President Thuy: Her Excellency Ms. Wendy Sherman, US Deputy Secretary of State; US Consul General Marie Damour; Honored Guests, Faculty Staff and Students, thank you for being here with us on this very important occasion.
Today we are honored to welcome the US Deputy Secretary of State Ms. Wendy Sherman to our Crescent Campus. Deputy Secretary Sherman represents the US Department of State which has been playing a key role in Fulbright establishment. With the support of DOS we founded the Fulbright Economic Teaching program in 1994 which in 2016 transitioned to Fulbright University Vietnam under the name of Fulbright School Of Public Policies and Management and it becomes our first academic unit.
Fulbright since then continues growing bigger. In 2020 we established YSEALI Academy at Fulbright University Vietnam. And Ms. Sherman, I’d like to thank you again for being YSEALI Academy’s very first keynote speaker in its inaugural seminar on energy economics and policy.
Deputy Secretary Sherman, two hardest years of social distancing have passed and we are delighted to finally welcome you in person to our campus.
Today among the audience we have here many guests whose lives were changed thanks to you and the State Department. We have here representatives of more than 500 undergrad students; more than 160 masters in public policy students; more than 175 YSEALI Academy’s fellows; and more than 1,500 alumni of the Fulbright School of Public Policies and Management; and more than 500 alumni of the Fulbright University, a Fulbright program in Vietnam administered and coordinated by the Public Affairs Section of the US Embassy in Hanoi; and many more other groups — I cannot name all here.
Today we are here not only to listen to you but thank you for your trust and support that you and the department have extended to Fulbright and for Vietnam.
After 27 years, since the normalization of the relationship between our two countries tremendous programs has been made, especially in the field of education and people-to-people ties. We will not stop there because there is still too much we can do together to deepen our ties and strengthen our impact.
For that I would like to thank everybody here and online for being an integral part of our journey to reimagine higher education in Vietnam, for students, for Vietnam and for the future. On this path towards our shared vision we are incredibly fortunate to have you walking alongside with us.
And finally, I would like to introduce to you our main event of the day, the part that many of you in the audience traveled this far to attend. Today the US Deputy Secretary of State, Ms. Wendy Sherman, will share with us some remarks on the Indo-Pacific Strategy of the US government.
Ms. Wendy Sherman is the US number two diplomat, is the first female Deputy Secretary of State. Prior to assuming this position Ms. Sherman was a professor of the practice of public leadership and Director of the Center for Public Leadership at the Harvard Kennedy School. She was also a senior fellow at the school’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, and a senior counselor at Albright Stonebridge Group.
From 2011 to 2015 Deputy Secretary Sherman served as the Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs when she traveled to 54 countries and led the US negotiation team that reached an agreement on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action between the P5+1, the European Union and Iran for which among other diplomatic accomplishments she was awarded the National Security Medal by President Barack Obama.
She previously served at the State Department as Counselor under Secretary Madeleine Albright; as Special Advisor to President Clinton; and Policies Coordinator on North Korea; and Assistant Secretary for Legislative Affairs under Secretary Warren Christopher.
She also previously served on President’s Intelligence Advisory Board; was Chair of the Board of Directors of Oxfam America; and served on the US Department of Defense, Defense Policy Board and Congressional Commission on Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction, Proliferation and Terrorism.
Please join me to welcome to the stage the US Deputy Secretary of State Ms. Wendy Sherman.
DepSec Sherman: Good morning. Whenever I taught my students I would start, and I do this among the staff at the State Department, I start by saying good morning!
Audience: Good morning.
DepSec Sherman: Let’s do that one more time. Good morning!
Audience: Good morning!
DepSec Sherman: Excellent. Now we can get started.
This stool is here because as you can tell from my hair, I’m a little older than pretty much everybody in the room, and occasionally my back gives out. So if you see me go for the stool, that’s why.
It’s wonderful, really fantastic for all the reasons the president said to be with you all here at Fulbright University Vietnam. I’ve had the pleasure of visiting Vietnam many times in my career and in my life, and I’ve even done, as we just heard, virtual events with FUV but this is my first time setting foot on the actual campus, and I’m already energized by being here.
