The following email from Gaston Younger provides an interesting perspective on America's global reputation, the rise of other powers (especially in Asia) and the poor state of U.S. public education. As you will see from his emails, Younger lived in both Vietnam and France before coming to the U.S., where he served 20 years with the U.S. Army.
I just read you book "The end of the American century" and find it very fascinating but yet a gloomy, unpleasant realistic outcome for our country if our elected public officials do not take into consideration the serious situations (financial, economic & educational) facing the US.
I was born in French Indochina & I can attest to the facts on my vacation trip to Vietnam and the surrounding countries of the former French colonial empire that China has replaced both France & the US as the preeminent global power in that part of the world. We should all welcome the new era of multipolar world; however American citizens should definitely demand from their government on both local & federal levels to invest more financial resources in public education if we are to compete successfully with the new rising powers; S Korea, India, China, Brazil.
After the disastrous eight years of the Bush regime & a total lock on power by a fanatical, right wing Taliban GOP controlled US Congress from 1994 until 2006, our country image abroad has dramatically deteriorated. It is incumbent upon informed citizens to urge their elected public officials to take implement immediate actions in the areas of k12 public education & environmental friendly green energy if we are to pull our country out of this economic fiasco.
After receiving this email, I responded to Gaston, asking him about his own background, and this is his reply:
I was born in Vietnam from a mixed French-Vietnamese ancestry, left Vietnam in '67 for France where I continued my studies & came to the States in '73. I graduated from high school in New Orleans & joined the US Army for the next 20 years as a linguist (French & Arabic). I was stationed mostly throughout the Middle East, did couple tours on the DMZ in Korea & one tour in Germany. I was selected by the Army to attend DLI(Defense Language Institute) where I graduated top 5% in my Arabic class.
I was fortunate to have a throughout French education in my childhood in Indochina. The French educational system is second to none in Western Europe. It emphasizes primarily on the rich tradition of French literature. All kids memorize at an early age "les fables de La Fontaine"by Jean de La Fontaine, the classical works by Victor Hugo, Moliere, Guy De Maupassant, Honore de Balzac, Emile Zola, Albert Camus, Anatole France, Gustave Flaubert.
Thinking about Vietnam in the 20th century, I am saddened by the critical mistakes made by the French government in 1945, when it refused to recognize Ho Chi Minh declaration of independence; however France recognized Laos independence four years after the end of WW2. Did you know Ho Chi Minh actually admired the US? It is unfortunate the cold war allowed many demagogues particularly US Senator Joe McCarthy and many more in the Truman & Eisenhower administrations to demonize Ho Chi Minh & portrayed him a a Soviet stooge or harboring pro-Chinese sentiment while Vietnam has deep mistrust of its northern neighbors for thousand years & lets not forget it was the same Ho Chi Minh who organized the guerrilla warfare against the imperial Japanese Army occupying French Indochina while working closely with the OSS.
Like many Vietnamese, I have a deep admiration for French culture, literature, cuisine, music.
I share many of your political ideas. I worked in 2004 for John Kerry but I was disheartened by the election results, I still could not understand the reasons 58 million Americans voted for a demagogue from the red state of Texas considering his shady personal character & many policies implemented by his administration will definitely affect our country for years to come. I wore the Army uniform for 20 years with pride, but the prisoner sexual abuse at Abu Graibh made me sick to my stomach & soiled our country image throughout the world, I will never forgive this rogue Bush regime for destroying our military, ruined our country image abroad.
The midterm election in 2006 & President Obama successful election in 2008 finally gave us some hope to turn this country around, although it may be a little bit too late. The damage (fiscal policy mismanagement, unilateral foreign policy) has been done.