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 Today's Take:  NCR's daily Web column
Each weekday over the course of a week, a member of the NCR staff offers a commentary on one or more topics in the news.  It's our way of introducing you to some of the people carrying out the NCR mission of faith and justice based journalism.

April 25, 2003
Vol. 1, No. 15




global perspective Swimming to Vietnam

by Thomas C. Fox, publisher of NCR

HANOI -- Today's "Today's Take" is a love story. It has a beginning but, as yet, no ending. For our purposes it starts in 1966 when I graduated from college and the Vietnam War was already raging. It was a divisive time in our nation's history and a very trying time for my generation. Each one of us had to decide how he or she would deal with the war. I was against it, but volunteered to go to Vietnam to work with war refugees.

Two years living and working among some proud and desperately hurting people gave solid direction to my life. Those years as a volunteer led to several more as a war correspondent -- and to a growing love for Vietnam and its people. They also led to my marriage to a Vietnamese social worker who was caring for war-injured children.

Eventually we returned to the United States to start our family. Kim Hoa gave birth to three children, Daniel Tam, Christine Kim Hoa and Catherine Mai Lan. We raised them from early childhood in Detroit, Michigan living near the home of my parents.

I can attest that good can come out of evil. A war had brought us together and our three children into the world. The Vietnamese often say that happiness and sadness are interlinked. I understand what they mean.

For many years the war alienated me from my country and its symbols. The Stars and Stripes I grew up with had become bloodied in Vietnam where they were painted on the wings of U.S. jet bombers.

But then something unusual began to happen. Our youngest daughter, Catherine Mai Lan, became a swimmer and she advanced in competition. She trained hard and got faster with each passing year -- all the way to the 1996 Olympics where she swam for the United States and won two gold medals. Along the way, at major competitions, she began to dress in red, white and blue.

Clearly, God has a sense of humor.

Our oldest two children came to Vietnam on several occasions, but Mai Lan was always training and never could break away. With her swim career seemingly behind her I began to fulfill a promise to her two weeks ago by bringing her to Vietnam to become introduced to her mother's country.

While in Vietnam, we thought it would be interesting to make contact with the National Vietnamese Swim Association. Through the US embassy we contacted some Vietnamese swim coaches. Word got to the press about our visit. Soon Mai Lan was being hounded by the Vietnamese press and appearing on the covers of Vietnamese newspapers. The national television station began following us around as we traveled doing daily reports. Overnight Mai Lan, as she is called here, once again had become a media celebrity.

Next week we will meet with the Vietnamese National Swim Association in Ho Chi Minh City. Several in the association have asked if Mai Lan might consider returning to Vietnam to help coach the Vietnamese National Swim team. Other Vietnamese in the local press have asked her if she might consider swimming for the Vietnamese National Swim team when it competes in December in the Southeast Asia Games to be hosted in Vietnam. It's the first time Vietnam has hosted the games. The country has caught sports fever. A new Olympic swimming pool is now under construction outside of Hanoi.

As I said, this love story, as yet, has no ending. Who knows where it is going?

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