Opinion
The Tale of Kieu, lotus and the US President
  • By Bui Hoang Tam | dtinews.vn | May 25, 2016 04:39 PM

The visit of US President Barack Obama has received very warm welcome from local people.

 

Thousands of people lined the streets where his cars passed by to greet and wave to him.

Local newspapers all put his activities on their front pages.

Why did the US President receive such a welcome in Vietnam?

There may be many reasons. But the most important reason lies in the desire for trust and co-operation of the two former enemies who now want to "focus on the future -- the prosperity, security and human dignity that we can advance together," as President Obama said in Hanoi on May 24.

In the past, there used to be connection between Vietnam and the US when President Ho Chi Minh cited the American Declaration of Independence in the first sentences of the 1945 Vietnamese Declaration of Independence “All people are created equal.  The Creator has endowed them with inviolable rights.  Among these rights are the right to life, the right to liberty, and the right to the pursuit of happiness.”

More than 70 years later at his banquet for US President Obama in Hanoi, President Tran Dai Quang cited a statement by President Ho Chi Minh when talking about the US-Vietnam relationship at present: "Bear the cold winter, and we shall be welcomed by a warm spring."

Leading US politicians have also used Vietnamese poems, especially The Tale of Kieu by poet Nguyen Du during momentous events which highlighted the normalisation of relations between the two countries.

On his historic visit to Vietnam in 2000, former US President Bill Clinton recited a verse: “Just as the lotus wilts, the mums bloom forth; time softens grief, and the winter turns to spring”.

In July 2015, US Vice President Joe Biden quoted another phrase from the poem while welcoming Party General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong in Washington: “Thank heaven we are here today. To see the sun through parting fog and clouds”.

In his remarks to Vietnamese people at the National Convention Centre in Hanoi on May 24, besides citing verses and lyrics from many Vietnamese famous poets and song-writers including Ly Thuong Kiet, Trinh Cong Son or Van Cao, US President Barack Obama ended his speech with a quote from The Tale of Kieu “Please take from me this token of trust, so we can embark upon our 100-year journey together.”

And at the state banquet for President Obama on May 23 in Hanoi, the US President also talked about the Vietnam’s national flower, the lotus, "You draw inspiration from the lotus flower. It takes root in the mud and thus is a symbol of hope amid hardship.  It survives where other flowers cannot, and thus is a symbol of strength and endurance.  It radiates colour, and is therefore a symbol of beauty. So I'd like to propose a toast - to the spirit of the lotus - in the perseverance and the hopes of the Vietnamese people; in the strength and endurance of the partnership between our two nations; and in the beauty of both of our peoples and the desire to live in peace, dignity and justice. "

And so, President Obama has won the love from many Vietnamese people for his respect and understanding of Vietnamese culture and people.

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