Thank you very much, President Thuy for that warm introduction and for everything you have done to develop and grow this incredible university. It took many years for FUV to go from dream to reality, and the United States is proud to support this great institution. I also want to thank all of the students, faculty and staff for joining us today. I’m looking forward to our conversation.
As was just mentioned, before I returned to government to serve as Deputy Secretary a little more than a year ago, I was teaching at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government and running the Center for Public Leadership there.
It was a great job. Even so, it’s an honor to have the chance to serve my country again, and to serve under my third President and my fifth Secretary of State.
But, quite frankly, not a day goes by that I don’t miss getting to interact with my students. The president and I were talking about this on the way up. Any day we’re sort of feeling low if you can be with young people all of a sudden you wake up again and realize that there’s possibility and optimism in the world. Like all of you, my students at Harvard already accomplished so much in their lives — far more than I’d accomplished when I as was their age. And like all of you, they showed up every day excited. Curious. Unwilling to take no for an answer. Challenging me and my authority, which was great. Endlessly creative about solving the challenges before us.
So events like this are really special to me. And while I may not be a professor right now, I’m going to give the students in the audience an assignment anyway, which is to start thinking about what question you want to ask because I want to hear from you.
Twenty-five years ago, my dear friend, very dear friend, and then-boss Secretary Madeleine Albright, who recently passed, visited Ho Chi Minh City. She was the first Secretary of State to visit since 1975. And one of the reasons she came was to symbolically lay the first bricks of the building that would become the US Consulate General.
There are all kinds of important reasons to have a consulate – to process visas, to provide services, to make it easier for people to access resources. But consulate buildings – and embassies, too, for that matter – aren’t simply functional places. They are symbols of one nation’s commitment to another. Of two nations’ friendship with each other.
When Secretary Albright returned to Ho Chi Minh City a couple of years later, it was to officially open the US Consulate General and to usher in a new chapter in the friendship and partnership between the United States and Vietnam.
A chapter focused on the future we want to see — for our two nations, for Southeast Asia and the Indo-Pacific, and for the entire global community — and on how we will work together to achieve that future.
There is so much that unites the United States and Vietnam. We have creative, energetic, entrepreneurial people. We care about tackling the challenges of our time, from the climate crisis to global health security — and don’t we know a lot now about global health security. We respect each other’s political systems. We both want a strong, prosperous, and independent Vietnam, as well as a free, open, healthy, and resilient and interconnected Indo-Pacific region.
We both believe in the importance of respecting international law and international principles like sovereignty and territorial integrity. We both share a common vision for the security of this region — one grounded in clear, agreed-upon rules that apply to everyone equally, not one where might makes right.
In so many ways the entire world will be written right here. Southeast Asia is home to the third-largest population and the fifth-largest economy in the world. And 60 percent — 60 percent — of the population across the 10 ASEAN nations is under 35 years old.
Those are some of the reasons why the United States so strongly supports ASEAN centrality. A few short weeks ago ASEAN leaders gathered in Washington for an historic summit hosted by President Biden. We were delighted to welcome Prime Minister Chinh to DC for that Special Summit, where we agreed to elevate the US-ASEAN relationship to a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership. It was fantastic. Marking a new era in the relationship as we continue to strengthen cooperation.
The United States also supports ASEAN centrality because it’s in our interest to do so. The futures of the American people are connected to this region. Southeast Asia is the fourth-largest market for US goods. American companies have built supply chains with components based in this region, from textiles to plastics to electronics. Fully one-third of global trade passes through the South China Sea. So what happens here matters for the health of the American economy, for the state of American jobs, and for the well-being of the American people.
Last fall the United States released our Indo-Pacific Strategy. Like any good foreign policy document, which I’m sure you’re learning here, it has several pillars.
First, building a free and open Indo-Pacific — which includes ensuring the nations of the region agree upon transparent rules of the road, and that those rules are applied fairly.
