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Embassy Highlights, Sept-Dec 2009

Book Discussion: “The Power of Positive Thinking”

December 26, 2009

Book Discussion participants engaged in a discussion of Norman Vincent Peale’s “The Power of Positive Thinking”

On December 26, American Center patrons met to discuss “The Power of Positive Thinking” by Norman Vincent Peale.  Each of the 20 participants presented the chapters that had been assigned to them. Afterwards, the group discussed some of the strategies outlined in the book and ways in which positive thinking can affect one’s life. Our newly “positive thinking” patrons expressed their enthusiasm for the book and for the Book Discussion program!

"Discover the Roots of American Music"

December 18, 2009
Viva Vinson engages students by posing questions related to her presentation “Discover the Roots of American Music

Viva Vinson engages students by posing questions related to her presentation “Discover the Roots of American Music"

On  December 18, Professional Vocalist Viva Vinson, presented “Discover the Roots of American Music” at the American Center in Hanoi.  Approximately 50 participants learned about the history of African American influenced music beginning with Negro Spirituals moving on to Blues, Jazz and finally the Great American Songbook.  Attendees increased their knowledge of these uniquely American art forms by listening to music clips and through Ms. Vinson’s explanation of the musical evolution that took place and continues to occur in the United States and around the world.

U.S. Finances Loans for People Living with HIV and Child Caregivers

December 17, 2009
Representatives from the Vietnam Women’s Union, USAID, and UNAIDS launch a new U.S. loan program benefiting people living with HIV and caregivers of orphans and vulnerable children

Representatives from the Vietnam Women’s Union, USAID, and UNAIDS launch a new U.S. loan program benefiting people living with HIV and caregivers of orphans and vulnerable children

On December 17, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) announced the launch of a U.S. government program under which people living with HIV and caregivers of orphans and vulnerable children will receive loans to start small businesses and develop other livelihood activities.

In total, 750 Vietnamese, many of whom are women who support at least five other family members, will benefit from the program being implemented by the U.S. President's Emergency Fund for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) in seven focus provinces: Quang Ninh, Hai Phong, Hanoi, Nghe An, Can Tho, An Giang and Ho Chi Minh City. Each loan recipient will receive an average of US $450 over the next 12 months, for a total of US$300,000 provided by USAID under PEPFAR.

The program, implemented by Vietnam's Women's Union with management support from UNAIDS, will provide training on small business management and related skills. A loan will be considered successful if at least 40% is repaid in the first year and at least 80% is repaid after three years.

Food security indicators and an assessment tool will be developed and used to assess food insecurity and refer potential beneficiaries for loan consideration. Loan beneficiaries will also be accepted from local Women's Unions and People Living with HIV self-help groups.
Before receiving the loan, beneficiaries work with project staff to develop feasible business plans, which include a timeline for re-paying all funds within three years. USAID funding will be used as a revolving fund to reach more beneficiaries in the coming years.

Since 2004, the United States Government through PEPFAR has provided more than $320 million for comprehensive HIV/AIDS prevention, care, treatment, and support activities in Vietnam.

English Pronunciation Workshop II

December 14, 2009

On December 14, Senior English Language Fellow, Helen Huntley, gave a two-hour workshop to students and teachers from universities in Hanoi at the American Center, a program of the Public Affairs Section of the U.S. Embassy. The session, entitled The Stress, Rhythm, and Intonation of American English, was attended by 94 participants who were actively involved throughout the session. Participants first completed a listening test to determine their knowledge of pronunciation features of American English. They next practiced a series of activities to understand how syllables, word stress, sentence stress, speech rhythm, thought groups, focus words, final sounds, linking, intonation, and reductions can all affect comprehensibility. Participants were encouraged to evaluate their own speech to perceive patterns of strengths and weaknesses in their use of stress, rhythm, and intonation.

