Tran Dang Khoa: Remembering uncle Ho upon the arrival of spring
Friday, February 10, 2012
Editor’s message: Tran Dang Khoa was named Vietnam’s genius poet following the publication of his first collection of poems, “The yard corner and Sky interval,” at age 9. Vietnamese people, old and young, know his poems by heart. His book “Đảo chìm” or “Submerged Island,” featuring the lives of Vietnamese soldiers stationed on Truong Sa or Spratly archipelago, has been much admired by people of different generations. Tran Dang Khoa is now working for Voice of Vietnam Radio. The columnist is a “page-view generator” for different features of VOVonline, particularly the newly-launched “Editors’ Blog,” where he shares his concerns and thoughts about what’s happening in the country. Selected VOVonline Editors’ Blog columns are also now available at VOVworld.vn.
(VOV) - “Even when I live like this, some of you still exploit the people. Would you take everything away from them if I led a luxurious life?”
Every state employee is familiar with the personal asset declaration. Looking at this paper, we sigh and ask ourselves why we’re still so poor. And then we remind ourselves that others are even poorer. But even a farmer at the bottom of society has some kind of property - a small garden, a pond, some pigs or chickens. There is only one person who has virtually nothing, who is perhaps the poorest person in Vietnam and that person is Uncle Ho, President Ho Chi Minh.
Let’s review his personal life. What did he have in his own house? A set of khaki clothes, a pair of rubber sandals, a palm-leaf fan. That’s the material. What about the spiritual? He had no medals, orders, or even certificates of merit. And his emotional life? Nothing. Uncle Ho’s Secretary Vu Ky recounts that there were nights when the light was out but the radio could still be heard from his room. Ky thought he was sleeping and entered on tiptoe to turn the radio off. Uncle Ho stopped him and said “Leave the radio on so that the room will be warmer with human voices…”
Glory to the Voice of Vietnam which became Uncle Ho’s companion in the loneliest moments of his life!
Thinking of Uncle Ho, any unfortunate person would feel comforted knowing they were no less fortunate than Ho Chi Minh.
Yet the poorest person in the country left us a huge legacy - an independent and sovereign nation, a glorious revolution, and the bright example of a noble and pure life.
We can all understand why Uncle Ho always cared about poor laborers. He named the country’s party “the Vietnam Labor Party”, a party for everyone because everyone is a laborer. Whenever Tet approached, Uncle Ho would choose a number of poor families to visit and give them new year’s gifts.
His visits were often unannounced and only Ky, his secretary, accompanied him.
A female cleaner, who lived in a small alley, still had to carry water to earn some money on new year’s eve. The altar in her house was empty with no bunch of bananas, no pair of square sticky rice cakes. Tet knocked on the door of every other house but ignored hers.
That’s why she was so amazed and dropped two buckets of water when Uncle Ho suddenly appeared in her leaky house. “Oh my god, it’s Uncle Ho…My family is miserably poor…I can’t believe Uncle Ho came to my house…”. “Who would I visit if I didn’t visit you?…” She burst into tears and Uncle Ho also cried. That was one of Uncle Ho’s last Tets in Vu Ky’s memory.
Sympathizing with the lives of his people, Uncle Ho himself led a very simple life. His meal was that of a poor farmer. He wore a simple brown outfit and a pair of rubber sandals even when he received foreign guests. An official of a province once said: “Since you represent the Party and the People and you live like this, our international friends might think the Party and the People don’t look after you…”
Uncle Ho just smiled and said: “Even when I live like this, some of you still exploit the people. Would you take everything away from them if I led a luxurious life?”
Uncle Ho’s life and lifestyle are a great lesson for all public officials. We understand why during the years of war when the country’s situation was chaotic, our society remained stable and the people remained united. There were no assaults on the street, no robberies, no corruption, and no prostitution. A healthy life in a healthy environment.
