A couple of messages from Ambassador Michael W. Michalak when he returned to TTU after many years of Covid on the occasion of Graduation in 2022.

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After many years of not being able to go to Tan Tao University due to the impact of the covid pandemic, this year Ambassador Michael W. Michalak was able to support TTU to participate in the annual Graduation Ceremony. He is extremely excited to return to TTU, and see familiar things again and the New Bachelors and New Doctors are the quintessence of the next world.

In that joy, the Ambassador made a couple of remarks on the day of the Graduation Ceremony for TTU students:

“As usual, I am delighted to be here with you. Each year the road to Long An actually seems to get a little better and the drive a little shorter – or maybe that is just my perception! I usually try to get out to Tan Tao at least once a year besides coming out for graduation but for the past three years I haven’t been able to get out of Singapore, where I live, without worrying about whether I could get back in. In fact I was stuck in Seattle for about five months because a week after we arrives in Seattle for a short vacation Singapore closed its borders to Americans and even though I live in Singapore and had a string of Singapore vaccination certificates I could not get back in. Well, those days are over — for good I hope — but at least for now.

We have come through a lot in the years you have been at TTU — or maybe not AT Tan Tao since I imagine you spent some time participating in classes at TTU through a teeny computer screen. If you think about the years it has taken for you to get to this place I think you can be quite proud that you have made it!

We went through a very tough time with a US President who does not believe in science, especially climate science, and who still thinks he won the 2020 election! We went through a Pandemic that disrupted and to some extent continues to disrupt our lives and certainly hurts our economies! We are still going through the issues caused by a war in Europe coming from the invasion of Ukraine by Russia. The war has caused a large bump in prices of energy, food and continues to disrupt economic activity around the world. It seems to be a miracle that we are all here to celebrate your graduation!

On the other hand we should think about some of the progress we have made in those years. We saw very powerful vaccines developed using new techniques in about one fourth the time it normally takes to develop vaccines. The new techniques are also being used to develop new therapeutic medicines to combat the Virus which is still with us though getting less dangerous by the day. We have seen a huge acceleration in the rate of digitization around the the world as people learned to cope with lock downs by developing newer and better ways to engage each other using the digital economy. I think we are also seeing new coalitions among nations that have similar value systems which are examining new ways to deal with some of the problems of he modern world — problems which are now your business as well as ours.

You just got through a really difficult engagement with typhoon Noru which hit Danang pretty hard and has gone on to hit other parts of Asia hard too! And Noru is not an isolated case. Overall, the planets average surface temperature has risen about 1 degree Celsius since the late 19th century with 2016 and 2020 being the hottest years on record. Additionally, climate-related disasters have also spiked 83 percent – 3,656 events during 1980 – 1999 rising to 6,681 in the past 20 years. Major floods have more than doubled, the number of severe storms has risen 40 percent, there has been a major increase in droughts, wildfires and heatwaves.

This is the biggest NOW issue of our day — how do we save our planet from climate disaster? This is going to be your issue going forward. You may have seen or heard of three letters used when talking about sustainability — E-S-G. These three letter stand for a way of thinking about sustainability and climate action in just about every sector and every aspect of our every day lives. The letters mean Environment, Society and Governance. They come up mostly in terms of new infrastructure projects and new ways of financing projects, especially climate related projects.

Environment is pretty clear: it means what do we do to preserve our environmental stability, including things like recycling, Electric Vehicles like the ones Vinfast is beginning to make, and things like that. But the other two letters S for society and G for governance may be the ones that will really be important going forward and are the ones about which you should do the most thinking. Society means how do we build a better society in the new post pandemic world? What do we do about the way people deal with each other, how we work together, play together, everything about our interrelationships. Governance is is also about how do we use the lessons learned from the pandemic and from the turbulence and disruption we are going through. How do we deal with refugees, how do we deal with race relations, how do we use accountability to make a better world and not use it to get rid of people we don’t like. ESG is a very broad concept and it can be interpreted by many people in many different ways, yet in the midst of this new world where uncertainty is the only thing we know we are going to continue to face, it is a very important concept that can help is change the world for the better.

As I said you can see this concept at work in the way corporations are starting to use it to measure the acceptability of projects, that is, does the project consider environmental effects? Effects on minority populations and effects on equality of economic opportunity for all stakeholders? There have been studies showing that companies that use this type of analysis are actually doing better in terms of attracting new investors than companies that only talk about profit margins.

As you may know Vietnam along with six other ASEAN member states is engaged with the United States in a new set of trade talks called the Indo Pacific Economic Framework or IPEF for short. These talks very much have ESG concepts in them. The organizers have said that environmental and worker related issues need to be included in talks about how to increase global trade and how to use solutions to the Food crisis, Supply Chain resilience and Energy transition away from fossil fuels as an opportunity to improve how we deal with each other and how we can construct a people centered economic system that is efficient and gives everybody a real chance at having a better life.

You will see more about this, hear more about this, and need to deal with these concepts in whatever you do out there in the big wide uncertain world!

I will be right there next to you doing the same, we will all need to do it together. TTU has given you the set of tools you need to help build the next world. Please make good use of them!”

Those are the messages and best wishes that Ambassador Michael W. Michalak wants to send to the new Bachelors, New Doctors, who will decide the future of the country as well as the world.