Environmental Health and Remediation Memorandum of Understanding Signed

December 16, 2009
Ambassador Michalak shakes hands with Dr. Lai Minh Hien after both parties signed the Environmental Health and Remediation Memorandum of Understanding. Also pictured is USAID Representative Francis A. Donovan

Ambassador Michalak shakes hands with Dr. Lai Minh Hien after both parties signed the Environmental Health and Remediation Memorandum of Understanding. Also pictured is USAID Representative Francis A. Donovan

On December 16, 2009, the United States Government and Vietnam’s Ministry of Natural Resources and the Environment (MONRE) signed a memorandum of understanding that lays the framework for implementing environmental health and remediation programs. Specifically, the (MOU) outlines the coordination framework between the implementing agencies -- MONRE’s Office of National Steering Committee 33 and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). “The purpose of this MOU is to establish the framework for the cooperation between the Government of Vietnam and the United States to implement health and environment remediation activities relating to Agent Orange/Dioxin,” said Dr. Lai Minh Hien, Director of Office 33. According to the United States Ambassador to Vietnam, Michael Michalak, “this MOU marks an important milestone and a new level of commitment in working together to find new and innovative solutions to a complex problem.” For the full story click here.

U.S. Department of Energy Hosts Training Workshop in Hanoi

December 15, 2009

The U.S. Department of Energy and Regional Export Control and Border Security conduct a training workshop for Vietnamese officials.

From December 15-17, members of the U.S. Department of Energy and Regional Export Control and Border Security (EXBS) Advisor, William Comley conducted a Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) Commodity Identification Training (CIT) Workshop in Hanoi. Thirty-four Vietnamese government officials from 9 different ministries and agencies participated in this important event. Opening remarks were given by Michael Orona, U.S. Embassy Political Officer and Mr. Nguyen Ngoc Tuc, Deputy Director General of the Department of Customs, who represented the government of Vietnam.

U.S. Public Libraries: Past and Present in Pictures and Sound

December 2, 2009
IRO Wendy Simmons and one of the library leaders sharing work experiences from public libraries.

IRO Wendy Simmons and one of the library leaders sharing work experiences from public libraries.

On December 2, U.S. Embassy Bangkok’s Information Resource Officer, Wendy Simmons offered a presentation on the programs and challenges of public libraries in the US. More than 50 librarians, students and young professionals learned about the history of public libraries and how they remain a vital force in their local communities. The engaging video clips about American libraries, librarians and the American Library Association offered evidence of the lively atmosphere and engaging activities of U.S. public library practice. Approximately half of the audience were local Hanoi librarians who said they were inspired by what they saw and felt encouraged in the Q & A session by the idea to start small, try new things, learn from success and failure, and keep going!

President Obama’s Speech on Afghanistan and Follow-On Discussion

December 2, 2009
Ambassador Michalak gives opening remarks to students prior to viewing President Obama’s speech on Afghanistan

Ambassador Michalak gives opening remarks to students prior to viewing President Obama’s speech on Afghanistan

On December 2, Ambassador Michalak delivered opening remarks to 60 university students to set the stage for President Obama’s speech on Afghanistan and Pakistan. The Ambassador asked the participants to consider three main questions as they listened to the speech:  how does terrorism affect all countries, what can Vietnam and the Vietnamese people do to combat terrorism, and what were the factors the President took into consideration when devising a new strategy for Afghanistan? After watching the President’s speech, Acting Deputy Chief of Mission, Harry Kamian led a 45-minute discussion covering a range of subjects. To read the full text version of President Obama’s speech.

Ambassador Michalak to Host the Third Education Conference, January 14-15, 2010 in Hanoi

December 2009

Preparations are well underway in the Public Affairs Section of the U.S. Embassy for this important event. The theme of this year’s conference is “Building Partnerships in Higher Education: Opportunities and Challenges for the U.S. and Vietnam.” This event will be co-sponsored by the Vietnamese Ministry of Education and Training and Vietnam National University in Hanoi.

The Conference is designed to bring American and Vietnamese educators together to discuss how best to promote three key education goals: creating private and foreign American-style universities in Vietnam; fostering the development of Vietnamese universities and colleges; and increasing the number of Vietnamese studying in the U.S.  Five breakout sessions will zero in on certain important aspects within these three general categories. Two other breakout sessions will examine joint U.S.-Vietnamese educational programs in areas such as engineering, economics, higher education administration, and business.

PAS has put together an exceptional schedule of sessions and speakers for this conference. For further information about agenda, venue and registration procedures please contact Conference Coordinator Elisabet Garriga at garrigae@state.gov.