Uncle Ho, who devoted his entire life to the people even during the last minutes of his life, had only 79 words for himself. These words summarized the 79 years of his life. He said he did not want a luxurious funeral, to save time and money for the people.
We have been studied Ho Chi Minh’s Morality and Thought. But what exactly is Ho Chi Minh’s Thought? I’ve been doing some research. There are many definitions, most of them subjective interpretations. Referring to Ho Chi Minh’s Thought, no one could have a better or accurate opinion than Former Party Secretary Do Muoi. Mr. Muoi spoke at a meeting of the Writers’ Association for 4 hours about many issues of particular interest to writers.
While discussing Ho Chi Minh’s Thought, Mr. Muoi gave a very short but accurate definition: “What is Ho Chi Minh’s Thought? It is Vietnam’s adaptation of the most modern and advanced ideologies of humanity and turning them into reality in the country!”
That’s right. We can find within his immortal sayings the experience of many eras. One of the lessons that he left us is his accurate observation and assessment of and his art of using personal talents. This is his secret that we need to research and study. He had a very far-reaching and accurate vision.
In 1941, Uncle Ho drew a picture of a trumpet, the number 1945, and some verses “Independent Vietnam blowing the trumpet”. He foresaw the year of Independence in 1941. He also predicted the year of the liberation of Saigon. On the evening of April 30, 1960, in a speech to celebrate International Labor Day at the Hanoi Opera House, there was a line which he crossed out and didn’t read. This line is now preserved at the Ho Chi Minh Museum. It says “The country will be united and the south and the north will be under the same roof in 15 years at the latest…”
It took “15 years…” exactly from 1960 until 1975. That vision is part of the reason many people consider him a saint. His use of talents was remarkable and this was one of the decisive factors in the success of Vietnam’s revolution. In 1946, when Uncle Ho left Vietnam to go abroad, he gave full control of the government to Huynh Thuc Khang with just one piece of advice “Be consistent in dealing with inconsistencies". This simple advice was just enough for an experienced confucianist like Huynh Thuc Khang.
It was very surprising that in such a complex situation, Uncle Ho entrusted control to a non-party scholar while there were so many staunch party members in the government. Handling over the fate of the country to a non-party person was really a daring decision.
With such behavior, Uncle Ho rallied many talents within the country to the quest for independence. Many scholars of different factions joined him and many gave up luxurious lives to return to the country and share his burdens. During those years of hardships, without any adviser of his own, Ho Chi Minh was able to rally and use these talents effectively. The people he chose and entrusted responsibility to all became important characters in the country’s history.
General Vo Nguyen Giap is a case in point. I’ve often asked myself how Uncle Ho could see the military talent in Vo Nguyen Giap, who had never had any military training. Mr. Giap was then just an ordinary history teacher at the Thang Long private school.
Military tactics and battles were unfamiliar to Giap yet Uncle Ho put him in charge of military affairs and gave him the title of General with the ultimate right to decide any military matter: “You are a general on the front, you can decide anything you think necessary and inform me later!”
We would eventually learn that selecting General Giap was one of Uncle Ho’s wisest decisions. Vo Nguyen Giap was really a military talent. He can be compared with the most famous figures in the country’s history of fighting foreign invaders such as Tran Hung Dao, Ly Thuong Kiet and Quang Trung. How could Uncle Ho see the hidden potential of a military talent in the guise of a history teacher? That’s a mystery.
American journalist Lady Borton recalled that some French journalists once posed President Ho Chi Minh a difficult question: “By what criteria did you give Mr. Giap the title General?” The President answered: “Our country was pursuing guerrilla tactics and this was a guerrilla appointment. Mr. Giap has defeated all the best generals of France, so he must be a General”. The President and the journalists all smiled. The tough question was easily answered.
That’s how our Uncle Ho was! He had the ability to turn serious matters into small, simple matters, something only experienced and wise people can do…/.
Tran Dang Khoa