Dear President Barack Obama!
My name is Trần Thị Hoan, 23, born in Đức Linh District, Bình Thuận Province, Việt Nam. I am a second generation victim of Agent Orange, one among the plaintiffs, representing millions of Agent Orange victims, in a lawsuit against 37 U.S. chemical manufacturers in the U.S. Federal Court, two richest of which are Dow and Monsanto. They manufactured deadly defoliants sprayed in the Vietnam wars containing dioxin—it has not only killed living people during the war, but gradually kills their children generations, like me, and goes on to kill the next ones. It damages my country and other nations beyond imagination.
I have read your letter to your beloved daughters, especially this excerpt: “These are the things I want for you—to grow up in a world with no limits on your dreams and no achievements beyond your reach, and to grow into compassionate, committed women who will help build that world. And I want every child to have the same chances to learn and dream and grow and thrive that you girls have. That's why I've taken our family on this great adventure.” I was deeply moved by the love you have for your daughters and the dreams you have for children of other countries, and I dream that certainly you meant also for Vietnam. I dream that when you were on the campaign trail, and when you were writing those lines, you had some ideas about Agent Orange and its devastating effects on human and environment. I dream when you wrote “And I want every child to have the same chances to learn and dream and grow and thrive that you girls have” you were actually thinking about innocent children slowly killed by dioxin, and their sufferings, their education in a very poor country like Vietnam will be the same as your daughters in the U.S. I dream you had in mind what to do to help every child to have the same chances to learn and to dream and grow and thrive like your daughters’.
May I say something about myself: when I was in junior high school, I studied hard to become a doctor to help people in my home town because they were so poor. But this dream was taken from me. I was suggested in college not to follow medicine because I was born with no legs and no left hand. My parents were consumed with grief when I was born and when I started school. I was suggested not to dream about raising a family for fear that my children would be born deformed like me, and the poison might even take their lives. You may have guessed from my personal story, one among three million victim stories, what happen to other parents victims of Agent Orange.
You are a father of two beautiful daughters, and you know how parents love their children. As you might have known, the U.S. Vietnam veterans, sick from Agent Orange, have gotten remediation for their illnesses, but their children have not. How do their children live a decent life like your daughters? In the case of my poor country, veterans of the U.S. war and their children and grandchildren have not received any justice from the U.S. courts: they refused to hear our case against the U.S. chemical companies without explanations. This denial of justice may have rendered void your dream for every child to have the same chances to learn and dream and grow and thrive. When I toured the U.S. cities last October, I found the American people deeply concerned about the problems of Agent Orange, including lawyers. I was totally disappointed with the U.S. Supreme Court running away from this question of justice.
I understand that you are very busy with the urgent matters that face your country, I hope that you would consider the poison from Agent Orange and the lives of its victims with as much a matter of urgency because what they mean to the future of humanity. I hope that you, a symbol of hope not only for the United States, but also for the world, a father who love his children dearly, and a man of humanity, spare a little time to resolve this forgotten problem.