Second, forging interconnectivity and collective capacity — which means strengthening alliances, organizations, and partnerships across the region, like ASEAN and the Mekong-US Partnership, because we know we can achieve more working together.
Third, driving Indo-Pacific prosperity — which is all about helping nations deliver better results and higher standards of living for people.
Fourth, bolstering Indo-Pacific security — including by enhancing our own ability, and that of our allies and partners, to defend against aggression.
And fifth and finally, building regional resilience — because we are only as strong as our ability to respond to shared challenges like the climate crisis.
I wanted to give this brief overview because there is a remarkable convergence between the United States’ Indo-Pacific Strategy and ASEAN’s own Outlook on the Indo-Pacific.
Both documents prioritize achieving peace and prosperity. Both highlight the importance of rules-based international order to underpin and enable that peace and prosperity. Both discuss the importance of cooperation on maritime issues, on development, on trade and economic growth, on climate change. Both underscore the importance of sovereignty, of equality, and of mutual respect.
That’s not because the United States influenced ASEAN’s deliberations, or because we wrote our strategy to comport with what ASEAN had already decided. It’s because we really do share a common set of goals, principles, and priorities with our friends and partners in Southeast Asia. That gives us a strong foundation for tackling the challenges we face and building the future we want to see.
I want to speak about two of the challenges that were always foremost in the minds of my students at the Kennedy School, and which I suspect are priorities for many of you as well — global health, since I taught during the pandemic, and the climate crisis.
Now as you all know, I’ve been working in foreign policy and national security for a long time. You can tell that by this silver hair. But you may not know that I got my start as a social worker. That’s what I studied in school. And it always made sense to me that health care is a top-tier political issue in the United States because if you don’t have your health, everything in life becomes a lot harder.
But health hasn’t always been at the top of the foreign policy agenda. It’s long been at the core of global development, but initiatives like eradicating smallpox or combating AIDS and malaria or reducing maternal mortality, those have sometimes been treated as separate from the “big issues” that drive foreign policy.
The COVID-19 pandemic changed all of that. It has brought into stark relief something that global health and development professionals have long argued — which is that we are connected to each other, across borders and regions and continents, through our health.
Vietnam has been a regional leader in addressing the COVID-19 pandemic, demonstrating a remarkable ability to get shots in arms. You’ve done an extraordinary job. The United States has been proud to be a partner to Vietnam in this fight. We are the leading vaccine donor to Vietnam, having provided nearly 40 million safe and effective vaccines in partnership with COVAX. And we remain deeply grateful for Vietnam’s generous donations of masks and personal protective equipment to the American people in the earliest days of the pandemic.
The COVID pandemic has helped elevate health, at long last, in foreign policy. But I believe the other thing that will challenge the balance of priorities is young people like you. Because young people didn’t need a once-in-a-century global pandemic, though I fear we may have more because of the next topic — climate change. You haven’t needed this [pandemic] to understand that health is foundational to everything else we want to achieve. You know that instinctively. You know it from your own lives. And many young people in Vietnam have come up with really creative ways to address health issues.
Young women like Le Thuy, who is a medical student and an alumna of the American Center in Hanoi. Thuy came to the American Center to improve her English. Eventually, she applied for a grant and launched a series called “Doctor Talk,” which teaches other medical students and health professionals English-language terminology and patient interactions. It’s one of the American Center’s most popular courses — and Thuy has turned it into a vital source of information about COVID-19 during the pandemic.
And there are young men like Ho Thai Binh, an alumnus of the Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative — YSEALI, my incredibly very favorite institution. Binh is from Vietnam and studied business in school, but he really cared about making an impact on his community’s health. He realized that a lot of people in Vietnam don’t have exposure to the best practices in first aid, which can mean that others die or suffer needlessly as a result of accidents. Binh used what he learned through YSEALI to start Survival Skills Vietnam, which has helped connect more than 60,000 people so far to first aid training and saved thousands of lives.
Thuy and Binh are just two of countless young people in Vietnam and around Southeast Asia who are bringing their creativity and energy to bear on solving important health challenges. And they are part of the reason I am so confident that young people like you will write the future we want to see.
