By MAI HOANG
AAP contributing writer
Falls Church, VA (September 26, 2010) – With 1.6 million Vietnamese Americans in the United States, the National Congress of Vietnamese Americans has much to do to keep up on all fronts with its many activities. NCVA members worked on many issues late last month at its 25th annual National Convention in Washington, D.C.
Founded in 1986, NCVA remains the only national nonprofit organization offering annual conventions covering a variety of issues impacting Vietnamese Americans and the former homeland.
NCVA Founding President Nguyen Ngoc Bich, said this landmark event was an opportunity to celebrate all of NCVA’s accomplishments since its founding in 1986. The convention was also an occasion to review and study ongoing issues confronting Vietnamese Americans and the home country where they continue to work for democracy and improved human and religious freedoms.
Fine presenters and a surprise guest
Nguyen said the lagging economy was probably the cause of a lower turnout than in past years. He said those present were only disappointed that others missed out on the great speakers and presentations, and a banquet that honored a person significant to helping the Vietnamese settle in the U.S.
“Some people just wanted to come by out of curiosity, heard the speakers and ended up staying for the whole thing,” said Nguyen. “That just shows how fascinating the topics were, and how well researched the papers were. The presenters were extremely knowledgeable.”
Nguyen said the NCVA is considering publishing the presentations but that it would be an expensive endeavor.
The White House and congressional briefings are always a highlight of the NCVA conventions when they take place near Washington. That same weekend, however, President Barack Obama took many of his Vietnam experts with him for high level talks at the Association of South East Asian Nations Leaders Meeting in New York City. Obama was the event co-chair together with President Nguyen Minh Triet of Vietnam.
Because of the lack of available experts, Nguyen said this part of the conference was not as enlightening as in past years. However, the White House Office of Public Engagement made up for this by sharing with the participants the communiqué coming from the New York meeting as soon as it came out.
A Wealth of Topics
After the White House Briefing and meetings with Congresspersons and staff at the U.S. Capitol, the delegates came back and participated in several workshops.
The workshops focused on areas such as Vietnamese American Community and the US Census 2010, Models for Youth Involvement, Participation in Mainstream Politics and Obstacles, Your Home and Financial Management in a Time of Crisis, Filmmaking as a Way to Defend Ourselves, and Experiences Building the Vietnamese Chamber of Commerce.
NCVA relies on the collective wisdom of its members to find solutions to common problems and challenges. Nguyen said it is vital to widen this base geographically and to the next generation to broaden the knowledge and new expertise to develop the best possible solutions by better understanding of the complex issues.
The delegates that work year-round on issues of the homeland in Vietnam, gave presentations on current issues such as U.S. policy towards the South China Sea and Vietnam, environmental problems confronting Vietnam, the potential Chinese threat and conflict resolution in the South China Sea. They also held annual board and committee meetings and elected new officers.
A very successful Gala Dinner
Despite the low conference turnout Nguyen said the gala dinner, which gathered about 260 guests, was a highlight that stands out as one of the most memorable in the 25 years they have held them.
“That was a smashing success,” said Nguyen.
The surprise honored guest was Eugene Krizek, who in 1975 was the Director of Congressional Services in the Office of Congressional Relations at the U.S. State Department. He was among the top State Department officials instrumental in getting a bill, Public Law 94-23, better known as “The Indochina Migration and Refugee Assistance Act of 1975,” passed.
“This speedily processed through the 94th Congress, which allowed for the appropriation of the first $155 million meant for the resettlement of 137,000 refugees from Vietnam and Cambodia,” said Nguyen. “This was the very beginning of the implantation of Vietnamese in America.”
Nguyen added that on January 29, 1976, President Gerald Ford wrote Mr. Krisek a letter saying, “As a result of your efforts more than 130,000 people who had to flee their homelands in Southeast Asia have been helped to make a new beginning in America.”
The Gala Dinner is also an opportunity to rekindle old friendships among the its delegates and a chance to mingle with local leaders. The entertainment was provided by famous Vietnamese singers, Nguyet Anh, Bao Vy, Hoang Anh, and the Saigon Star Band.
A History of Cooperation with Other Entities
NCVA has a long track record of impacting issues beginning with helping to bring the imprisoned former soldiers of the Republic of Vietnam to America by supporting the H.O. Program through cooperation with the Families of Vietnamese Political Prisoners Association.
The Vietnamese refugee resettlement work continued with the Amerasian and McCain Children Programs, and support for Boat People S.O.S., Legal Assistance to Vietnamese Asylum Seekers program, Buddhist Social Services and others.
NCVA lobbied for the creation of Radio Free Asia as early as 1983, by aligning itself with the Council for the Defense of Freedom, the World Federation of Free Vietnamese, the Indochinese Committee for Radio Free Asia, and the Vietnam Restoration Party. RFA was established in 1996 and its Vietnamese broadcast began in February 1997.
It also worked with the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibit Service on a Vietnamese art exhibit, “An Ocean Apart,” and later, the “Exit Saigon, Enter Little Saigon” traveling exhibit.
NCVA works with the international Vietnamese refugee communities to build solidarity in pursuit of a free, multiparty and democratic Vietnam. The collaboration with the Vietnamese Canadian Federation and the Free Vietnamese Community in Australia led to forming the World Federation of Free Vietnamese in 1989. This led to the Free Vietnamese Solidarity Conference from 1995 to 2002.
The next NCVA National Convention is scheduled for September 23-26, 2011 in Tampa, Florida. More details and venue information will come later in the year.
The NCVA National Office is located at 6433 Northanna Drive, Springfield, VA 22150-1335. For information contact Nguyen Ngoc Bich at 703-971-9178, email [email protected] and visit www.ncvaonline.org.