It was a sunny, spring-like February day in San Francisco. Bob Edgar (former congressman and religious leader) led a crowd assembled at the Commonwealth Club of San Francisco in an energetic chant. “We are,” Edgar preached. “We are,” the crowd responded. “The leaders,” Edgar continued. “The leaders,” the crowd repeated. “We have been waiting for.”
From there, Edgar led a discussion that was authentic, inspiring and included a healthy dose of humor. Edgar spoke of his own history as an anti-war activist, a religious leader and a politician before returning to his present concern for the continuing impact of Agent Orange in Vietnam. “All you need to do is see the children, and the grandchildren, of the Vietnamese who were exposed to the defoliant – to hold them in your arms,” Edgar said. “We spent three days just crying,” he explained, referring to the 2010 Common Cause Interfaith Delegation to Vietnam.
After Bob Edgar, Charles Bailey, a Ford Foundation grantmaker who has dedicated more than a decade of his life to helping the people of Vietnam, spoke in detail about the current situation and the US-Vietnam Dialogue Group’s Plan of Action. He spoke to Vietnam’s resilience and the people’s willingness to forgive. “Vietnam is a remarkable country I think we all know this,” Bailey said. “But I think we sometimes forget that the people of Vietnam endured 130 years of conflict over the last 152.”
The event was moderated by Jon Funabiki of the Vietnam Reporting Project.