Round Table Discussion on Domestic Violence held at U.S. Embassy Hanoi

November 27, 2009
Panelists present to a full house at Domestic Violence Roundtable event held at U.S. Embassy Hanoi.

Panelists present to a full house at Domestic Violence Roundtable event held at U.S. Embassy Hanoi.

On November 27, the U.S. Embassy Hanoi hosted a “post-premiere” round table discussion on supporting victims of domestic violence. The centerpiece of the discussion was the ground-breaking mini-series “Breaking the Silence” produced by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC)  in conjunction with the Center for Studies and Applied Sciences in Gender, Family, Women and Adolescents (CSAGA) and with additional funding and support by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation. The film was directed by Mr. Hoang Nhuan Cam from the Diep Van film production company. Political Counselor Harry Kamian and the UNODC’s Jason Eligh delivered keynote addresses, and Political Assistant Audrey Moyer directed the event.  The event showcased scenes from the TV series and included a roundtable discussion with experts in the field of domestic violence and over 120 university students.  Panelists included the film’s producer and cast members, a Fulbright scholar involved in social work in Hanoi, Vietnamese NGOs concentrating on fighting domestic violence, a representative from the Ministry of Public Security, and a legal aid representative.

Deputy Chief of Mission Virginia Palmer delivers a keynote address on Domestic Violence

November 23, 2009
Deputy Chief of Mission Virginia Palmer presents her keynote address at the “Workshop for Strengthening the Network for Combating Domestic Violence and Supporting Victims”.

Deputy Chief of Mission Virginia Palmer presents her keynote address at the “Workshop for Strengthening the Network for Combating Domestic Violence and Supporting Victims”.

On November 23, Deputy Chief of Mission Virginia Palmer delivered a keynote address during the Center for Women and Development’s “Workshop for Strengthening the Network for Combating Domestic Violence and Supporting Victims.” Ms. Palmer highlighted the U.S. government’s support for Vietnam’s efforts to fight domestic violence and promote gender equality through capacity building for law enforcement and judicial sector personnel, encouraging the participation of women in local governance, women’s health programming, and anti-human trafficking projects. Partnerships like these can help expand economic opportunities and improve individual’s lives. Ms. Palmer added the Embassy is proud to support such efforts that empower women and partner with Vietnamese associations to empower communities. To see the Vice President’s statement on the elimination of violence against women, click here: http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/statement-vice-president-biden-10th-anniversary-international-day-elimination-viole

Student Visa to the United States

November 20, 2009
U.S. Consul, Deborah Fairman, addresses a group of students to discuss the process of obtaining a U.S. visa.

U.S. Consul, Deborah Fairman, addresses a group of students to discuss the process of obtaining a U.S. visa.

On November 20, 2009, Deputy Chief of the Consular Section, Deborah Fairman, addresses a group of high school and college/university level students. During her presentation, students learned about different types of student visas, and what is necessary to obtain a visa to study in the United States. Obtaining a US visa can sometimes seem like a confusing endeavor , but the Consul tried to simplify things by explaining the facts and clarifying common misunderstandings about the process.

American Culture Quizbowl

November 16, 2009
Helen Huntley points to a student to answer a question in the American Quiz.

Helen Huntley points to a student to answer a question in the American Quiz.

On November 16, 2009, in conjunction with International Education Week from November 16-20, an American Culture Quiz session was held at the Public Affairs Section of the U.S. Embassy in Hanoi for 62 students. Led by Helen Huntley, a Senior English Language Fellow, the session focused on questions about American culture, geography, history, and language. Students enjoyed the chance to compete and win small prizes individually and in groups.

President Obama’s Speech From Tokyo and Follow-On Discussion

November 14, 2009
Participants watching live President Obama's speech in Tokyo at the American Center.

Participants watching live President Obama's speech in Tokyo at the American Center.

Saturday morning, November 14th at 8:30 am more than 120 people packed the American Center in Hanoi to watch President Obama’s speech from Tokyo on CNN. After viewing the speech, a group discussion led by Barbara Britton, Environmental Health and Remediation Officer, USAID and Abby Ross, Public Affairs Assistant was held. Participants discussed such questions as:  What were the major themes of the speech? Is U.S. leadership in SE Asia on the correct path? and also What are the major issues facing Vietnam today?

