Last week I was shocked twice by things Vietnamese teenagers said to me in regards to Ho Chi Minh. The first came after I gave a private student an essay with the topic: "If you could meet any dead person from history, who would you want to meet?" The student immediately said to me, "Ho Chi Minh." I was expecting this because 90% of my students in Vietnam have always given that answer. What I wasn't expecting was his follow reason: "I would want to meet Ho Chi Minh so I could stop him from winning the war." I was shocked and said, "Really?" He nodded and said, "Yes, if America won we could have Harvard in Vietnam." The student began to explain to me how he wished Vietnam had become part of America (most Vietnamese I have met think that America was trying to colonize Vietnam) and had they been successful would have built up Vietnam in America's own image. Needless to say, this was pretty blasphemous for a Vietnamese person to say.
However, less than 48 hours later another teenager said this to me, "I don't think Ho Chi Minh is a good role model. He lived very poorly. As the head of the country he should have lived a richer life." Again, blasphemous.
I don't think these two kids' opinions are in anyway indicative of people's thinking as a whole. However, it was still shocking to hear and in some respects, refreshing. It's nice to know that the younger generation isn't afraid to speak their mind. Perhaps the future of Vietnam will have true Freedom of Speech.
The craziest part of this is that both these remarks were made the day before and the day after Ho Chi Minh's birthday!