( This speech was not dated. It was delivered on the opening day of the 30th Anniversary reunion in Pomona, California )

 

Very dear Friends.

It is with a true emotion that I salute you all on this grand General Assembly, pre-celebrating the 30th Anniversary of the Official Opening of our dear Alexandre De Rhodes UNIVERSITY CENTER and FOYER.

I also greet with pleasure and respect all the Ladies who have so kindly joined us on this occasion, many of whom hove been linked with us for so many years that they certainly deserve to be called "Honorary Members of the F.A.R."

I do not forget those who are sadly absent, those who could not make it for personal reasons, be it the distance, their work responsibility, the lack of money, their frailty of health or other family matters. I especially think - and I must say "consciously and unceasingly" think - of those of us who are still in Vietnam, under the so-called "enlightening" regime , which claims that nothing is more beautiful and consoling than Independence and Freedom. I recall, of course, with sorrow and a sense of loss, our own who tragically departed this earthly life, struck by the violence and inhumanity of the war, or by the cruelty of the sea, the rigor of a jail or the rowdiness of pirates.

Before I go any further, I want to thank all those who have taken part in the organization of this meeting. I know something about meetings: They require time, consultations, reflection, discussions, expense, work, action. .. etc.. To all, I believe it should be proper to give them a BIG HAND.

This Assembly provides us, I am sure, with the friendly occasion of hearty remembrance of the years we have "gloriously" spent together, and of the pains and happiness of the comprehensive growing of our youthful years; it allows us, no doubt, to include a serious reckoning of the years passed, and, as a result, a sober and mature outlook of the years to come.

We started very humbly, deciding in our youthful enthusiasm and meager means to become the BEST, not in order to compare proudly with others, but very simply to react to our sense of grave responsibility to ourselves, to our Parents and to the society at large.

I still recall one of our first meetings, under the Chairmanship of our first President Nguyen Trang. We wanted perfection, and we were to determine with firmness the future of our living together and inspire the strong spirit that would influence our University formation and our whole life; I am talking about a tag or identification badge, and about a motto. In no time, the powerful suggestion of our Architect-President won all the votes and we had our identification badge: a circle which was almost, not entirely, complete (meaning as we well know our desire to drive our life to perfection, completing the circle) and a compass which meant that we wanted to be guided at all times and in everything by the truth, the good and the beautiful. And imbued with our common spirit of achievement, we unanimously selected our motto: ESTO VIR: BE A MAN, SOIS HOMME.

In connection to this memorable and still-alive motto, it comes to mind the great dignified ceremony initiated, with a grave, solemn and chivalrous gesture worthy of the Middle Ages, by Dr. Truong Buu Hoa who, before the whole Assembly, one knee on the ground, the right arm fully extended, in the clear and noble voice of a gallant light, cried out three times: ESTO VIR; ESTO VIR: ESTO VIR: This significant rite became a customary gesture of publicly acknowledging the full meaning and enduring permanence of our motto in our hearts.

Since then, we have grown up, we have become responsible adults, we have happily married (except, of course, for NGO MINH TUYET and very few others, who decided to rule the world alone) and we have a role to play in the society.

After these multiple and varied experiences of life, we may ask ourselves with the honesty of truly upright and responsible people: "How did I respond to the call of our motto?" "What did I do with our ESTO VIR?" "What did I do with myself?" "What am I ready to do with the VIR, the MAN , l' HOMME who is in me?", with the "VIR" I am supposed to be? "How did my ESTO VIR help me to fare in this new society of mine?"

This meeting provides us with a break in our busy life and offers us a valuable occasion to consider, with an open mind, our past years in order to set about vigorously and with enthusiasm, the task of looking in simplicity and sincerity to the years ahead.

As you all well know, "ESTO" is the imperative latin form of the verb TO BE. An imperative is a command, an order: This is what I expected when happily, with my luggage in hand, I crossed the gate of Yendō Street, for I wanted to BE A MAN. I had reflected and had accepted the rule of the game; I had avoided any distraction and realized with determination that this "ESTO VIR" was for me. It was for me during my studies, and is still for me at this moment because to become a MAN a VIR, un HOMME is a life enterprise.

Of course, when young, I was looking for an ideal place that would help me further my studies and my material life; but was that all? Wasn't there something more intimate, more valuable, more wholesome, of a superior grade that attracted me? something that responded more fully to my own true internal definition of dignity, of respect, of reasonableness, of psychological. equilibrium and free responsibility? 

