta on March 16, 1968 exemplify the willingness to protect the sanctity of life. In the midst of a horrible war, they defied a company of armed soldiers to end a massacre of Vietnamese civilians. I solemnly today thank each of them for their courage and compassion.

The massacre of My Lai took the lives of 504 people. But the war in Vietnam, all told, 3 million Vietnamese were killed, millions were wounded and hundreds of thousands remain missing in action. American people also suffered great losses, with 58,000 soldiers killed, legions wounded. Millions of Vietnamese and American veterans are still suffering from the consequences of the war, including the effects of Agent Orange.

As we are honoring Hugh Thompson and his comrades today, we should also look to the future to help those who are struggling to overcome the legacies of the war. I agree with Ambassador Pete Peterson, "We could not change the past, but we can shape the future". To you, once again I would like to repeat myself: "Vietnam now is a country not a war". To this end, our two peoples and governments for over a decade have done our best to overcome the legacies of the war, to normalize our relations and to improve our friendship and cooperation. In 1987, one of the finest and admirable sons of Minnesota, General John Vessey, who under the instruction of President Reagan, went to Vietnam not only to try to solve the issue of US soldiers missing-in-action but also to bring humanitarian aid to Vietnamese people, starting the earnest process of reconciliation between our two peoples. Following him, hundred of thousands of Americans came to Vietnam: they are Vietnam veterans, Vietnamese Americans, NGOs, businessmen