Dream House School's Visit to the American Center

November 12, 2009

On November 12, as part of their month-long celebration of American culture, the Dream House School classes grades 1-5 visited the American Center. 150 enthusiastic students learned about the services of the American Center and viewed a 5 minute video showcasing images from all aspects of American life, culture and landscape. The younger group moved to the American Center to explore its resources while the older group took part in a presentation by Public Affairs Assistant, Abby Ross. The presentation touched on childhood and schools in America. After the presentation, the older group also participated in an activity and played a game. Small prizes were awarded throughout the program to encourage participation.

The Sounds of American English

October 26, 2009
Students participating enthusiastically in Ms. Helen Huntley's presentation at the American Center

Students participating enthusiastically in Ms. Helen Huntley's presentation at the American Center

On October 26, Senior English Language Fellow, Helen Huntley, gave an encore presentation of her two-hour pronunciation workshop to students from universities in Hanoi at the American Center, part of the Public Affairs Section of the U.S. Embassy in Hanoi. The session, entitled The Sounds of American English, was attended by approximately 60 participants who were eager to improve their own pronunciation and to learn some methods to practice pronunciation through communicative activities. The presenter first reviewed common pronunciation difficulties of Vietnamese speakers before addressing these problems through a variety of interactive communicative activities designed to improve comprehensibility. The participants exhibited a great deal of enthusiasm in doing the pronunciation exercises and were provided with a lengthy handout for further practice on their own. (The first such presentation took place on September 11, 2009.)

University Application Orientation

October 24, 2009
Vietnamese student audience receives advice and tips from a panel discussion on applying to U.S. universities

Vietnamese student audience receives advice and tips from a panel discussion on applying to U.S. universities

On October 24, 2009, the Vietnam Education Fund, (VEF) and the American Center cooperatively hosted a program titled U.S. University Application Orientation which provided helpful advice on how to prepare an outstanding application package to submit to U.S. universities. About 100 students including 35 VEF nominees for the 2010 VEF Fellowship and other American Center members attended the program. VEF staff presented information in three segments: Graduate Program Applications and Admissions :  Process and Procedures, What an Admission Committee of a U.S. University Looks for in University Applications, and VEF Policies on Applying to U.S. Universities. In addition, a Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology University (RMIT) Faculty Member presented How to Write a Good Statement of Purpose. The panel discussion was followed by a lengthy Q&A session which helped address participants' specific concerns and questions regarding their future plans to study in the United States.

Vietnamese Students Learn More about Obama’s World: Before and After the Nobel Prize

October 22, 2009
Professor James McAdams talking to Vietnamese young audience at the American Center.

Professor James McAdams talking to Vietnamese young audience at the American Center.

On October 22, A. James McAdams, William M. Scholl Professor of International Affairs and Director, Nanovic Institute for European Studies at the University of Notre Dame gave a presentation to a student audience of approximately 70 at the American Center, Hanoi. In his presentation titled: Obama’s World: Before and After the Nobel Prize, he shared his view of the rationale for the awarding the Nobel Prize to the President. He also examined President Obama as both a dreamer and decision-maker and suggested that the President’s personal background and world view profoundly impact his administration’s foreign policy decisions. The audience posed many questions covering topics such as the Nobel prize, SE Asia and China.

Choosing the Right School

October 21, 2009
IIE Associate Director advising students on choosing the right university at the American Center.

IIE Associate Director advising students on choosing the right university at the American Center.

On October 21, 2009, the EducationUSA Advising Center, together with the American Center Hanoi organized an information session on “Choosing the Right School”. Ms. Quach Ngoc, Associate Director of the Institute of International Education (IIE) presented topics pertaining to choosing the appropriate undergraduate institution to a group of 60 students. The presentation addressed the process of searching for schools that meet individual needs in regard to tuition fees, financial aid, student life, academic curriculum, etc. She also answered questions from students regarding their specific fields of study, career options, academic qualifications, enabling them make the right choices.

