Vietnam — Day 4


O’Rourke and Castro placing flag at the memorial to Charles McMahon and Darwin Lee Judge

After a breakfast of eggs and pho, we joined President Obama at a town hall in Ho Chi Minh city with about 400 young people — artists, entrepreneurs, activists. This was the President at his best, not reading from a speech, talking conversationally and answering unscripted questions from the audience. One of his best moments was responding to a filmmaker who had asked him a question about personal transformation.

The President spoke of our need to define ourselves by the stories we tell, and how that can shape our destiny both personally and as a people. He went on to make the point that the Declaration of Independence began as a story about who we were before we were legally, politically the United States — that in other words, our story, which begins with the premise “that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness”, is a story that became self-fulfilling in the government that we were able to ultimately establish (and improve over time), one that has attracted millions of immigrants to our shores, and has inspired much of the rest of the world, including the founders of modern Vietnam.

While we had several more meetings after the town hall, with members of the environmental community of the Mekong Delta and a labor rights group, the highlight of the day was spent at the consulate in Ho Chi Minh, the sight of our former embassy in Saigon and also the place where the last two service members to be killed in the Vietnam war gave their lives. Congressman Joaquin Castro and I placed a flag at the memorial to Charles McMahon and Darwin Lee Judge who were killed on April 9, 1975 during a rocket attack on the embassy. It made me think of all of the great El Pasoans who made the ultimate sacrifice in that war; it made me think of all the great El Pasoans who served and are still alive, and who keep those who didn’t make it back in their memories, in the stories they tell, in the work that they do for our country and our community. To Bobby Rangel, Bill Hart Jr., Bob Chisolm, John Ceballos, Jimmy Melver, Bill Sparks, Miguel Sotomayor, Jack Timbrook, Ray Guerra, Victor Flores, John Cook, Silvestre Reyes, Joe “China Boy” Lopez and all of the other wonderful veterans from the Vietnam War that I’ve come to know and respect, I was thinking about you.

This is our last day in Vietnam. Joaquin and I head to the airport for a midnight flight back home via Tokyo . I can’t wait to be back in El Paso, can’t wait to see Amy, Ulysses, Molly and Henry, can’t wait to be home.