Community in the Classroom / Teaching Vietnam

A Tribute to the Life and Legacy of Ambassador Phong

Dear Family of Ambassador Xuan Phong Nguyen,

I am so very sorry to hear of Ambassador Phong’s recent passing.  Thank you for letting me know…As you know, we have kept in touch for many years, including the six years since I retired from teaching Lessons of Vietnam (LOV) at Millbrook High School in Raleigh, NC.
What an honor it was for me to meet Ambassador Phong and his wife Bich H. Nguyen at Texas Tech University’s Vietnam Center in 2002! Ambassador Phong willingly signed on as a LOV Class pen pal link for many semesters. I always tried to connect him with my most gifted students, as I knew they would ask questions and share responses that would enlighten us all.
I am fortunate to keep in touch with many of my former LOV students, including several of Ambassador Phong’s student links. After reading your message, which I shared with them, Molly, Cristina, and Joy wrote very thoughtful messages regarding Ambassador Phong’s important influence on their education.  They are as follows:

From Ashley Honeycutt Terrazas, Lessons of Vietnam Class 2009:
“He taught me so much about history and politics, and about always trying to do what is best for people in difficult situations. I wish his family peace and comfort as they grieve for him.”  

From Molly Emmett Kovacs, Lessons of Vietnam Class 2008: 
“Thank you for sharing with me. What a loss to us all. He was a brilliant mind and I’m so grateful you connected us.”

From Cristina Chenlo Stam, Lessons of Vietnam Class 2006:
“I am so sad and sorry to hear about this! Corresponding with Ambassador Phong is still one of my educational highlights. “

From Joy Strickland, Lessons of Vietnam Class 2005:
“Thank you so much for sending me this, Mrs. Poling! I moved this past week and still have my entire series of correspondence. I keep it in my office and look at it often. He was the most incredible man, and I’m thankful every day you connected us and allowed me the privilege of getting to know him.”
You might enjoy reading some of the articles in our BRIDGES-LESSONS OF VIETNAM NEWSLETTERS on our website at a later time: 

Ms. Joy Strickland concluded her wonderful article, “Letters of Hope,” about Ambassador Phong, as follows:
  “The Vietnam Era was a crucial time in our Nation’s history; but for many young people of my generation, the issues are unclear or even irrelevant. Ambassador Phong has opened my eyes, not only to new points of view about the Vietnam War, but also about life. An incredible man, Ambassador Nguyen Xuan Phong is more than an historical hero. He is a philosopher, a mentor, a human rights crusader—and, most amazingly, he is my friend.”
  Joy’s complete article can be found here: 

BRIDGES NEWSLETTER SPECIAL EDITION-2005: “Letters of Hope,” by Joy Strickland 

On behalf of all of LOV students who had the privilege of “linking” with Ambassador Phong and their teacher, we wish to express our sincere condolences. How lucky we were to know him.
Most sincerely,
Lindy Poling


  • At the age of 12, his parents sent him to France to attend Lycee Michelet-Paris; then London French Institute-London School of Foreign Trade, and finally Oxford University to pursue his advanced education in economics and political science.
  • At the age of 29, Dr. Phong was appointed Minister of Labor (the youngest Minister in the history of the country)–subsequently, the Minister of Social Service, Republic of Vietnam.
  • He served as a member of the delegation of the Republic of Vietnam to the Paris Accords (1968-1973). Eventually, he became the head of the delegation and continued various state missions to the end of the Republic of Vietnam (April 30, 1975).
  • After the fall of Saigon in 1975, Dr. Phong was incarcerated by the communist government until1980.
  • For twenty years (1980-2000), Dr. Phong recruited foreign companies to invest in the Vietnam labor and market, which generated more than $500,000,000, a noteworthy achievement during a period Vietnam’s struggling to rebuild its country following the devastating war.
  • Dr. Phong’s book, Hope and Vanquished Reality (The Center for A Science of Hope) was published in 2001.
  • In 2002, Dr. Phong was appointed Associate Director at the Vietnam Center, Texas Tech University.
  • In 2004, Dr. Phong retired and settled in the Orlando area (Florida). He continued to be a mentor to students and researchers from around the world. He was truly a beacon of hope and peace!