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Sunday 21 Jul 2013
Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam

Dear President Obama...

This letter was part of the Agent Orange exhibition at the War Remnants museum in Ho Chi Minh City.  

The museum may have been very one-sided, but this letter is very well written and really struck a chord with me.


Dear President Obama,

My name is Tran Thi Noan.  I am 23 years old and was born in the Duc Linh District, Binh Thuan Province, Viet Nam, with no legs and without a left hand.  I am a second generation victim of Agent Orange.  My parents were exposed to this deadly chemical, left over from the Vietnam War, while farming our land.  Agent Orange has not only killed people living during the war, but has been killing several generations of their children, of whom I am one.  It damages my country and other nations beyond imagination.  I am writing to ask for your help in providing assistance to the more than three million voctims of Agent Orange like me in Vietnam and for the children of U.S. veterans suffering from Agent Orange in the U.S.

I have read your letter to your beloved daughters, in which you put it like this: "These are the things I want for you - to grow up in a world with no limits on your dreams and no achievements beyond your reach, and to grow into compassionate, committed women who will help build that world.  And I want every child to have the same chances to learn and dream and grow and thrive that you girls have.  That's why I have taken our family on this great adventure."  I was deeply moved by the love that you have for your daughters and the dreams that you have for children of other countries, and I believe that you could have included children in Vietnam in your workds.  I dream that you were including innocent children slowly killed by dioxin, and their suffering. I dream you had in mind what to do to help every child to have the same chancees to learn and to dream and grow and thrive like your daughters.

A few words about myself.  When I was born, my parents were consumed with grief when they saw me.  When I was in junior high school, I studied hard to become a doctor to help people in my hometown because they were so poor.  But this dream was taken away from me.  When I entered college, I was advised not to study medicine beacuse I had no legs and only one hand.  I was told not to dream about raising a family for fear that my children would be born deformed like me or even worse.  From my personal story - just one among three million victims of Agent Orange - you may guess how our paremts suffer.

You are a father of two beautiful daughters, and you know know how parents love their children.  U.S. veterans, sick from Agent Orange, have gotten some compensation for their illnesses but their children have not.  How do their children live a decent life the way your daughters do? 

In the case of my poor country, Vietnamese veterans of the U.S. war and their children and grandchildren have not received any justice from the U.S. courts: They refused to hear our case against the U.S. chemical companies.  I know because I was one of the plaintiffs, representing millions of Agent Orange victims, in a lawsuit against 37 U.S. chemical manufacturers in U.S. Federal Court, the two richest of which are Dow and Monsanto.

This denial of justice may have rendered void your dream for every child to have the same chances to learn and dream and grow and thrive.  When I visited U.S. cities last October, I found the American people were deeply concerned about the problem of Agent Orange.  Yet we are now faced with the lack of many things - sufficent medical care, vocational and physical rehabilitation, long term care, home care. The land like my family's, which contain dioxin in the soil, has yet to be cleaned up.

I understand that you are very busy with the urgent matters that face your country.  I hope that you will consider the damage that the poison Agent Orange does to the lives of its victims with as much urgency beacuse every life is important to the future of humanity.  I hope that you, a symbol of hope not only for the United States, but also for the world, a father who loves his children dearly, and a man of humanity, will spare a little time to resolve this forgotten problem.

Thank you

Tran Thi Hoan

March 19, 2009, Ho Chi Minh City




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