By Richard Hayden, NU ‘68
Editor’s note: This article was written as a letter Hayden sent to Norwich on November 16, 2015.
On November 17, 2015, my wife Mary Jane (MJ) and I had the distinct pleasure of witnessing the Naturalization ceremony at the Federal District Court in Rutland that included Norwich senior C/CPT Phung Pham ‘16.
I have had the pleasure of knowing Phung since March of his freshman year when we both participated in the inaugural Coaching for Leadership event and Phung was randomly assigned as my “coachee”.
My advice to him at the time was (1) knock the academics out of the park; (2) focus on improving your English (he was less than two years removed from Viet Nam at the time); (3) seek leadership opportunities in the Corps, and (4) become a U.S. citizen.
We have stayed in contact in a mentoring relationship ever since the first coaching session. Not many people take my advice, and I’m sure that Phung would have done all those things without my input, as he is a very motivated and hardworking individual. However, as of 1300 yesterday, he is 4-for-4 on those key points and on his way to a successful career in cybersecurity and serving in the Army National Guard. He is an example of the best that Norwich can produce. He will be a great alum and, I expect, an even greater American.
The event yesterday also caused me to reflect on my own appreciation of the value and responsibilities of being an American citizen. As the judge counseled the 25 people from 18 countries who took the Oath of Allegiance yesterday, citizenship is not something to put on the shelf; it must be actively used in order for our democracy to work. So, I took the opportunity to encourage Phung to get involved in government at all levels and not sit on the sideline as most Americans now do, to which he replied, ”Yes, Sir!” I am confident that once he figures out what that all means, he will be right in the thick of things making a constructive and informed input.
My wife and I presented Phung with an American flag that had been flown over the U.S. Capitol last week and a copy of the U.S. Constitution. I suspect that Phung would cheerfully share his flag for a day with the Norwich community. I don’t know how many students actually become citizens while at Norwich, but for me, this was very special, and I am pleased to share the good news with you and the Norwich community.