Last Saturday night brought His Imperial Highness Prince Nguyen Phuc Buu Chanh of Vietnam, Regent of the Imperial Dynasty and President of the Vietnamese Constitutional Monarchist League, to Cornell. The Prince, a member of the Vietnamese imperial family gave a lecture, entitled “Revival of Vietnamese Culture: The Nguyen Dynasty,” before a crowd of about 50 people.
Maria Nguyen ’05, vice president of the Cornell Vietnamese Association sang the American national anthem and then played the national anthem of South Vietnam. Aided by PowerPoint slides, Prince Buu Chanh then began his lecture speaking from a podium draped with the American flag and the flag of South Vietnam. He talked about Vietnamese history and culture, focusing on the 13 emperors of the Nguyen Dynasty, the last Vietnamese dynasty spanning 143 years that ended with Emperor Bao Dai in 1945. He then spoke on the future role of the Vietnamese monarchy and stressed the will of the people: “When we are not devoted to serve the people, we cannot have the right to ask for favors from the nation,” Buu Chanh said.
He presented a certificate to Dean of Students Kent Hubbell ’69 thanking Cornell for hosting him. “For those of us who grew up in the ’60s and ’70s, Vietnam has a special place in our lives because of the war. It’s a unique event to have members of the Vietnamese royal family here. Personally, [this event] makes me wonder what’s happening in Vietnam now and why we don’t hear about it much in the news,” Hubbell said.
The Prince also gave certificates to the president and vice president of the Cornell Vietnamese Association, thanking the University and CVA for hosting him.
Maria Nguyen said, “This was not meant to be a political seminar. People think about Vietnam as just the war, but it’s so much more than that. We want people to know about the culture.”
“I was pretty touched by his ideals about the nation and the Vietnamese people. It’s a rich history dating back to the 14th century; a lot of people don’t know how many generations of emperors we’ve had,” said Thientu Ho ’05.
Reacting to how the Prince answered questions, Xem Bui ’08 said, “When he was answering questions, he was saying the same things over and over, saying that the government would be determined by the will of the people.”
Students differed in opinion on what the Prince said. “I didn’t exactly agree with everything he said. I resented that he was trying to get back into power and that he kept saying he was working for the good of the people. I thought the people should decide what they want,” said a student who asked not to be identified. The Prince and his family were exiled from Vietnam in 1975, when Communist rule began in Vietnam. The Prince did not say outright that there are problems with the current Communist regime in Vietnam, but according to a grad student who wished to remain anonymous, “if you fly the flag of a former regime, it’s symbolic that the current one isn’t legitimate.”
Nguyen said that one of the Prince’s chancellors wrote a letter to Cornell, which was forwarded to the CVA asking if he could speak at Cornell. She was also primarily responsible for planning the event and introduced the Prince at the lecture along with the three other imperial family members present: Her Imperial Highness Princess Phan Lien of Vietnam, His Imperial Highness Prince Nguyen Phuc Vinh Vu and Countess Nguyen Phuc Dong Ingalls. The ladies wore ao dai, the traditional dress of Vietnam.
Archived article by Vanessa Hoffman
Sun Staff Writer