Operation Babylift Public Programs

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​A series of public programs explores exhibition themes more deeply, gives voice to stories not told in the gallery, and relates the exhibition to contemporary ideas. Through different formats --panel conversations, presentations, performance, film, and workshop -- the programs offer audiences many ways of learning. The exhibition gallery is open until 7 pm on Thursday program evenings.

The program series is co-curated by Adoption Museum Project and the Presidio Trust. It is presented as part of the ongoing calendar of events at the Presidio Officers’ Club. Admission is free. Registration is required.

Past Programs:

April 16: Operation Babylift: Adoptee Voices

Four people who were adopted through Operation Babylift 40 years ago reflect on their memories, questions, experiences growing up, and the legacies of that event. The panelists will be Mike Frailey (Hawi, HI), Jessica McNally (Oakland, CA), Nol Meyer (Los Angeles, CA), Cath Turner (Clovelly, Australia).

The discussion will be moderated by poet and adoptee Lee Herrick, who teaches in the English Department at Fresno City College. He is the author of This Many Miles From Desire and Gardening Secrets of the Dead, and his poems and essays have been published widely in literary magazines, anthologies, and college textbooks. Lee was born in Daejeon, South Korea and adopted at 10 months.

This event is part of a public program series supporting the exhibition Operation Babylift: Perspectives and Legacies, on view in the Heritage Gallery of the Presidio Officers’ Club April 16 though December 31. Both the exhibition and public programs are co-curated by the Presidio Trust and the Adoption Museum Project.


June 18: Film Screening of Last Days in Vietnam

Join us for a special screening of the documentary film Last Days in Vietnam, highlighting the tense and chaotic final days of the war. In April 1975, the North Vietnamese Army closed in on Saigon, and South Vietnamese resistance crumbled. As cities and villages fell to the North, the few U.S. diplomats and military operatives who remained in the country contemplated withdrawal. With the lives of thousands of South Vietnamese hanging in the balance, those in control faced an impossible choice––who would go and who would be left behind to face brutality, imprisonment, or death.

Directed by Rory Kennedy, this Academy Award nominated documentary premiers on PBS in April in conjunction with the 40th anniversary of the fall of Saigon. Running Time: 98 mins


July 30: Birthmother

Birth/first mother Deanna Ross presents Birthmother, a solo performance which weaves her own highly personal memoir with moving and surprising facts about the history and culture of adoption in the United States. Following the performance, Deanna and other birth/first mothers from On Your Feet Foundation will engage in conversation about Birthmother and take audience questions.

Deanna Ross lives on the Monterey Peninsula, where she teaches dance and choreographs for theater productions, sings and writes songs with her husband in the indie folk-pop duo The Jinxes, and is at work on her debut novel.

Birthmother is part of a program series supporting the exhibition Operation Babylift: Perspectives and Legacies. Each program explores ideas central to the exhibition.


September 24: Writers from the Vietnamese Diaspora

Writers Kevin Minh Allen, Violet Kupersmith, and Aimee Phan read from their work, which spans genres of fiction, ghost stories, poetry, and essay, and explore how it relates to their diverse identities and experiences as members of the Vietnamese diaspora. Local author Susan Ito will moderate.

PANELISTS:
Kevin Minh Allen was born Nguyễn Đức Minh on December 5, 1973 near Sài Gòn, Vietnam to a Vietnamese mother and American father who remain unknown to him. He was adopted by a couple from Rochester, NY and grew up in Webster, NY with his two younger sisters. In 2000, he moved to Seattle to pursue a life less ordinary. Kevin is a poet and essayist who has had his essays and poetry published in numerous print and online publications, such as Eye To The Telescope, The International Examiner, and Northwest Asian Weekly. He had his first poetry chapbook, My Proud Sacrifice, published in July 2014.

Violet Kupersmith is the author of The Frangipani Hotel, a collection of contemporary Vietnamese ghost stories. Her mother is a former boat refugee from Da Nang, Vietnam, and her father is American. She spent a year teaching English in the Mekong Delta on a Fulbright fellowship, and was the 2014 Gerald Freund Fellow at the MacDowell Colony. Violet currently lives in Saigon and is at work on her first novel.

