Im­mi­grants make Bos­ton great

Boston Herald - - HERALD OPINION - Ray FLYNN Ray Flynn is a for­mer mayor of Bos­ton and U.S. am­bas­sador to the Vat­i­can.

Re­cently, while lis­ten­ing to sev­eral Viet­namese-Amer­i­can young­sters who were cel­e­brat­ing the Viet­namese New Year, Tet, I got the op­por­tu­nity to hear many top­ics of con­cern to them­selves and their fam­i­lies.

They stressed ed­u­ca­tion as be­ing of the high­est pri­or­ity. Many of their par­ents came to the United States from Viet­nam af­ter the fall of Saigon in April 1975, a very chaotic time for mil­lions of fam­i­lies there. Nuns, priests and thou­sands of civic-ori­ented cit­i­zens, in­clud­ing sol­diers in the South Viet­namese Army, were im­pris­oned by the com­mu­nist gov­ern­ment. I spoke to one Viet­namese-Amer­i­can dad at the event who spent nine years in prison be­cause he served de­fend­ing the Repub­lic of Viet­nam, be­fore com­ing to Amer­ica. His daugh­ter is Mas­sachusetts State Rep. Tram Nguyen.

I also spent con­sid­er­able time with an of­fi­cer in the Viet­namese Army who de­scribed the bru­tal­ity they ex­pe­ri­enced at the hands of the com­mu­nist North Viet­nam mil­i­tary. I was telling them how I be­came friends with a Catholic bishop from Saigon whom I worked with at the Vat­i­can who had been tor­tured and served more than 12 years in soli­tary con­fine­ment in a com­mu­nist prison. I met sev­eral coura­geous peo­ple like him over the years who later be­came pro­duc­tive Amer­i­can cit­i­zens. Bos­ton be­came home to the strong­est and largest Viet­namese-Amer­i­can com­mu­nity in the United States with a pop­u­la­tion of over 50,000 peo­ple, many of whom moved into the Dorch­ester neigh­bor­hood.

The or­ga­niz­ers of the gi­ant “Tet in Bos­ton” event at the Ray­mond L. Flynn Cruise­port in the Sea­port pre­sented me with their Out­stand­ing Hu­man­i­tar­ian Award for pro­vid­ing hope and op­por­tu­nity for many Viet­namese refugees when they fled op­pres­sion and first came to Bos­ton in the early 1980s. The peo­ple of the city of Bos­ton wel­comed the new ar­rivals and treated them with re­spect.

In ac­cept­ing the award from its lead­ers, I told them the Viet­namese peo­ple have made an enor­mous con­tri­bu­tion to the sta­bil­ity of the United States. They have worked hard, raised won­der­ful chil­dren and re­spected our laws. I was proud to ap­point the first Viet­namese-Amer­i­can po­lice of­fi­cer and other im­por­tant of­fi­cials of key city de­part­ments, in­clud­ing the mayor’s of­fice.

I was so im­pressed with the ap­pre­ci­a­tion they ex­pressed for Amer­i­can mil­i­tary ser­vice­men who fought and died dur­ing the war against the ruth­less com­mu­nist North Viet­namese mil­i­tary.

As Mayor Walsh said, “We are a city of im­mi­grants who to­gether make our city and his­tory spe­cial.”

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