The story is similar when it comes to climate change, which is a crisis of global proportions and highly localized effects. There are some leaders in my generation, like my good friend former Secretary of State and current Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry, who visited Vietnam in February, who have been sounding the alarm for a very long time about what is going to happen to our planet, our economies, and our people if we keep pumping carbon pollution into the atmosphere.
But you all don’t need to be told because again, young people have understood the threats posed by climate change and environmental degradation instinctively. In fact, if you were born after April 1985 — which is most of you — you have never lived through a month, never, where the global average temperature was below the average for the 20th century. You have quite literally been living your lives in a changed climate.
Just as health is foundational to economic prosperity, so, too, is having a healthy environment. The Biden-Harris administration has put tackling the climate crisis front and center and we are working to support our partners and friends, like Vietnam, in accelerating the transition to clean, non-polluting energy systems.
This year, we launched a $5.3 million project to build Vietnam’s first utility-scale battery energy storage system at a solar farm in central Vietnam. Battery storage will make it possible for the sun to help power Vietnam’s electric grid even when it’s not shining, reducing demand for polluting fossil fuel sources.
Sustainability is another area where young people here in Vietnam are leading. Like Nguyen Hoang Viet, a YSEALI alumnus who created an environmental education curriculum for elementary-school students. His “Dream and Do School Vietnam” curriculum has taught thousands of kids how to be good stewards of the environment.
Or Le Thi Xuan Mai, another YSEALI alumna who is a passionate volunteer with wildlife organizations. She brought the leadership skills she learned through YSEALI to bear on an eight-city project aimed at teaching young people how to reduce plastic waste. After working on a number of environmental projects, she said she realized the key to success came from the heart. She wrote, “Everything starts from what we want, doesn’t it? As long as you truly want it, no matter what your background is, I believe you can do wonderful things to protect the environment.” I couldn’t agree more.
If you take one thing away from our conversation today, I want it to be that. Each and every one of you has the power to change your community. To improve your life and the lives of your fellow citizens. To reach across borders and build connections with other young people who want to make change happen in Southeast Asia, in the Indo-Pacific, and, truly, in the entire world.
Very little in our world is inevitable. So the question we must face each and every day is what kind of world do we want to live in? What kind of future do we want to build for ourselves, for our children, and in my case for my grandchildren? And what am I willing to do to build that future, that world?
Do we want a future where all countries play by the same set of transparent, agreed-upon rules, and where less-powerful nations can make the best decisions for their own futures free from coercion?
Do we want a future where people are empowered to use and develop their talents?
Do we want a future where we build connections with each other, and work together in mutual respect and understanding?
Do we want a future where we prioritize foundational issues like health and the environment, for the long-term benefit and prosperity of us all?
Do we want a future, in other words, that is envisioned in the United States’ Indo-Pacific Strategy and in the ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific — a future defined by working together to address the world’s challenges?
I certainly do. And I suspect you do, as well. And I know each and every one of you will bring your skills, your drive, your vision, and your passion to the table now to build a better future for Vietnam, for Southeast Asia, for the Indo-Pacific, and for the world as a whole.
I’m very grateful to you for having me here this morning, and I very much look forward to your questions, your comments and our conversation. Thank you so much.
Voice: Thank you Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman, and now I would like to invite as moderator Ms. [Bui Viet Lam], our Communications Director at Fulbright University Vietnam, to come on stage and moderate the Q&A session.
Moderator: Thank you Deputy Secretary of State Professor Wendy Sherman for her very insightful I think remarks and more important I think to us a lecture. Very important and very inspirational too. I think not only the audience here but a lot of people are watching on our Facebook and also social media platform to know more I think about the US Indo-Pacific Strategy, but more important I think for the Fulbright University students here who want to answer you that we want to be a part of the future like you envision. That’s very, very important. We want to build together a better future to resolve the challenges and build a future that all of have a voice. I think that [inaudible] to share it in our own way.
