Obama tells his life stories and inspires young Vietnamese

By An Hong, Nhung Nguyen   May 25, 2016 | 03:49 pm GMT+7
Obama tells his life stories and inspires young Vietnamese
U.S. President Barack Obama greets members of the audience during a town hall meeting with members of the Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative (YSEALI) at the GEM Center in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam May 25, 2016. Photo by Reuters/Carlos Barria

U.S. President Obama spoke with young Vietnamese leaders on Wednesday at the conclusion of his landmark visit to the country.

Obama received a standing ovation from the crowd at a convention hall in Ho Chi Minh City where he met 800 youth leaders who are part of an exchange program with the U.S. State Department known as the Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative (YSEALI).

VnExpress spoke to some of the audience after the event, who said they found his words "inspirational".

“As a film-maker and a teacher myself, I always want to inspire my audience and my students in many ways. But sometimes, I can’t help but feel stuck and lost along the path,” said Trinh Dinh Le Minh, an independent film maker who was among the audience at the GEM Center in Ho Chi Minh City.

“The meeting with President Obama, however, has somehow helped me and many other young Vietnamese to find our lost inspiration. His answer to film director Phan Nhat Linh’s question about the turning points in his life also answered my question. He said in the end, we should all look for inspirational stories from people around us to motivate ourselves. I feel like the young generation in Vietnam at the moment is losing its direction: we don’t know where to go or where to turn to. That’s why I believe his visit to Vietnam is meaningful in a way that has helped to restore our faith; to be more optimistic about the future,” the young filmmaker added.

Phan Gia Nhat Linh, known as Phan Xine, the director of the biggest grossing Vietnamese movie of the year, ‘Em la Ba noi cua Anh,' (‘Sweet 20’), also shared his thoughts on the morning meeting with the U.S. president.

“I think President Obama provided inspiration for the young generation of Vietnamese this morning when he referred to social and political issues, such as the role of a leader and artistic freedom. He showed us that a leader can be both talented and friendly to young people, even when the leader is from the United States and the young people are from Vietnam.”

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U.S. President Barack Obama attends a town hall meeting with members of the Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative (YSEALI) at the GEM Center in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam May 25, 2016. Photo by Reuters/Carlos Barria

Other young people who watched the live coverage of Obama's speech this morning said they could feel the positive energy from the president.

Nga Nguyen, founder of the Women Who Make a Difference (WWMAD) initiative and former Child Rights Governance Project Officer at Save the Children Vietnam, was invited to one of the meetings with President Obama but had to miss it due to a pre-planned trip to the U.S.

Like Minh and many other young and ambitious Vietnamese, Nga is impressed by Obama’s success, which he himself many times referred to as a living example of the American dream.

"In his early twenties, Obama worked as a community organizer in a largely poor and black neighborhood of Chicago. He dedicated the next decade of his life to fighting for the disenfranchised African-American population," Nga said to VnExpress International. "I hope his life and work (as well as the life and work of his likely successor Hillary Clinton) will inspire many young Vietnamese to also dedicate their lives to improving their community and society, helping those less privileged, and fighting for those whose voice is silenced."

"The contemporary generation of Vietnamese are doing our part to change the country's future, and we're doing it well. Vietnam at this very tender moment is where you can not only witness history happening and unfolding before your very eyes, you can also live it and be part of it, and most importantly, you can be the driving force making it happen," the young WWMAD founder concluded.

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