Aimee Phan is the author of the novel The Reeducation of Cherry Truong and the story collection We Should Never Meet, both published by St. Martin’s Press. Her writing has appeared in the New York Times, USA Today, Salon,and The Rumpus, among others. Her fellowships and residencies include the National Endowment of the Arts, Barbara Deming Memorial/Money for Women Fund, Rockefeller Foundation’s Bellagio Center, MacDowell Arts Colony and Hedgebrook. She currently chairs the Writing and Literature program at California College of the Arts in San Francisco.

Moderator:
Susan Ito is the author of the memoir The Mouse Room. She co-edited the literary anthology A Ghost At Heart’s Edge: Stories & Poems of Adoption (North Atlantic Books). Her work has appeared in Growing Up Asian American, Choice, Literary Mama, The Bellevue Literary Review, Making More Waves and elsewhere. She writes and teaches at the San Francisco Writers’ Grotto, and the MFA Program at Bay Path College.


September 25: Vân-Ánh Võ

Vân-Ánh Võ devotes her life-long passion and mastery of the dan tranh zither to the creation of distinctive music infused with a cultural essence that can only come from this unique Vietnamese instrument. Among her accomplishments is an Emmy Award-winning film soundtrack and frequent work with the Kronos Quartet.

The VA’V is her collaborative project blending traditional sounds and songs of North, Central, and South Vietnam with modern soundscapes, integrating elements of jazz, Western classical music and rock along the way. This interactive performance will provide cultural context for a vibrant musical hybrid, with instrumentation also including dan Bau (mono-chord), dan T’rung (bamboo xylophone), vocals, Indian tabla, cello, and drum set.


October 15: Nguyen Da Yen v Kissinger: A Legal Challenge to Operation Babylift

During Operation Babylift, a class action lawsuit was filed to investigate the legality of U.S. adoptions of Vietnamese children. Nguyen Da Yen v. Kissinger was one of the most visible, documented, and far-reaching challenges to Operation Babylift. Yet it remains largely absent from the history of that event.

Dana Sachs, author of The Life We Were Given, will talk with a panel of participants involved in the lawsuit and the volunteer effort at the Presidio.

This program is part of the Operation Babylift: Perspectives and Legacies program series. The exhibition is open until 7 pm on this evening. It is co-curated by the Presidio Trust and the Adoption Museum Project.

Dana Sachs – moderator
In 2010, Dana Sachs published The Life We Were Given: Operation Babylift, International Adoption, and the Children of War in Vietnam, the result of a Fulbright Foundation Fellowship that allowed her to conduct extensive research in Vietnam. She first traveled to Vietnam in 1990 and has been visiting the country and writing about it ever since. The House on Dream Street: Memoir of an American Woman in Vietnam is her memoir about her experiences living in Hanoi in the 1990s, and If You Lived Here is a novel about a friendship between an American woman and a Vietnamese woman. She has collaborated with Vietnamese writers and artists on many other projects, including collections of Vietnamese short stories, short fiction and folktales. She also made the documentaryWhich Way is East with her sister, filmmaker Lynne Sachs. Dana’s journalistic articles and essays on Vietnam have appeared in numerous publications, including National GeographicThe International Herald TribuneTravel and Leisure Family and The Huffington Post. She lives with her family in North Carolina.

Tom Miller – panelist
In April 1975, Tom Miller began working as a volunteer attorney assisting in the class action lawsuit, Nguyen Da Yen v. Kissinger.  He also assisted in individual cases representing Vietnamese families seeking the return of their children in his role as Deputy Director of California Rural Legal Assistance. Prior to Operation Babylift, Tom helped build and operate the Center for Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery in Saigon, which treated thousands of war-injured children and taught Vietnamese surgeons. The Center continues today as a National Center. He also worked to expand UNICEF’s capacity in all of Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. When the American War ended, Tom assisted in obtaining the release in Vietnam of political prisoners and more recently, established the Vietnam Green Building Council, which is affiliated with the World Green Building Council, and provides guidelines with respect to energy efficient building in Vietnam. He has been involved in numerous other humanitarian projects through the non-profit www.greencitiesfund.org.