And I would like to share with you before we start that here at Fulbright our students are expecting this visit a lot and one thing I can assure you, I can say that they’re full of curiosity because at Fulbright we [inaudible] even the first I think [inaudible] to get is that intellectual curiosity and they are very brave to ask questions. Even I think we would say that there are no [specific] questions, just a want to know.
So I would like to invite our Fulbright students and regular students, people, guys, you can ask our Deputy Secretary of State any questions you want to ask.
May I invite I think undergraduate students first.
Questioner: May I call you Professor Sherman, because I’d love you to be my teacher. My name is [Zom], I’m a co-design [farming] student here at Fulbright. I feel like just the first remark is that me, and I speaking for the entire student body, we are very grateful for U.S. support and your support for our university.
The first part, I feel like I resonate a lot with your remarks on the young people because I believe the same thing as well. I think that young people regardless of your background, regardless of your interests, you can all contribute something to make things better. So I really resonate with that.
But now let’s get to the tough questions. I think that I agree and I admire your commitments to the Indo-Pacific, to the climate, to the health. But as we all know, in the U.S. the political system changes, interests change. So my question to you is how do you ensure that in the next administration and many administrations to come will embedded your Indo-Pacific Strategy into the long-term plan in this region? Thank you so much.
DepSec Sherman: That’s a great question. First of all, I’m delighted you’re curious. Curiosity is critical. And I’m delighted that you challenge, because it is important to challenge ideas that are put on the table and to have robust discussion and debate, because that’s how you get the best ideas, gather diversity of views that come to the table.
The reason I think this will be sustainable is because in our system, whether you’re a Democrat or a Republican or an Independent or anything else in between — we have a wide variety of views in my country. You think about the future prosperity and security for the United States and you know because, in part because of the vibrancy of the economies in Southeast Asia and in the Indo-Pacific at large, that is where a lot of the future is headed. That is where young people are. That is where technological achievement is developing. That is where jobs and markets are growing. So there’s a market for American exports and for robust trade. You know that’s where new ideas are coming from.
And to be perfectly honest, for the United States, as Secretary Blinken said in his speech about our relationship with the People’s Republic of China, the people’s Republic of China is a large, significant, consequential power in the world. And so we have done a lot of thinking about this. We wish to work with the PRC. Our Secretary of Defense just met with their Secretary of Defense at the Shangri-La Meeting in Singapore. So we very much want to have lines of communication. We want to invest in our country to be able to compete in the world economy and in our own innovation and entrepreneurship. We want to align our interests to make sure that we have a rules-based world where everybody has a fair playing field. And there will be times when we will disagree and we will have to work through them.
It is a complicated and challenging world ahead. I don’t think any of us expected that two-plus years we would be fighting COVID. And even though we may be done with it, it is not quite done with us yet necessarily, and certainly in many countries that is still the case.
So we have lots of challenges ahead, and that’s why we need all of you to be curious, to challenge ideas, to be innovative, to be entrepreneurial, to use all the gifts you have to get us to a bright future. Thank you.
Moderator: Thank you, Deputy Secretary of State.
I want to, I think we give more priority to the young people and then I will give chance to I think other people.
I see one of our close friends, a diplomat, I will give chance to you later. Because [inaudible] a conversation between the professor and students, right?
DepSec Sherman: And I want to say that the first two students have been young men. I have a rule in all of my speeches that I expect after the first two questions that one of you bright young women raise your hand, don’t be shy. They don’t know what they’re going to ask, so don’t worry about it and think you have to have some perfect question. You don’t.
Moderator: Fifty-five percent of our Fulbright students are female, so be brave. Yeah.
Questioner: Good morning Deputy Secretary. My name is [Long] and I’m currently a master’s student at Fulbright University.
Deputy Secretary, at the start of the 20th century John Milton Hay, then US Secretary of State once said if the Mediterranean is the ocean of the past, then the Atlantic will the ocean of the present, and the Pacific the ocean of the future.
Well over a century later with the Indo-Pacific Strategy gaining momentum, and this epitomizes the fact that the Pacific continues to be central to the security and prosperity of the American people.
