Remarks on Receiving Truman-Reagan Freedom Award

Doan Viet Hoat
Washington, D.C.
Wednesday, November 14, 2000

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am honored to receive tonight the Truman-Reagan Freedom Award presented to me by the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation. I would like to offer this honor to millions of Vietnamese victims of communism, dead or still alive, inside Vietnam or now living in exile in the United States and all over the world. Hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese have been killed by the communists since the first days of their presence in Vietnam. Let us keep one minute of silence to commemorate those victims.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

We all want to look to the future and not to the past. But the lessons of the past must be remembered so that the future would be brighter for generations to come. And we have learned from the past fifty years at least one valuable lesson: Nazi and communist regimes would not have been defeated if indifference and passivity have prevailed. Our presence here tonight is a clear proof of our vigorous concern and commitment for the cause of liberty, democracy and human dignity for all people around the world.

In the past, Vietnam and the United States were bound together by the war to contain international communism. Nowadays I believe we again share our commitment to a better Vietnam, a Vietnam freed of all types of dictatorship, a Vietnam of freedom, of justice, of prosperity, of equal opportunity for every Vietnamese, regardless of differences in religion, ideology and political opinions. Such a Vietnam still remains a dream of all Vietnamese in the country and overseas. The present communist leaders, unfortunately, continue to deny the Vietnamese people the opportunities to realize their dream. After 25 years in peace, Vietnam continues to be one of the poorest countries in Southeast Asia and in the world. The government continues to deprive the people of fundamental freedoms. Abuse of power, corruption, and inefficiency prevail in all levels of government. Dissenting voices and popular protests are becoming widespread. Vietnam is in a new crisis, threatening the sustainable development and the stability of the country and of the region. I believe that this new crisis is more political than economic.

Since the early 1990's the United States has begun a new type of involvement in Vietnam, the involvement in peace and for a developed and free Vietnam. The signing of the bilateral trade agreement in July and President Bill Clinton's visit in two more days culminate the first stage of this new involvement. In this first stage, the United States has been supporting the communist government in their economic transition to a market system. Time has come now for the United States to support the Vietnamese people in their efforts make free market system exist, and to build up an open and democratic civil society. Free trade and free market system require fundamental freedoms -freedom to pursue happiness, guaranteed by equal opportunity; freedom to acquire and exchange information and ideas. And most important of all, freedom to choose the leaders and to make them accountable for their policies and decisions. Without these basic freedoms, free trade will hardly take shape, and will benefit the corrupt minority of officials and not the majority of the people, who live in poverty. The Vietnamese people hope that President Clinton will send a clear message of support for freedom and human rights in his visit to Vietnam. They also expect that American aid would benefit the private sectors, and not the government, in all areas, --economic, cultural, educational, informatics. American engagement will only be positive if it helps strengthen the people's power and not the dictators'. It is only by that that the United States would help to promote the emergence of a new Vietnam, the Vietnam of the Future and neither of the past, nor of the present. Only by that that all of us, Americans, Vietnamese-Americans, and Vietnamese, can work together to build up a new world, a world with no more victims of communism, no more victims of backwardness and dictatorship. We all believe in that Future, and we shall work together for that Future.

Thank you for your attention.