Michael M. Howe – panelist
In April 1975, Mike Howe was asked to help form a team that would organize volunteers to assist with receiving and caring for the Vietnamese infants and children who arrived in the San Francisco Bay Area through Operation Babylift. At that time, Mike was the Dean of the College of Professional Studies at the University of San Francisco and the President of the Bay Area Health Planning Council (BAHPC). Mike is currently the Executive Director of the RP Group, the research and planning group for California Community Colleges. He has worked in the social sector for 50 years, doing everything from leading community foundations and becoming a tenured university faculty member to building grassroots social change initiatives.


November 5: Narrative Burden

Dr. Bert Ballard, Operation Babylift adoptee, speaks on the idea of “narrative burden,” or how one’s personal narrative is both a source of identity and a reminder of difference. Drawing on personal stories and his research, Dr. Ballard will explain narrative burden as it relates to international adoptees, adoptive families, and other marginalized and visibly different groups and individuals. There will be time for Q&A and conversation after Dr. Ballard’s presentation.

Dr. Bert Ballard
Dr. Ballard, himself an adoptive parent, is an associate professor in the Communication Division at Seaver College for Pepperdine University where he researches intercountry adoption, adoptee identity, and adoptive family communication along with communication ethics. He has authored books on interpersonal communication and international adoption and has been published in a variety of scholarly journals. Dr. Ballard has co-founded two adoptee-led organizations, is an advisor and cast member on the film Operation Babylift: The Lost Children of Vietnam, co-written a comic on adoption, and is editor of Pieces of Me: Who do I Want to Be? (EMK Press, 2009, www.emkpress.com/teenbook.html), an edited collected of voices for and by adopted teenagers from around the world. He has written for many adoption organizations and magazines, and is a frequent speaker around the world at scholarly and professional adoption conferences.

This program is part of the Operation Babylift: Perspectives and Legacies program series. The exhibition is open until 7 pm on this evening. This event is co-curated by the Presidio Trust and the Adoption Museum Project, in collaboration with Pact: An Adoption Alliance.

November 6: Dialoguing About Adoption: Exploring Operation Babylift Together

In this highly experiential workshop, participants will visit the Operation Babylift: Perspectives and Legacies exhibition, learn about the conditions for productive dialogue, and practice dialoguing with each other—even when our experiences are very different from each other. This unique workshop is facilitated by Dr. Bert Ballard, a Vietnamese adoptee and adoptive parent with expertise in facilitating dialogue.

The free workshop is open to anyone with a connection to adoption including: adoptees, birth/first parents, adoptive parents, foster youth alumni, foster parents, placement professionals and therapists.
RSVP required by Friday 10/30. For more information and to register, visithttp://www.adoptionmuseumproject.org/dialoguing-about-adoption-a-special-workshop/.

This program is part of the Operation Babylift: Perspectives and Legacies program series. It is co-curated by the Presidio Trust andAdoption Museum Project in collaboration with Pact: An Adoption Alliance.

Dr. Bert Ballard
Dr. Ballard, himself an adoptive parent, is an associate professor in the Communication Division at Seaver College for Pepperdine University where he researches intercountry adoption, adoptee identity, and adoptive family communication along with communication ethics. He has authored books on interpersonal communication and international adoption and has been published in a variety of scholarly journals. Dr. Ballard has co-founded two adoptee-led organizations, is an advisor and cast member on the film Operation Babylift: The Lost Children of Vietnam, co-written a comic on adoption, and is editor of Pieces of Me: Who do I Want to Be? (EMK Press, 2009, www.emkpress.com/teenbook.html), an edited collected of voices for and by adopted teenagers from around the world. He has written for many adoption organizations and magazines, and is a frequent speaker around the world at scholarly and professional adoption conferences.


December 10: Playback Theatre: Stories Inspired by Operation Babylift

Living Arts Playback Theatre transforms personal stories told by audience members into improvised theatre pieces on the spot using movement, ritual, music, and spoken improvisation. In this performance, they invite you to share feelings, images and personal stories inspired by the current exhibition Operation Babylift: Perspectives and Legacies. Come share a story or simply watch one unfold.