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What Vietnamese youths expect from Obama

Thursday, May 26, 2016, 17:15 GMT+7

As President Obama continues his three-day Vietnam visit in the country’s commercial hub of Ho Chi Minh City, young Vietnamese look forward to meeting the President on Wednesday morning and getting their various questions answered.

Around 700 Vietnamese youths who are members of the Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative (YSEALI) program will be meeting President Barack Obama on Wednesday morning at the GEM Center in District 1, Ho Chi Minh City, where the president will deliver a speech, before taking questions from the young crowd.

Obama’s signature program launched in 2013, YSEALI seeks to build the leadership capabilities of youths in the region, strengthen ties between the U.S. and Southeast Asia, and nurture regional communities through programs and engagement, according to the program’s official site.

Calling the opportunity a “once in a lifetime," 80s-born Le Dinh Hieu, founder and CEO of the Ho Chi Minh City-based GAP Institute, said he had a mixed feeling of pride, joy, and luck about the surprise honor.

Hieu’s institute gathers recognized trainers across industries with a vision to nurture a Vietnamese generation of ‘Globally Acknowledged Professionals.’

“I know that some people want to meet Obama simply because he is so famous,” Hieu said. “For me there is more meaning to the opportunity than just that. I look to be part of Obama’s views on Vietnamese youths, and help get through to the president the concerns we face on our journey to drive the country forward.”

As for 29-year-old Vu Nhat Tan, Obama’s historic visit to Vietnam marks a new stage of development in the bilateral relationship.

Tan earned his master’s degree in the U.S. after being admitted to the Fulbright Program, a flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government.

Thrilled about his invitation to attend Obama’s event on Wednesday morning, Tan hoped to hear the president’s valuable opinions on issues such as social businesses, community responsibility, and environmental protection among others, the values pursued by all YSEALI members.

“I don’t think that [Obama] has lost his appeal for people, especially young ones, as the end of his term is nearing. The way I see it, he is acknowledged by the people of his country for having brought about positive changes to American society, such as a reduced unemployment rate, a flourishing economy, and a healthcare plan [Obamacare] that has transformed the lives of many people for the better,” Tan explained.

Tran Hoang Khanh Van, head of the International Relations Division at the Ho Chi Minh City chapter of the Ho Chi Minh Communist Youth Union, expressed her excitement and eagerness to see the president in the flesh.

“I want to see if his personality in real life matches the media’s description of him,” Van confessed.

Van predicted from her own research that President Obama would be talking about solutions and cooperative measures to improve Vietnam’s education this Wednesday morning.

“If I were to ask Obama one question, it would be whether he is willing to use his connections and power to help one startup project by Vietnamese youths that contributes greatly to the community,” Van said. “I believe he will be spending much time after his retirement from presidency to assist young people’s activities.”

Saying he had been spending much time preparing questions for the president, Dinh Hieu said he would ask Obama about his ideas on how to help “jumpstart” developing countries like Vietnam so that they can see quick and sustainable development at the same time as catching up with developed countries.

“I will also ask the president about how youths in the U.S. and other developed nations have contributed to their country’s development,” Hieu added.

These youths may well get their questions across to the U.S. president this Wednesday, as Obama has previously spent a lot of time taking questions from the crowd in earlier YSEALI meetings, including one in Malaysia last November, where the president focused on the role of youths in the development of a country and a region as a whole.

President Obama will depart for Japan to attend the 2016 G7 Summit after speaking in Ho Chi Minh City this Wednesday, concluding his three-day visit to Vietnam.

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