New York Philharmonic Inspires Students at American Center

October 15, 2009
Group photo with Assistant Conductor Daniel Boico and Associate Principal Trombonist, Amanda Stewart of the New York Philharmonic.

Group photo with Assistant Conductor Daniel Boico and Associate Principal Trombonist, Amanda Stewart of the New York Philharmonic.

In conjunction with their Asian Horizons Tour, Assistant Conductor Daniel Boico and Associate Principal Trombonist, Amanda Stewart of the New York Philharmonic visited the American Center on October 15. Ms. Stewart and Mr. Boico spoke to more than 60 patrons, most of whom are musicians themselves. The Philharmonic representatives discussed their musical backgrounds and training and took questions that ranged from music programs in the US to the struggles that they have encountered along their own professional paths. The audience was also treated to a brief trombone performance. Ms. Stewart and Mr. Boico encouraged the audience members to pursue their dreams of musical training no matter what their age.

2009 Secretary's Award for Corporate Excellence Finalists Selected - Vietnam: Protec

October 1, 2009

Protec, the world's only non-profit safety helmet company, has become a finalist in the U.S. Secretary of State’s annual Award for Corporate Excellence. Protec began its operations in Vietnam in 2001. The company currently re-invests all of its earnings from helmet sales to fund the donation of children’s safety helmets and to support the helmet and traffic safety awareness. Protec played a vital role in convincing Vietnam to pass and implement mandatory helmet laws, and also created a helmet test lab to help weed out counterfeit products. Protec has donated over 20,000 child helmets to needy children nationwide since the new helmet law passed, which is in addition to the more than 350,000 helmets that have been distributed via Protec’s "Helmets for Kids" program.

Chu Van An High School Group Visits American Center

October 1, 2009
American Center Director, Quan Mai Binh and Public Affairs Assistant, Abby Ross interacting with a student from Chu Van An High School about her thoughts on the topic of teenagers and school.

American Center Director, Quan Mai Binh and Public Affairs Assistant, Abby Ross interacting with a student from Chu Van An High School about her thoughts on the topic of teenagers and school.

On October 1st, the American Center welcomed 40 10th grade students, their teacher and a parent chaperone from Chu Van An High School in Hanoi. Director Quan Mai Binh welcomed the group and informed them of the resources and services available at the American Center. Following that, the students discussed topics in English related to teenagers and school. In the third part of the program, Abby Ross, Public Affairs Assistant, gave a presentation entitled “My Connecticut Childhood” which touched on New England’s geography, history and the particular features of the presenter’s own childhood. To conclude the program, the students were given a tour of the American Center and enjoyed light refreshments.

U.S.-Vietnam Education Task Force Final Report Signing Ceremony

September 30, 2009
Ambassador Michael W. Michalak and Vice Minister Pham Vu Luan Shaking Hands at the Signing Ceremony.

Ambassador Michael W. Michalak and Vice Minister Pham Vu Luan Shaking Hands at the Signing Ceremony.

Ambassador Michalak and MOET Vice Minister Luan signed the long-awaited Final Report containing recommendations on ways that the U.S. and Vietnamese governments can cooperate to support public-private sector partnerships to improve the Vietnamese educational system and increase the number of Vietnamese studying at American schools. The Report also lays out a roadmap for the development of an American-style university in Vietnam. In addition, the Report calls for the creation of four working groups that will explore ideas to establish the American style university, to improve English language instruction, and to support closer cooperation between American and Vietnamese universities, and between American companies and Vietnamese universities.

U.S. Higher Education Fair

September 28, 2009
 The AC booth is busy with groups of students visiting and asking for information on U.S. higher education.

The AC booth is busy with groups of students visiting and asking for information on U.S. higher education.

On September 28, in cooperation with the Institute of International Education (IIE) in Hanoi, The American Center (AC) participated in the U.S. Higher Education Fair at the Intercontinental Hotel. Together with 48 American universities, the AC team and AC interns received thousands of visitors coming to get information about how to find and get scholarships to study in the United States and also inquired about entrance examination requirements and the application process. Visitors were attracted by our booth, which was filled with information such as U.S. maps and fact sheets; IIP publications both in Vietnamese and English; CDROMs of translated documents which are updated every 6 months; AC, Humphrey and Fulbright brochures and information on various U.S. government scholarship opportunities including the recent announcement of 2010 Global Undergraduate Exchange Program.

