In a few days, Barack Obama will become the first U.S. president to have ever visited Laos. The organization Legacies of War has come up with the catchy title of LAObama to raise awareness of the visit. An NBC News story described Laotian and Hmong Americans as “cautiously optimistic” about the visit, including the possibility of further reconciliation after the war years, or at least bringing the two countries closer together.
“The visit of the President might help the former refugees from Laos and the government of Laos to speed up their long overdue reconciliation process. The war ended more than 40 years ago,” Asian American studies professor emeritus Kou Yang of California State University, Stanislaus told NBC News. “The U.S. should assist Laos to rebuild itself after the secret war. Bring Laos closer to the U.S. and closer to the more than 560,000 former refugees from Laos in the U.S. These refugees have already contributed much to the people of Laos. Each day, thousands and thousands of dollars are sent to Laos. Many schools and libraries are built by former refugees to the people in Laos.”
Whatever the results of the visit, it is still noteworthy that this is the first time a U.S. President will have set foot there. John F. Kennedy didn’t even know how to pronounce Laos (it doesn’t rhyme with “chaos”).
From Legacies of War:
“The President’s visit to Laos carries enormous significance, potentially signaling a determination to finally end the impact of a long-ago war that still lurks along village paths in the form of UXO. The war is also present in the daily struggles of 12,000 UXO survivors whose physical and emotional challenges will stay with them for the rest of their lives. We applaud the President’s visit and his attention to this sad legacy of war. Surely it is our nation’s moral obligation to help create a new legacy of peace, safety and well-being for the people of Laos.”