That brings me to my first question. As Asian geography acts as a bridge between the Pacific and the Indian Ocean and is an important factor of the Indo-Pacific Strategy, recently President Biden has chaired a meeting with ASEAN leaders and this has demonstrated clearly the US vision with this organization. Nevertheless, an external force has been [liberating] its enormous economic, military and political clout to seek to divide, weaken internal solidarity and undermine ASEAN’s prestige and strengths.
So my question is, with its prowess and might, what can the US do to help ASEAN nations maintain their unity, integrity, so as to benefit the Indo-Pacific Strategy?
My second question is —
DepSec Sherman: I think you get one.
Moderator: Because of the very limited time, to give a chance for others to ask.
DepSec Sherman: Do tell me, though, what are you getting your master’s degree in? What are you studying?
Questioner: I’m studying a master of public policy at Fulbright University.
DepSec Sherman: Great.
The United States absolutely believes in the centrality of ASEAN, and as you just pointed out, President Biden just hosted the US-ASEAN Special Summit and we were incredibly honored to have your leader as part of that. And I was very honored to join President Biden for the session and join Vice President Harris for the lunch because Secretary Blinken was getting over COVID so he could not attend and I got that privilege. So I was very lucky. It was a really robust and excellent discussion.
I think the future of ASEAN is strong. It is a consensus-based organization which always makes things great and difficult, because you need to hear everybody’s voices and bring everybody’s voices to the table. We are not a member, but we did elevate our relationship to a comprehensive strategic relationship with ASEAN as a result of this US-ASEAN Special Summit. So we look forward to continuing strong work with ASEAN.
ASEAN’s ability to be a strong and vibrant organization really relies on the members of ASEAN. The United States can help, can support, can provide additional funds which we just did — $150 million that we just announced to ASEAN for initiatives going forward, including some for the maritime domain, which I’m sure Vietnam will benefit from. But each ASEAN member has to decide on its future and how it wants to proceed forward. We want to support ASEAN in every way we can to build that strong, vibrant future so that the Indo-Pacific can be free, independent, open interconnected and prosperous.
Moderator: Can we look for a question from a young female? Ladies, you are very pioneering I think in doing projects and leading. So raise your voice.
DepSec Sherman: Anything. Oh, my goodness. We’re going to have to have a second session just with the women.
All right, I will give you a pass, but keep thinking while we take another question from one of the gentlemen.
Moderator: Can I ask you a question as a female?
DepSec Sherman: Sure. Good save.
Moderator: I will give more time for our ladies. They are a little bit shy.
So may question is that you mentioned about the people-to-people ties and as we all know how important the initiative like Fulbright University and its predecessor the Fulbright Economic Teaching Program help to I think build a relationship between the U.S. and Vietnam and the region. And as you said, the United States can support the countries here but it’s our own destiny, we have to do it in our own way.
So I want to know more about how you envision the role of such institutions like Fulbright University can play I think in this Indo-Pacific Strategy in particular and also in the future.
DepSec Sherman: Great question. I think nothing is more important than people-to-people ties. That is how we come to understand each other. That is how we come to share ideas with each other and encourage each other and even compete with each other to get to that innovation and to that change and to the solutions to tough problems.
So I think Fulbright University Vietnam is critical not only in the development of students here, but in the conversations that you can have with students not only in the United States but everywhere around the world. I think it’s why I love YSEALI. There are now 30,000 YSEALI members and these are not passive participants. These are young people who are vibrant and doing things.
I just came from Laos and met with YSEALI members there; I was in the Philippines and met with YSEALI members there. And here, YSEALI members. These are all people-to-people exchanges and networks that help people move ahead. It is those networking opportunities that also give you the support system and the courage to perhaps try projects that you might not otherwise have tried.
The young people I met with the other day in I think it was the Philippines — I lose track after a few days of being on the road — were doing environmental projects and helped each other out at the table. People they knew, and funders that might be able to help them out, and mentors who might help them get to the next stage of the development of their business or their civil society organization.
So this is quite critical to being able to solve the incredible challenges that we have.