Of all the existing creatures, MAN alone possesses the intelligence, the reason that makes him a subject, conscious and free, center and summit of all the world. He is in himself a value. His worth is not in what he has; we only know too well that material ownership in itself does not bring to perfection the human person unless it provides at the same time a clear maturation and a true enrichment to his inner being. Man's dignity is his most precious attribute. He is not a number, a link in a chain, an object, a thing, a cogwheel in a system, an ideological product, an indifferent instrument. His exceptional and unique character is inherent to his person and cannot be destroyed, even if, too often, alai;, it is treated with contempt, violated and despised: Before any structure, before any state or attitude of mind, before any public opinion, before any political system, the consciousness and heart of W establish him the subject of history, responsible of his own free involvement in the world. 

This was and is our MAN, our VIR! If we want to grasp, thoroughly and profoundly, the idea of Man, we cannot be satisfied with criteria and so-called principles that are false, biased, superficial or foolish. With all the technical and scientific progress of our times, is man becoming a better MAN? Is he more human? Is he more mature? Is he more conscious of his dignity? Is he more responsible? more disciplined? In an instant we talk on the telephone from one end of the world to the other; we cross the Atlantic Ocean in three hours; we produce some powerful equipment that sends experts around the earth and to the moon; we explore the universe; we get the news from all over the world while looking at our TV and drinking a COKE in our sitting-room; we transplant hearts and kidneys; ....etc.. But do we know MAN? Do we know ourselves? Do I know myself? We claim to be more advanced than our forefathers, are we?

Do we reckon with the various and numerous violations inflicted today to the Dignity of man? Suffice it to mention the ideologies that obstruct, squeeze, choke our own people in our own country: Suffice it to recall the suffering, grief, and at times despair of the Refugees, our own fellow-countrymen; And speaking of ourselves, are we not too often subject to humiliating and stupefying forms of instrumentality that tend to make slaves out of us? like let's say; the economic power, the political system which could be at times inhuman, the scientific technology, the invasion of mass-media, the crave for money, the urge for pleasure, the bantering remarks of others, the publicity that tries to level everyone to the same common anonymity: Man has some duties towards his fellowmen and towards the society he lives in, but he also has some rights that should be respected at all times.

Fortunately, our Motto has made us MEN who stand on their own feet: Out "ESTO VIR" helps us retrieve ourselves from the danger of lethargy, sleepiness, laziness! It makes us active and buoyant with energy: We were happy with our Motto when we were young because it meant something important to us: But our Motto was and is for life: Are we still happy with it? Does it help us with our work, with our holidays and past-time, with a balanced personal overview of the society we live in? Especially does it help us with our family life? with the education of our children? As you may well understand, I am not speaking here of instruction or school attendance, which can only fill the mind; I am speaking of education, which builds MEN, which gives the human person an integral formation of intelligence, willpower, true freedom, responsibility, judgment and discernment.

We were together on Yendō Street to assure the success of our studies of course; but the foremost purpose of our common life was to make MEN out of us, true Men, with a deep understanding of life and of our place in the world, with a firm will to develop our maturity, our responsibility, and to become strong and free MEN, rejecting all slavery, and proud to be VIETNAMESE.

We were at the University thanks to the highly appreciated support and love of our Parents, in order to get a degree and achieve a respectful and active presence in the society; but, we all know, our studies in themselves were far from satisfying our aspirations. Our yearning was for far more important values that would enhance our dignity of MEN of conscience and honor. We were called to live as responsible human beings in the regard of history. That was and still is the full meaning of our ESTO VIR. Thus, our Motto helps us to remain young, to keep our enthusiasm, to constantly renew our psychological and spiritual strength, and persevere in our quest to change the world and to make it a world of justice and peace, of world of harmony.

A Chinese proverb says: In order to walk a kilometer, one has to make a first step, and one step at a time takes one very far. I invite you all to make that step. I invite you all to say YES to life. I invite you all to say YES to ESTO VIR. ESTO VIR should be a daily YES.

ESTO VIR. ESTO VIR. ESTO VIR.

Thank you.

 

 

 

This speech was typed on a very cheap manual typewriter that the father proudly owned at his Denmark office. What you read is a OCR version of it: formatting are strictly original, except for the paragraph breaks (some are added for a lighter display). The signature image is original, contemporary with the letter.