Dear Sombath…from Josette & Louis Rosof

Dear Friend Sombath,

We remember with pleasure the 1970’s when you were an East-West grantee and one of the only Lao students from a peasant family. During many conversations in our home you were steadfast in the desire to return to your country and do whatever you could to help build a better existence for all of its people. In that desire you were alone: the other Lao students were hesitant or dead-set against returning to a communist country.

We cannot forget that when the war ended you asked Josette to sew a new Lao People Democratic Republic flag to fly alongside the other national banners at the East West Center. Then you organized the flag raising, which didn’t please the Center’s administration that much. But you pulled it off.

We lost sight of you for several years after your return to Laos, but you always kept us informed of your work and your dreams, both of which aimed to improver the life of the country’s agrarian population. Reading between the lines of your correspondence it seemed to use that some of your compatriots did not always understand your goals. That didn’t deter you from continued work, which culminated in PADETC. And not once did you ever  attack those who didn’t agree with you.

When Shui-meng and you started vacationing in Hawaii every other year or every three or four years we found no change whatsoever in your determination to help your people. You spoke of the great volunteers who worked with villagers to increase agricultural production and achieve a more dignified life. We didn’t always understand why you didn’t take a more active stand against your non-believers, but when we inquired you told us to consider the whole situation. If we did that, you said, we’d see that your work coincided with the government’s aspirations for the people.

We are so proud of what you have accomplished. When the United Nations and those who offer the Magsaysay Award also recognized your endeavors our pride grew even more. We liked telling every who would listen, “We know Sombath Somphone.” Really, we are so proud to know you.

When you and Shui-meng retire to the more casual life you so much deserve the Lao people will certainly join the rest of the world in celebrating your efforts.

We anxiously await seeing you again.

With much aloha,

Josette & Louis Rosof