- By Michael S. Dorn
- January 1st, 2011
United States combat troops disembarked from a naval vessel at Da Nang to train Vietnamese combat soldiers. While this sentence might not have seemed out of place in a history book or a newspaper article in the 1960s, it refers to an event that occurred just a few months ago. Outside the expatriate Vietnamese community in the U.S. and a brief mention in the Economist, there has been little press coverage in the U.S. about our troops training Vietnamese soldiers.
A mere decade ago, I did not comprehend the massive changes in Vietnam, China, Eastern Europe, India, and many other parts of the world. I certainly did not envision the massive changes in our nation and its institutions of higher learning these changes in other lands would bring. Like many folks, I have been so focused on what I do that the incredible transformations crept up on me. Only when I started working abroad on a regular basis did I begin to truly sense the enormity of the change.
Vietnam as an Illustration of Change
I use Vietnam as an illustration because I have spent considerable time there in recent years and because it is one of those regions where the changes have been so pronounced. It is also a country where the view of most Americans is based so much on a distorted Hollywood viewpoint. Most Vietnamese who have never been to the U.S. have just as much difficulty grasping the concept of our country.
When I first lectured at Vietnam National University in 2006, I was astonished by the experience. When I was trying to take photographs to capture a veritable sea of motorbikes in one of the University’s student parking lots and remarked how amazing the sight was, a professor commented that it was indeed amazing to him that just 10 to 15 years before, the entire lot would have been filled with bicycles. He told me that most Vietnamese could not afford motorbikes then. One would need to go to Sturgis or Daytona to see more motorcycles, though the bikes in Asia are usually much smaller. I had missed the fact that massive economic change had been responsible for the proliferation of motorcycles in the parking lots and on city streets of Vietnam. Various other intensive social shifts can be found in Latin America, Europe, Asia, Eastern Europe, and other regions.
The Effects of Change
The effects of these changes are evidenced every day in our communities and in our institutions of higher learning. Increasing numbers of foreign students can afford to attend American institutions of higher learning, and many of them have never participated in fire drills, severe weather sheltering drills, earthquake drills, or other emergency drills while attending K–12 schools or universities in their home countries. This demonstrates a need for intensive flexibility and adaptability in the way our institutions operate and this has implications for how we keep our campuses safer. Significant change will continue. Are you ready for it?
Michael S. Dorn has helped conduct security assessments for more than 6,000 K-12 schools, keynotes conferences internationally and has published 27 books including Staying Alive – How to Act Fast and Survive Deadly Encounters. He can be reached at www.safehavensinternational.org.