Public Policy Forum Blog

Sunrise in Vietnam

When the sun rises in Hanoi, people in Wisconsin are putting their kids to bed. It may be worth pondering the symbolism that evokes -- because figuratively it certainly seems to be daybreak in Vietnam. That doesn't have to mean slumber for Milwaukeeans, but it's clear the optimism of a new day is easier to find half way across the world from us. That's an the early impression of our delegation of 18 Milwaukee civic leaders, most of whom returned from Vietnam on Sunday. The energy and entrepreneurial spirit in Hanoi makes it easy to understand why global economists are seeing Vietnam as the next Asian tiger, perhaps 15 years behind China but on the verge of explosive growth.

The idea of the week-long trip, organized by the Public Policy Forum and others, was for a diverse group of Milwaukeeans to explore possibilities for a lasting and productive relationship between Hanoi and Milwaukee. We'll regroup to discuss whether (and, if so, how) that might happen in a few days, but for now I think there are at least three likely outcomes: (1) a vehicle for Milwaukeeans to invest in Vietnam's growth and perhaps export products like machinery that an emerging country needs and our mature city makes; (2) a cultural exchange that could bring Vietnamese performing (and perhaps visual) arts here in Milwaukee and vice versa; and (3) one or more humanitarian projects that would link the sponsoring Rotary Club of Milwaukee with the needs of a country with extreme poverty. Stay tuned for more on this developing story.