My lifetime, and I have more years behind me than I have ahead of me, has been challenging and there have been a lot of changes in the world, but quite frankly, it’s nothing compared to what you all are going to face. I hate to tell you that. But AI, quantum computing, climate, development, biotech, all of these things are going to change the world in fundamental ways that I cannot even imagine.
So universities like this are the Petri dishes for thinking of ideas and thinking about what that future might be and imagining what that future might be and beginning to think about how to embrace it, build it, and ensure your own prosperity and future. So I’m thrilled to be here.
Moderator: Thank you so much, Professor Sherman.
Now I give the floor to our audience. Questions?
Questioner: Thank you, Professor. My name is [Quan Qun Li Via], Public Policy Analysis student, Class of ’23.
So understanding that we have talked about climate, about the young people or the economy, I want to talk about the political aspect of the Indo-Pacific Strategy.
We understand that Vietnam has been a country that not yet following any [inaudible], as you have seen in the voting for the Ukraine matters. So how can you add to the strategy that the US can influence or perhaps guide it into best practices? Because you understand in the sphere of the Indo-Pacific Strategy we, on the up north we have the Belt and Road Initiative [by] China. And we also understand that Vietnamese cannot, throughout history they don’t have any, follow any standard institution. They are an improvised country.
So how can through this strategy that we can, the US can influence and improve the economy, also the political consensus and consciousness of the Vietnamese citizens? Thank you.
DepSec Sherman: Thank you.
I am old enough to have lived through the Vietnam War and the changes that I have seen in this country and in its relationship with the United States are truly profound and extraordinary. I think it speaks to the vision of both of our countries. I think it speaks to the respect we have for each other’s systems. We don’t wish to change the system of Vietnam. We have created a vibrant growing relationship. We don’t agree on everything. We each have histories.
Vietnam has a history. It has a relationship with Russia, it has a relationship with China. It has a relationship with other countries in the region and a relationship with the United States. We understand that.
Where Russia-Ukraine is concerned I think it’s very important to understand that we engaged in very intense diplomacy with Russia. I personally had bilateral meetings with Russia to say we understand you have legitimate security concerns. We can’t do this. We can’t tell countries who got into NATO that they can’t be in it anymore.
But we can do the following things. We had a whole menu of things we could do to help deal with the security concerns that President Putin had. He did not want to pursue diplomacy. He decided in a premeditated way, unprovoked by Ukraine, to begin in our view an unjust invasion of another country. For any country to unilaterally decide to take another country by force undermines not only the rules-based order but international norms that we all agree to and have helped to build countries around the world, including the United States and Vietnam.
So we believe that yes, diplomacy should solve this problem. We agree with Vietnam that getting to peace is critical and diplomacy is going to be the only way to get to peace, but we are also clear there is only one aggressor here, and that is President Putin, and one victim, Ukraine. So they are not equivalents. They are not the same.
President Putin started this war. He could end it today.
So we understand the context here and we understand history, and at the end of the day Vietnam will make its own sovereign decisions. We respect those. But we will talk about it, we will give our views about it, we will share all of the diplomacy that went into trying to find a peaceful solution. One that President Putin, a road he would not take.
So we will share all of that and then Vietnam will make its choices. And we hope for the sake of the world that he stops tomorrow, today. Because even though Ukraine seems a very far-away place from Vietnam and from the Indo-Pacific, it is having a profound effect on the world’s economy.
We were just coming out of the pandemic. We were just building every country’s economic recovery from the pandemic. Then much of the world’s wheat and grain comes from either Ukraine or Russia. Much of the world’s fertilizer [comes] from that part of the world. Supply chains have been disrupted because of President Putin’s decision. So now we have higher inflation, we have gas prices that have gone up, we have food insecurity and many millions more people will have hunger and malnutrition as a result of this. So it has an impact worldwide.
So yes, I hope just as Vietnam does that we end this through diplomacy, but it has to start with President Putin stopping the invasion.
Moderator: Thank you.
We have time I think for two short questions. We have a young woman.
Questioner: Hello, everyone. My name is Maya. I’m currently a junior at Fulbright University Vietnam. Thank you Secretary Wendy Sherman for coming to our school today. An absolute honor to have you here.
