Washington, D.C. (May 3, 2010) – Congressman Anh “Joseph” Cao (LA-02) on Monday announced that he has rejected the Vietnamese government’s request for help arranging a meeting with the Vietnamese-American community.
The decision came in response to a recent letter from Deputy Minister Nguyen Thanh Son, who had written Cao to request the Congressman’s help with facilitating a meeting so that the Vietnamese government could provide “correct information” about Vietnam. The Deputy Minister said he believed that miscommunication is the cause for the Vietnamese-American community’s condemnation of the Vietnamese government.
In his reply letter, Congressman Cao says the premise for the proposed meeting is misguided. Cao affirmed that the Vietnamese-Americans left their homeland not because of “misunderstanding” but because they rejected the tyranny of communism. Congressman Cao emphasized that until the government of Vietnam has demonstrated real changes related to freedom and human rights, that calls for reconciliation would not be taken seriously by the Vietnamese-American community.
Congressman Cao outlined specific steps that the government of Vietnam could take to demonstrate its goodwill, such as: release all prisoners of conscience, respect for religious freedom, termination of oppression of democracy activists and demonstration of respect for the rule of law by paying the victims of the Daewoosa American Samoa human trafficking case as adjudicated by law.
Cao was elected Louisiana’s Second Congressional District Representative in 2008, the first Vietnamese-American elected to United States Congress.
He was born in Saigon (now Ho Chi Minh City), Vietnam in 1967. His father was an officer with the Republic of South Vietnam Army, and was imprisoned by the Communists following the war in 1975.
At the age of eight, Cao escaped to America with two of his siblings. He learned English, thrived in school, and earned a physics degree from Baylor University before he began studying for the priesthood.
Cao first arrived in New Orleans in 1992. He left to earn a Master’s degree in philosophy from New York’s Fordham University, returning to Loyola University to teach philosophy and ethics.
As he prepared for priesthood, his faith called him to crusade for social justice and became and advocate for refugees and future Americans. He earned a law degree from Loyola Law School and became in-house counsel for Boat People S.O.S, Inc., an organization helping poor Vietnamese and other minorities.
In 2002, he was chosen by Archbishop Alfred Hughes to become a member of the National Advisory Council of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, addressing women’s rights in the Catholic Church, social justice, child abuse, and the Catholic response to Hurricane Katrina.
Cao lost both his home and law office to Hurricane Katrina in 2005. With his wife and two daughters, he moved temporarily to Westwego and began rebuilding.
In 2007, Governor Jindal appointed Cao to help ensure fair voting as a member of the Board of Elections for Orleans Parish. He was also elected to lead the Louisiana Republican Party both on the parish and state levels. Cao was elected as a delegate to the 2008 Republican National Convention in Minneapolis.