Ngô Đình Diệm

South Vietnamese politician; President of South Vietnam from 1955 to 1963

Ngô Đình Diệm (3 January 1901 – 2 November 1963) was a South Vietnamese politician who was the final prime minister of the State of Vietnam (1954–1955) and later the first president of South Vietnam (Republic of Vietnam) from 1955 until his capture and assassination during the CIA-backed 1963 South Vietnamese coup. Diệm has been a controversial historical figure. Some historians have considered him a tool of the United States, while others portrayed him as an avatar of Vietnamese tradition. At the time of his assassination, he was widely considered to be a corrupt dictator.

Ngô Đình Diệm in 1958

Quotes edit

  • Since the end of the last war, when Asia broke her chains, the conscience of the world has at last awakened to a profound and inevitable development: the birth of Asian independence. This realisation has brought about a condemnation in the most concrete terms of the old system of exploitation which governed, in the past, the relationship between East and West. In its place firm efforts are being made to establish a new formula of international cooperation… It is the battle for independence, the growing awareness of the colonial peoples that the origin of their poverty has been the systematic withholding of technical development, coupled with the growing nationalist and social sentiment, that have combined to bring about a profound transformation in the Asian state of mind and given to its masses an irresistible dynamism.
  • The Asian people – long humiliated in their national aspirations, their human dignity injured – are no longer, as in the past, resigned and passive. They are impatient. They are eager to reduce their immense technical backwardness. They clamour for a rapid and immediate economic development, the only sound base for democratic political independence… It is in this debate – unfortunately influenced in many countries by the false but seductive promises of fascism and communism – that the efforts being made to safeguard liberal democracy through aid given by the industrial countries of the West, play a vital role. For the honour of humanity, the United States has made the most important contribution to this end…
  • We affirm that the sole legitimate object of the state is to protect the fundamental rights of human beings to existence [and] to the free development of their intellectual, moral, and spiritual life.
  • We affirm that democracy is neither material happiness nor the supremacy of numbers. Democracy is essentially a permanent effort to find the right political means in order to assure to all citizens the right of free development and of maximum initiative, responsibility and spiritual life…
  • The Republic of Vietnam, the youngest republic in Asia, soon will be two years old. Our Republic was born among great suffering. She is courageously facing up to economic competition with the Communists, despite heavy and difficult conditions, which become daily more complex. Vietnam nevertheless has good reason for confidence and hope. Her people are intelligent, have imagination and courage. They also draw strength from the moral and material aid they receive from the free world, particularly that given by the American people.
  • It is a fundamental truth that laws do not cover all the aspects of life, and a Constitution does not create a democracy. Democratic institutions will prosper only when the spirit and will of the people supply the adequate precedent conditions. For democracy is a moral system which will develop gradually as the concept of Common Good will become, day after day, broader and more profound in the mind of the citizen as well as of the governing.
  • Now for more than a century, abnormal political conditions have corrupted the sense of civic responsibility in many a mind. It behoves us now to restore the spirit of public service, the spirit of honor and national dignity, moral and intellectual honesty, the spirit of sacrifice, the sense of discipline, and personal responsibility, courtesy in human relations which is simply the expression of respect for others as for oneself.
  • In fact, if the sense of civic duty derives its supreme justification from the ethical principles of the respect for the human person and for the common good, however, it thrives with vigor only in a political, administrative and economic climate which is alive and congenial. In addition to the institutions which allow him to take part in the direction of public affairs and draw the attention of his leaders to his legitimate grievances, the citizen must be able to rely on just laws, on an equitable apportionment of social duties, on a courteous and effective administration as well as on the impartiality of the courts.
  • Even in a healthy environment, the sense of civic responsibility must further be nourished by a careful education of which the molding of character, the sense of personal responsibility and discipline, honesty and the devotion to work and to public service must be the constant object, in the school as in the family, in political and social organizations, as at all echelons of the legislative, executive and judicial branches of government.
  • My dear compatriots, democracy exists only where a concrete democratic experience exists. And democratic life is in short but the putting into practice, by all citizens and all the custodians of public power of the most perfect loyalty and of a mutual confidence which is thus total and justified.

Quotes about Ngô Đình Diệm edit

  • I was shocked by the death of Diem and Nhu. I'd met Diem with Justice Douglas many years ago. He was an extraordinary character. While he became increasingly difficult in the last months, nevertheless over a ten-year period he'd held his country together, maintained its independence under very adverse conditions. The way he was killed made it particularly abhorrent. The question now is whether the generals can stay together and build a stable government, or whether Saigon will begin... will turn on... public opinion in Saigon, the intellectuals, students, etcetera, will turn on this government as repressive and undemocratic in the not too distant future.

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