All posts filed under: history

President Obama’s Remarks in Vientiane: Acknowledging the People and its Past

(Artwork by Chantala Kommanivanh) I woke up this morning and caught my father listening to President Obama’s speech for the first time.  As a 27-year-old senior lieutenant of the Royal Lao Army who was trained at Fort Knox in the early 1970s, the scars of that era was traumatic as it was deeply lonely for my family. President Obama’s historic visit to Laos and his remarks in Vientiane is powerfully meaningful to the hundreds of thousands of Laotian diaspora who fled to seek new havens to call home. I’m echoing what many across the world are feeling this week: it’s a good time to be Laotian American. The momentum of President Obama’s visit to Laos is undeniable. In the over 60 years that the United States has established diplomatic relations with Laos, this is the first time a president is realizing the potential in Laos, as part of a crucial pivot and ‘rebalance’, as they put it, of the Asia Pacific region. While the U.S. is in Vientiane for the ASEAN Summit and other high-level meetings, President Obama continues to …

A Community for Us, by Us: Reflections on Lao Writers Summit 2016

What a weekend. This year’s Lao American Writers Summit (LAWS) was momentous in so many ways. Taking place in San Diego, California from May 27-28, 2016, it was the first time the Summit was held outside of Minnesota, the first Summit to take place in consecutive years, and the largest gathering by far. People came in from all over the U.S. to learn and connect. Although the event was held over a weekend, the Summit officially kicked off festivities on May 12 with the opening of the official LAWS gallery titled “Intersectionalities,” curated by Catzie Vilayphonh and Sayon Syprasoeuth, featuring artwork from various Lao American artists from across the nation. The gallery and the Summit took place in the beautiful Centro Cultural de La Raza, which was the perfect venue for sharing art, making connections, and telling stories. If I were to break down some key observations from this year’s Summit, they would be: There is an ongoing need and desire for a space where Lao Americans can connect and express themselves. I attended the …