On what we can all agree
February’s fundraising concerts for the Village School Foundation
There are so many issues still unsettled. Exiles are that way. There is a world of deeply held feeling, from dark bitterness to irrepressible hope, about Viet Nam. The nation and the war.
So many things invite angry debate — the loyalty of Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh, the lyrics of popular singer Trinh Cong Son, the current intentions of the Socialist Republic’s smiling CP leaders. Oregon’s vigorous Viet Kieu community is that way. But after passions cool, this immigrant community and their not-so-far-away homeland both benefit from each side’s struggle to understand their shared and difficult history. And the future looks good again.
“Well, about one thing we can all agree,” emcee Chi Jones said, deftly handling introductions at the Village School Foundation’s benefit concerts last month, “one thing we can all agree on is our children. Their need for the best education we can give them.” His audiences, one at South Salem’s Westminster Presbyterian Church, the other at Portland Community College’s far-west Rock Creek Campus, had to nod, had to smile.
There is also a world of difference between poor rural children in Phan Thiet Province, the focus of Village School Foundation’s construction and scholarship efforts, and the tall, polished, suburban cul-de-sac kids enrolled in Chi Jones’s Vietnamese Science & Cultural Society of Oregon’s (VSCSO) educational enrichment programs based at the Rock Creek Campus. That painful distinction was lost on no one. Mr. Jones’s subtle point was profound. So everyone surrendered to an evening of inspired entertainment.
Inspired music and elegant dance
After an invocation by the Venerable Fa Thai of the Hawthorne district’s Miao-Fa Chan Temple, VSCSO students took the stage and immediately filled the packed auditorium with traditional Dan Tranh music, with notes of both longing and joy. Elegant young Viet ladies in flowing ao dai danced, elders in their audience dreamed, younger ones were captured inside their lovely moment. Appreciative of the bridge between past and present, home and here, the crowd clapped loud and long.
Nationally acclaimed guitar man and concert storyteller Tinh played next, backed initially by two of Monmouth Taiko’s mighty war drums and Village School Foundation trumpeter Dan Enbysk. Tinh then went solo, talking story about what’s in his American baby boy’s eyes and what flutters around his Phan Thiet pagoda’s garden.
Tinh’s concerts blend many things. He bends his refined American six-string guitar licks around his stubbornly Viet sensibilities. He loses the distance, in decades and geography, between a lonely monsoon-soaked GI patrolling an Ap-talai rice paddy and our audience of fashionably casual Oregonians soaking up an evening of his acoustic rain. In recognition of his musical originality, First Lady Laura Bush invited Tinh to the White House in 2003.