There are many things that Americans are known for, including dreaming big, working hard to turn those dreams into a reality, and reaching out to help others who are also trying to make their dreams come true. During his trip to Hanoi, Vietnam, earlier this week, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack—whose own personal story and history of public service epitomizes these very characteristics—challenged a packed auditorium of more than 600 students and faculty at the Hanoi University of Agriculture (HUA) to be the generation whose dreams transform their communities, their country and their world.
HUA, Vietnam’s oldest and largest agricultural university, was the perfect setting for this message, as many of its alumni have been instrumental in helping Vietnam transform in just 25 years from a food aid recipient to one of the world’s top agricultural producers and exporters. In fact, Vietnam is one of the world’s fastest growing economies and an important market for U.S. agricultural products. In the past decade, Vietnam jumped from the fiftieth to fifteenth position as a market for U.S. farm exports. At the same time, the United States has become a growing market for Vietnamese goods such as rice, coffee, cashew, spices and seafood. Two-way trade between the United States and Vietnam is strong for each partner.
Although Vietnam no longer faces the problem of chronic food shortages, Secretary Vilsack reminded the students that new threats to the country’s food supply—whether from the impact of climate change to the decimation of crops and livestock through disease—needed to be anticipated, countered and controlled. “What is the best way to do that?” asked the Secretary. Embrace science—just like Dr. Norman Borlaug.
When Secretary Vilsack told the capacity crowd about Dr. Borlaug’s green revolution, the estimated 1 billion lives he saved, and the World Food Prize he established, you could almost feel the dreams taking flight from the eager students. Secretary Vilsack closed his remarks by challenging the audience to aspire to make a difference, not by dreaming of things as they are, but as they should be.
I know that somewhere in that auditorium, someone is going to do just that.
Note: Vilsack is visiting with Asian Pacific partners in Vietnam and China to help strengthen trade relations and support the American brand throughout the region. Vilsack is the first sitting American Secretary of Agriculture to visit Vietnam