Dear CBG Family and Friends,
Having just returned from a visit to Hong Kong, Vietnam and Tokyo,
I thought this letter might take the form more of a casual travel
diary than the usual comprehensive monthly report on Center activities.
Apologies in advance to faculty, staff and fellows whose publications,
conferences, seminars and achievements I'm failing to highlight
as a result. I simply thought it might be a nice change to hear
about a special gem of a CBG program that operates out of Ho Chi
Minh City that I had the pleasure to experience first-hand with
my KSG colleague Professor Dutch Leonard and former Ambassador
But first a word about a very special day that about 30 CBG faculty,
fellows, staff and students spent last Friday doing community
service along with an equal number of enthusiastic partners from
the Kennedy School's Institute of Politics. Organized by City
Year, a national youth service corps started here in Boston, we
gathered at the First Baptist Church in Central Square, performed
calisthenics to warm up, learned about the many worthwhile secular,
social, educational and civic functions that are provided at this
handsome old facility, and then got to work plastering, dry walling,
taping, spackling, sanding, landscaping, sawing, nailing and cleaning
the huge basement and outside area of the church.
At the end of a very satisfying day of getting our hands dirty
to help create a youth and recreation center in the cavernous
church basement, CBG faculty member Jack Donahue remarked, "A
lot of us write books, teach classes, engage in research and hope
that somehow, somewhere our efforts end up making a difference
in society. Today, we all had the satisfaction of doing something
much more concrete, and we end the day being about to point to
something physical that we know will in fact leave this place
a little better for the future."
It was a wonderfully positive day for all of us who participated.
Indeed, Institute of Politics Director and former U.S. Senator
David Pryor summed up the sentiments of many when he observed
that service of this kind, and interacting with young people and
the community, is exactly what a school of government, charged
with training people to be public leaders, is all about-and we
ought to encourage more of this activity in the future. So David
and I have
agreed that we're going to make this joint CBG/IOP Community Service
Day an annual rite of spring and we're planning to organize another
joint community service day next fall, to coincide with City Year's
Servathon in October. I hope you can join us. You'll feel the
kind of exhaustion, satisfaction and inspiration that always seems
to accompany doing hard work alongside others in a spirit of fun
for a larger cause.
Our day of community service was, in part, a way of bringing
City Year back home to CBG and the IOP. Its founders, Alan Khazei
and Michael Brown were given space at the Kennedy School to explore
their idea of starting a privately funded urban peace corps. One
of their strongest supporters was Win Knowlton, the first Director
of CBG. And one of the first calls Win made was to a future CBG
Director who was then a newly minted executive vice president
at Bank Boston. I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to
provide the first corporate and institutional support to City
Year. Since that modest beginning, City Year has raised more than
$150 million to support a national program that has graduated
some 6,000 corps members who performed more than 8 million hours
of community service, demonstrating that young people can be tapped
as a source of idealism, positive energy and community caring.
President Clinton used City Year as a prototype for Americorps
and Nelson Mandela has invited City Year to start a chapter in
Now back to that site visit to the Fulbright Economics Teaching
Program in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. CBG oversees and operates
the school under contract with the U.S. State Department and with
the blessings of the government of Vietnam. This unusual program
was started six years ago by Tom Vallely, Dwight Perkins and David
Dapice and has trained about 350 provincial officials and managers
from throughout Vietnam in market economics. The school offers
the academic equivalent of "boot camp for bureaucrats"
in a yearlong, highly structured sequence of intense learning.
Graduates hail from more than 50 of Vietnam's 62 provinces, and
next year nearly 400 applicants vied for just 60 spots.
The Fulbright Economics Teaching Program (FETP) also offers a
number of short courses on topics ranging from economics for journalists
and translators, to marketing goods and services of state-owned
enterprises. Combined, the 800 alums of our Vietnam Program represent
a substantial force for change.
I had the opportunity to visit with a number of graduates who
are putting their classroom learning to work in transforming Vietnam
into a market-oriented economy. One of our graduates has helped
to reshape the rural rice market and by loosening state control
of wholesale distribution and pricing, the reforms he pioneered
led to a 30 percent increase in output. Another graduate is transforming
subsistence fishing into commercially viable shrimp harvesting.
Yet another graduate leads the largest export-trading zone in
Vietnam that currently offers employment to 70,000. To support
the new trading zone, he is planning an entire new community for
half a million people south of Saigon, complete with state-of-the-art
schools, recreation, training, housing and transportation facilities.
CBG's Vietnam Program is making a difference and leaving a mark
on this complicated country with which the United States has had
such a troubled history. It's hard to measure the difference in
one quick trip but I couldn't help being struck by the contrast
when I flew from modern, gleaming Hong Kong, with its per capita
income north of $30,000, into Vietnam where per capita income
is $450. I was experiencing two different worlds in many respects.
But change is in the air everywhere I went in Asia, and I left
Vietnam feeling hopeful and optimistic about the future of the
country and the role that CBG's activities are playing in the
When we met with the Prime Minister of Vietnam in Hanoi, he gave
us a very warm and friendly reception (indeed, he actually embraced
our chief economist, David Dapice). The Prime Minister was fully
knowledgeable about the range and scope of our activities, grateful
for our partnership, and enthusiastic about exploring new roles
that we might consider playing as Vietnam moves emerge from decades
of state control.
The U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam, former Congressman Pete Peterson,
hosted us for lunch at the embassy, along with representatives
from a number of international organizations and foundations active
in Vietnam. I was impressed by the reaction and response to our
program and the leadership of our team by others on the ground
also doing good work in Vietnam. It appears that what we're doing
is vitally needed. So much of the change that is necessary in
Vietnam needs to take place in the provinces-at the equivalent
of the state and local level-which is where we focus our energies.
What's needed is training on how to make markets work efficiently,
how to analyze public and policy choices, and how to manage more
effectively. The way to do that is by partnering with our host
country, by respectfully engaging indigenous talent, and by always
insisting upon and maintaining the highest standards. We appear
to be doing all of this superbly well.
All in all it's a fascinating, important and high quality program
that we run in Vietnam. I was proud to see what our colleagues
have achieved, and I'm looking forward to visits next month by
Dean Joe Nye and Secretary of State Colin Powell.
On this trip, I also had a chance to explore the executive program
we share in Hong Kong and journey to Japan where I visited with
Sachio Semmoto, one of Tokyo's most successful high tech entrepreneurs
who recently spoke at a CBG luncheon in Cambridge.
I'll conclude this month's letter with congratulations to the
Kennedy School's Class of 2001. This year's commencement speaker
is Andy Card, a KSG alum who now serves as chief of staff to the
So the beat goes on. It's a very spirited, fast-paced beat. I
hope that you're as energized and inspired as I am by the work
that so many of our colleagues are doing, whether in Vietnam or
back home at CBG.