My questions for you do not regard any strategy or politics. It’s a simple question of as a woman, what is the one thing you think other young women can learn in their college years to prepare for the years after college or in life in general? I’m curious to know what it is it that has helped you all your way until now. Thank you.
DepSec Sherman: Thank you.
All of us in life need a really good support system. I’ve been lucky to have a husband for 42 years who has supported every choice I’ve made. I hope I have supported him as well.
I think it is very important, and thank you for lifting yourself up to ask a question. It’s important for each of us to have confidence in ourselves, that we can be our best self at whatever we choose to do in life. Whether it’s to be a mom or a dad, or to be President of the United States or the leader of your country, or something else entirely.
It’s very interesting, there’s a very famous Hewlett Packard study that says that men believe that if they have 60 percent of the qualifications for a job, they should apply for it. Women believe they have to have 100 percent of the qualifications to apply for it. What I say to women is be like those guys. They do one of two things. They get the job and they define the job as just the 60 percent they know how to do; or they take the job, they do the 60 percent and they fake it until they make it to learn the other 40 percent.
I know she’s going to hate me for doing this, but my young special assistant, Thao Anh Tran, who’s sitting up here. You have to stand up. They still won’t be able to see you, but stand up. Was born here in Vietnam and came as a refugee to the United States.
She drives me completely insane because she never hesitates to come forward and believe in herself, and that partly comes out of her cultural heritage here. She’s insistent and persistent. And I don’t think that’s just an American thing. I think that’s very much a Vietnamese thing. And she works tirelessly, which I also think is an attribute of everyone I have met in Vietnam. There is a drive to work hard, to do a job well.
So what I’m trying to say to you is believe in yourself. Get a support system that can help you. Everywhere I have worked I have found a group of women who can be there with me. I worked on Capitol Hill once in our Congress. I was a chief of staff for a member of our House of Representatives. And there were only five of us who were women at the time. So we met once a month at each other’s house. We only had carryout — no one had to cook. Only carryout. And we helped each other out. I knew nothing about working on Capitol Hill, so I really needed that support group to teach me things.
I have told the member of Congress for whom I worked, a woman who I later helped become a United States Senator, that sometime soon I wanted to have a child. So she knew that coming into the job. And once I got pregnant, then one of the other women figured well, if she can do it, so can I. So we did it together.
So get a support system. Find really good guys, who I call Galahads, who can help you out too. And then be anything you want to be that you feel comfortable with. And own it. Own your power — you have a lot. You have a lot of power. Own it and use it for good. You’ll do great. Thank you.
Moderator: Thank you. I think that’s so inspirational to me personally and to all I think women here.
And I have to say that Vietnamese women play a very important role. Our Fulbright President is a woman. And 65 percent of our students are women. They are top students. So there’s no reason we have to be upset.
I think you are a very inspiring example that women, if we are confident in ourselves, we are [feel] it and we stand up. But I have to say that in our society, an Asian society, there is still a lot of [inaudible], a lot of I think societal biases that a woman, everyday we have it to fight with. But in Fulbright University we like to empower women by the way you say, at Fulbright we have a model that here at Fulbright you don’t need to learn to be other. You don’t need to change yourself. You learn to develop the best version of yourself.
DepSec Sherman: Terrific.
Moderator: And go out of this [world] and face all the challenges. And I hope that in the future, very near-term future, we can welcome you back to the campus and meet with our students, particularly our female students and see how they develop and they try I think in their career and also to play very important role in the community.
DepSec Sherman: You’re clearly a role model as well.
Moderator: Thank you so much.
I think with this I would like to end our conversation today. But on behalf of Fulbright University Vietnam, I would like to express my sincere and my very I think time to profess to Deputy Secretary of State Sherman, that I would like to call you as a Professor, and as a Fulbrighter, I would like to show I’m very grateful for what you have done for Vietnam. Thank you so much.
And thank you audience to spend the morning with us and to join us to welcome our very special guest, and hope that we can welcome Ms. Sherman come back to Fulbright campus next year. Thank you.