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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Students Bring UMB “Inside Vietnam”

On November 29, Henny Salim, Yasuhito Yamamoto, Ross Grifkin, and Annie Lei-all students of Introduction to Asian American Studies 200-accomplished a vision.

Professor Karen Suyemoto took her Asian American Studies class a step further by challenging students to spend 10 hours in the local Asian American community. Salim, Yamamoto, Grifkin and Lei worked collaboratively to bring their learning experience back to UMB.

The four students designed an on-campus forum titled “Inside Vietnam,” enthusiastically hoping UMB students to attend and “discover the true beauty of Vietnam.”

The program consisted of a three speaker panel: Thu V. Truong presented selections of Vietnamese poetry; Thich Dong Tri, a Buddhist monk, spoke about the various religions of Vietnam; and UMB’s own history professor, and Vietnamese history scholar, David Hunt presented the history of Vietnam.

The panelists addressed Vietnam from an angle that is often forgotten: the history and culture of Vietnam prior to the war. “I didn’t think that focusing on the war was something we should explore because that seems to be the only thing that people think about when they hear ‘Vietnam,'” stated Grifkin. Thus, the group constructed a program hoping to bring justice to the details of Vietnamese society taken for granted in most history classes.

Hunt shared his impressions from the perspectives of Vietnamese peasants taken from excerpts in a book titled Peasants of the Tonkin Delta by French scholar Pierre Gourou. While “the French looked down upon the Vietnamese with hatred,” Gourou, according to Hunt, “moved beyond the French view” to illustrate the collaborative way of life of the Vietnamese underclass and to further show that Vietnamese people “lived according to a philosophy of love and the joy of being together.”

Buddhism, the religion of 75 percent of the Vietnamese population, arrived to Vietnam between the second and third centuries B.C.E, explained Tri, and dominated because, “Buddhism has so much to offer for the union of the people.” Tolerant humanitarian views, Tri believes, makes Buddhism practical to follow, in addition to philosophies about political matters which, according to Tri, assisted in keeping the Vietnamese unified throughout its history of constant invasions, wars, revolutions and destruction.

At the end of the program, the audience was asked to continue the dialogue over an eclectic collection of Vietnamese snacks-spring rolls, ribs, and rice noodles.

“The purpose of this event was to get people excited about Vietnam,” stated Salim who learned this semester in her Asian American Studies class that “Vietnam is one of few countries that has never been successfully conquered. That made me want to know more.”

Lei expressed that, “because the Vietnamese community at UMB is the largest of all Asian groups on campus,” students attending the program will “get more out of this program.” She continued, “the Asian American program is developing at UMB, and we hope to see it become an actual major one day.”

“We met for almost two months straight to get this done,” stated Grifkin. “I was very proud of what we accomplished.” “I believe it is important to have presentations about other countries,” added Salim. “I am graduating this semester and I hope other students will continue to do similar presentations,” she said.

Grifkin also added that this was his last semester at UMB. “I’ve never done anything like this before and I learned a lot from this experience.”