Wednesday, May 25, 2016

#WednesdayWisdom: Ho Chi Minh's Spirit

"Hoping to accomplish great things?
Then your spirit will need to be greater still!"
- Ho Chi Minh
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Every Wednesday, I think about the wise activists who inspire and inform me, and share some of their wisdom via Twitter using the #WednesdayWisdom hashtag. Today I'm thinking about Ho Chi Minh.

By the time I was old enough to be aware of current affairs in the late '60s, the media already seemed to have caught on to the fact that the US was wrong in Vietnam, that the US was certainly not succeeding, and that Ho knew something we didn't.

For me, Ho stands for the proposition that the US fundamentally misunderstood what was going on in Vietnam -- namely, a movement of national liberation.

Barack Obama was in Vietnam this week, and at the state dinner in his honor, Vietnamese President Tran Dai Quang quoted Ho Chi Minh: "Bear the cold winter, and we shall be welcomed by spring." (See "Vietnamese leader quotes Ho Chi Minh in toast to U.S.")

I discovered the source of the quote in a poem by Ho:

Advice to Oneself
(trans. Mark Chmiel)

Without the cold and desolation of winter
There could not be the warmth and splendor of spring.
Calamity has tempered and hardened me,
And turned my mind to steel.

Ho wrote many poems, including a collection written while a prisoner of the British in Hong Kong. His poems are in Chinese, and you can read them online.

Here's one I have translated:

Ho Chi Minh, Prison Diary
(Chinese original)
無題 (I)

Vô đề (I)
Thân thể tại ngục trung,
Tinh thần tại ngục ngoại.
Dục thành đại sự nghiệp,
Tinh thần cánh yếu đại.

(English - my translation)
My body is in prison,
but my spirit lies without.
Hoping to accomplish great things?
Then your spirit will need to be greater still!

(Source: Thi Vien website)

'Nuf said . . . .

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