A shared offspring

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Friend of 2 sides Project received Vietnam-USA Society delegation in the US

At the beginning of October 1945, President Harry S Truman's Administration introduced the Twelve-Point outline of U.S. foreign policy following World War II. President Ho Chi Minh considered this an opportunity to approach the U.S. and to utilize the positive aspects of this U.S. foreign policy development.  In this context, the Vietnam-American Friendship Association – VAFA as it was called then - was established in the first half of October 1945 when the Ministry of Interior Home Affairs accepted its Charter on October 10, 1945. The association aimed to contribute to successful implementation of foreign policy of the new Vietnamese state, the Democratic Republic of Vietnam.

The establishment of the association was a shared effort between Vietnamese patriots whose hearts leaned toward the United States and American soldiers of the OSS (Office of Strategic Services) “Deer Team,” including Allison K. Thomas, Henry Prunier, Charles Fenn, Raymond Grelecki, Carleton Swift, Mac Shin, Frank Tan, and others who fought along with the Viet Minh against the Japanese in the mountains of Viet Bac. The founding was also a unique and lasting imprint highlighting Vietnam's people-to-people diplomacy, as VAFA was the first bilateral friendship organization formed in Vietnam that was intended to link with other countries.

On October 17, 1945, at the Headquarters of the Cultural Association (formerly known as AFIMA) at 16 Le Thai To Street, Hanoi, an intimate tea party was held which was regarded as the first conference and the official launching ceremony of VAFA.  In order to enhance delivery of information, by decree of the Ministry of Home Affairs on October 31, 1945, the association was permitted to publish a bilingual magazine in Vietnamese and English called “VAFA Review.”

The association's field and scope of work were clearly indicated: "First, organizing English classes and talks for Vietnamese members to understand the domain of American civilization and learning. Second, setting up Vietnamese language classes for Americans. Third, assisting Vietnamese students who want to study in the U.S. Fourth, translating Vietnamese and American publications to understand the culture and customs of both nations more deeply.  Fifth, expanding the reach of VAFA to the US to strengthen the friendship between the two countries."

Just over ten days after the date of the founding of VAFA, President Ho Chi Minh sent a letter to US Secretary of State James Byrnes extending his desire to send Vietnamese students abroad to study in America. He wrote: "On behalf of the Vietnam Cultural Association, I express the desire of this Association to send to the United States of America a delegation of about fifty Vietnam youths with a view to establishing friendly cultural relations with the American youth on the one hand, and carrying on further studies in Engineering, Agriculture as well as other lines of specialization on the other." Unfortunately, the request did not get a response.

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Vietnam-USA Society delegation visited the US

Flexible transformation 

Currently, the Vietnam-USA Society is an active member of the Vietnam Union of Friendship Organizations while also cooperating with eight other local Vietnam - USA Friendship Associations in Ha Noi, Hai Phong, Thua Thien-Hue, Da Nang, Ho Chi Minh City, Can Tho, Kien Giang and Dong Nai. The association is planning to expand to other cities and provinces as well.

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During 75 years of development, the Vietnam-USA Society has set up  partnerships with more than 300 organizations and thousands of individuals located inside and outside of the United States. The association's current priorities are: Encouraging mutually beneficial collaboration in the economic sphere through public channels; arranging delegations including enterprises, educational organizations, social organizations to visit and seek further understanding about the US.

The association aims to build and develop a network of American friends and partners, including the Vietnamese community living in the US. Furthermore, the association plans to organize conferences, talks, seminars/workshops, cultural and business  exchanges between the two countries, on festive occasions and on significant anniversaries. One new task for the Vietnam-USA Society is raising further awareness in the minds of Americans about dealing with war consequences, explosive ordnance and Agent Orange/dioxin, and assisting war victims. At the same time, the association will seek opportunities to exchange information to help international friends understand Vietnam's perspective on East Sea issues and our relationship with the United States.

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A delegation from the Institute for Global Engagement (IGE) led by President Chris Seiple (right) arrived in Vietnam for a working 

Maintaining the relationship with American war veterans remains a core task, which will be advanced further by welcoming delegations of VVA, VFW, VVMF, American Legion, "Veterans For Peace" (VFP), "Vets for Vets" (VfV), "Vietnam Veterans Initiative Program" (VVPI) for visiting and exploring Vietnam. Besides, the Vietnam - USA Society has also reached out to new partner organization of younger generation such as "Two Sides Project" (2SP) with members as children of the POW/MIA families  Apart from exchange programs and humanitarian activities in resolving war consequences of MIA, landmines/UXO, these associations are now also engaging more actively in assisting Agent Orange/dioxin victims.

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Vietnam - USA society received delegation of Peace Trees Vietnam

The year 2020 not only celebrates the 25th Anniversary of Vietnam - U.S. diplomatic relations, but it also marks the 75th Anniversary of the VAFA, an essential milestone in the bilateral relationship of Vietnam and the U.S. in general, and in the people-to-people relationship between Vietnam and the US.  During the past 25 years, we have witnessed the blossoming relationship between Vietnam and the US.  Nowadays, Vietnam is more open for integration than ever before. People-to-people diplomacy, including with the United States, is opening to new "horizons" since the two former enemies become comprehensive partners.

Each Vietnamese and American citizen needs to act with goodwill to strengthen the relationship between our two nations. The younger generations in both Vietnam and the US are responsible for overcoming war legacies with justice and compassion,  to write new chapters that will create a fruitful future. Their actions will become a strong new beginning for the Vietnam - U.S. relationship to reach new heights for the two countries' peace and prosperity.

Bui Van Nghi, Secretary General of Vietnam-USA Society