At the same event, Consular Officers spoke to both a group of U.S. Community College and University representatives and a group of prospective students. They spoke about the visa process for students intending to study in the United States, and shared recent trends in student visa applications.  Both presentations, highlighted the Mission Goal to increase the number of Vietnamese students studying in the United States.

Interagency delegation led by Deputy Secretary of State Steinberg visits HanoiInteragency delegation led by Deputy Secretary of State Steinberg visits Hanoi

September 26-27, 2009
Deputy Secretary James Steinberg held talks with Vietnamese Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Sinh Hung.

Deputy Secretary James Steinberg held talks with Vietnamese Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Sinh Hung.

A U.S. interagency delegation led by Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg visited Hanoi from September 26-27. The delegation had productive discussions with senior Vietnamese government officials on ways to strengthen bilateral ties and on a range of regional and global security issues including activities in the South China Sea and the nuclear programs of North Korea and Iran. Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg told reporters at the end of the visit that he was more optimistic than ever about the future of U.S.-Vietnam relationship and cooperation.

American Music as a Tool to Learn English

September 17, 2009
Abby Ross introducing the Consular Chief Bill Weissman.

Abby Ross introducing the Consular Chief Bill Weissman.

On September 17, 60 students enthusiastically took part in the presentation “American Music as a Tool to Learn English,” led by Consular Chief Bill Weissman. The speaker first asked the students to listen through several well-known American songs from the 1960s and 70s. As the songs played, the students followed the lyrics and filled in blanks on their lyric sheets. The group then studied the songs in depth to understand the writer’s intention while also providing cultural background for the music. These activities helped the Vietnamese students improve vocabulary and listening comprehension and also provided cultural context for the music.

The Sounds of American English

September 11, 2009
Students practice pronunciation at the American Center.

Students practice pronunciation at the American Center.

On September 11, Senior English Language Fellow, Helen Huntley, gave a two-hour workshop to 120 students from universities in Hanoi at the Public Affairs Section of the U.S. Embassy in Hanoi. The session, entitled The Sounds of American English, was attended by approximately 110 participants who were eager to improve their own pronunciation and to learn some methods to practice pronunciation through communicative activities. The presenter first reviewed common pronunciation difficulties of Vietnamese speakers before addressing these problems through a variety of interactive communicative activities designed to improve comprehensibility. The participants exhibited a great deal of enthusiasm in doing the pronunciation exercises and were provided with a lengthy handout for further practice on their own.

Fourth annual meeting of Joint Advisory Committee on Agent Orange/Dioxin

September 8-10, 2009
U.S. and Vietnamese delegates discuss Agent Orange/dioxin issues at the 4th JAC Meeting in Hanoi.

U.S. and Vietnamese delegates discuss Agent Orange/dioxin issues at the 4th JAC Meeting in Hanoi.

At the 4th annual meeting of the U.S.-Vietnam Joint Advisory Committee (JAC), delegations from both countries, led by U.S. Ambassador Michael Michalak and Dr. Le Ke Son, Director, Office 33, engaged in open, frank dialogue on the subject of Agent Orange/Dioxin, examined the progress they have made to date, and planned future projects to undertake remediation of contaminated areas. Ambassador Michalak also noted that the United States, as part of its broader aid program, has contributed more than $46 million since 1989 to aid Vietnamese with disabilities without regard to the cause of their disability.

Writing Skills Presentation and October Sky Film Discussion

September 8, 2009
Guest speaker and author Homer Hickam hosting a Writing Skills session and 'October Sky' film discussion at the American Center

Guest speaker and author Homer Hickam hosting a Writing Skills session and 'October Sky' film discussion at the American Center

On September 8, 85 students had the pleasure of participating in a writing skills presentation given by Homer Hickam, author of the acclaimed book Rocket Boys. Mr. Hickam gave the presentation after which students watched October Sky, a film based on Mr. Hickam’s life and books. Following the movie, there was a student discussion. Mr. Hickam’s message to students was that no matter what they wanted to do, they could do it if they had a passion for their studies, a plan to make their dreams come true, and persistence.