I am an historian

The site of the current U.S. Consulate in Ho Chi Minh City was the site of the U.S. Embassy in Vietnam from 1968-1975. As a result, the site is of considerable historical significance.

I won’t go into the details, but if you’re interested, Wikipedia’s article has a pretty good summary of the events that happened on the compound.

Many of the officers that are posted here have an interest in history, so a “consulate historian” group has formed. When high-level visitors (government officials) come on an official visit, they often want a tour of the grounds, to understand how the events that happened here played out. An officer will lead a tour and explain what happened. It’s sort of like being a docent in a museum.

Shortly before coming to post, I joined the historian team. I’ve given a couple of tours so far. The group has a collection of documents and photos that we can use as visual aids when we give talks, but we also tailor our talks to the particular interests of the visitors.

Last week I gave a tour to a cabinet secretary who was visiting Vietnam on an official visit. Because the Secretary was born in Michigan, then later represented Georgia in Congress, I took the time to find both Michigan and Georgia connections to the events at the Embassy. I managed to find people from those respective states who played significant roles in the events at the Embassy.

At first, I thought I would be giving a tour to only the Secretary and his wife, but it turned out that a large group of his staff and other departmental personnel tagged along as well. There were about 20 people in the group. The Ambassador was also there, and provided some additional details as I gave my talk (he has extensive knowledge about the recent history of the Consulate, because he was here when the U.S. was re-establishing diplomatic relations with Vietnam in the late 1990s).

When I joined the Foreign Service, I didn’t picture myself giving historical tours, but it certainly fits in with our job description. Talking about the history of a U.S. Embassy is definitely one of the roles of a diplomat.

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