As I consider where we were as a nation during the height of the Vietnam War, and the deplorable treatment that many U.S. military personnel endured upon their return from a long and unpopular conflict, it is clear that we have matured as a society and come a long way from a difficult and divisive period in the history of our body politic.

I commend U.S. diplomats and military officials for their painstaking efforts to close a painful chapter in our history with Vietnam and move forward, ever mindful of the debt we owe to fallen heroes left behind and their families.  In seeking to heal the deep wounds of the Vietnam War, memories of which remain etched in the cool face of granite on the Washington Mall, we have worked to restore full diplomatic relations and built a solid foundation for a future of peace and prosperity between our two countries.           

Yet while we have come so far, there is much more work to do.  Nebraska is home to a vibrant community of proud Vietnamese Americans who share hopes and dreams for their homeland that remain unfulfilled.  In issuing its annual report covering the period of April 2009 through March 2010, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom recommended that the Department of State designate Vietnam as a Country of Particular Concern given ongoing and serious violations of religious freedom.

While I join in celebrating the reconciliation we have achieved with Vietnam over the past several decades, I hope we will also take every appropriate opportunity to speak truth to power in defense of religious freedom, our nation’s raison d’etre and most noble legacy.