Friday, June 26, 2009

Student Reflections

My name is Dan Parziale and I am a student at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles. Since I have returned from Vietnam I have found myself reflecting upon my experiences there quite frequently. Again, I want to thank the IADL and the NLG for inviting me and to Ami Silverman, Franklin Sterling and Loyola Law School for supporting me financially to be able to make the trip.
Currently I am working at the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles working in the Immigration Unit and I am currently working on an asylum case from southeast Asia. It has been very interesting to work on a case from this part of the world shortly after spending time there and it has helped to keep our time there in perspective.
One thing I had a problem with at the conference was the way we seemed to close our eyes, or at least our mouths, to some of the glaring problems in several parts of the world. Human rights violations in China were not mentioned and Sudan, Uganda and Columbia were only mentioned in passing, to name a few. I understand that there is only so much we can cover in four or five days, but the level of focus on the US was disconcerting to me in the face of these other countries that deserve our attention. Vietnam, while being the host country, faces several of its own challenges and the country reports from the UN and Human Rights Watch clearly reflect as much. Vietnam was all but hailed as a bastion of freedom and progress. This was troubling for me. While I understand that, as one of the world’s strongest powers, the US rightfully garners a lot of attention. I strongly criticize our shortcomings and call for the prosecution of our leaders when we break international law, but I felt as if some of these other hotbeds of human rights violations needed attention as well. They may have been discussed in the other commissions and if so, then I need to speak with the people who were in those meetings.

That being said, I will walk away from the conference with an overwhelming amount of respect for the people of Vietnam. I was humbled by the love shown by them and the forgiveness expressed for the wrongs perpetrated against the people of their country. They exemplified the qualities that the world will need to adopt in order to create the truly peaceful world for which we strive. I recently heard someone say that even the weakest person can carry the heaviest of grudges and maybe it takes the strongest to let go of that burden. I hope that we can learn from the strength of the Vietnamese people.

I was inspired by the lawyers at this conference who work for international peace. Expanding one’s practice to think about the impact that it can have upon the world is a noble venture and we need more lawyers to take on issues of international human and environmental rights.

It is absolutely imperative that the students and lawyers who were in Vietnam share their experiences and knowledge with the people who were not able to be there. Lincoln Ellis, a fellow law student, and I are going to host a brown-bag lunch or informal dinner here in Los Angeles sometime in the next month or so to share stories and talk about our experiences in Vietnam. If anyone would like to get an invitation, feel free to email me at

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