September 19, 2017 17:26

Jack Tate, a philanthropist, addressed the Fulbright Everest Launchpad Rocketeers at the Opening Ceremony on July 3, 2017. Students, families, advisors, teachers, and support staff joined the festivities.

Jack Tate, a native of Greenville, South Carolina, USA, moved to Vietnam in 2002. He focuses on initiatives to reduce poverty and improve health care in Vietnam. He sees Fulbright Everest Launchpad as a way to engage with passionate and motivated students across the country, tapping into their potential to contribute to their respective home communities.
Mr. Tate attended the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and graduated Phi Beta Kappa. He earned his J.D. at Harvard Law School. While at Harvard, he developed the idea of “Carolina Baby, the Children Supermarket.” In 1997, he sold his retail chain of 70 stores to Toys R Us.


Congratulations on your selection to the Fulbright Everest summer learning English program! I am the person who is paying for your educational program this summer. Many of your parents couldn’t believe someone you didn’t even know and from a foreign country would provide the money for you to have this experience free.

Why would I provide this free educational experience for you?

The reason is something I call a Love Bomb.  To help you understand what a Love Bomb is and why it affected your life, I will share some things about my life. I’m an American citizen who has lived in Vietnam since 2002. I am not from a rich family. I went to public school from grade 1 through 12, not a private school where the rich children are usually educated. I entered the University of North Carolina, but after only 2 years my father died when I was 21 years old. Then, I had to borrow money and work to finish university.

After graduating, I was accepted to Harvard University’s Law School and paid for school half with loans and half with a scholarship. The scholarship was provided by Harvard and, therefore, by people I did not know. After graduation, I practiced law in South Carolina for 2 years but while in law school I had the inspiration to open Baby Supermarkets selling everything parents need for babies and young children.

I opened my first store and after opening 75 large baby stores over a period of 20 years, I was able to take the company public on the NASDAQ stock exchange in New York. In 1997, Toys R Us bought my company, Baby Superstores, for what is today one billion US dollars.

Jack Tate Speech
Jack Tate Addresses Fulbright Everest Launchpad Rocketeers

As I was selling my company, I met a Viet-Kieu woman, Bui Thi Anh Nguyet (Kelly), who lived near me in Greenville, South Carolina. She became my sweetheart. We visited Vietnam to meet her mother and 4 sisters in 1998. Unfortunately, in February 2000, Kelly died in an automobile accident. I returned to Vietnam to share grief with her family. I started travelling back and forth from the United States to Vietnam. I developed a strong emotional attachment to Vietnam and its people. In 2002, Kelly’s mother and 4 sisters wrote me a letter asking me to become the eldest son of the family. This touched my heart and I decided to start living in Vietnam.

As the years went by, I immersed myself in the Vietnamese language and culture. In Vietnam, I only associated with Vietnamese. I became an overseas American, a Mỹ-Kiệu.

During my early years in Vietnam, I studied the tragedy of the American War and all harm we Americans did to Vietnam and its people. We dropped bombs of hate on people who did not even know why they were being bombed.

One day, I had an inspiration. I would bring a new kind of bomb to Vietnam – a bomb that when it exploded, people would say: “Please Bomb Me again!” I call it a Love Bomb. My mission in life is to share as many love bombs as I can with the wonderful people of Vietnam. This is my destiny and it brings me joy and happiness.

Only 40 students were chosen out of over 1,200 who applied for this program. You were selected based on many factors not just your ability in English.  In my conversations with the leaders of Fulbright University Vietnam, I learned that part of the selection process was based on their evaluation of your passion for learning and your desire to help other people. These are two very important qualities to help you achieve success and happiness in life.

This program is unusual, because it combines classroom work with the most modern computer technologies and via the Internet, access to a world of learning. What makes it even more special is this new technology is customizable to the learning experience of each individual student. Some of you come with more English skills than others but all of you have high potential to be fluent in speaking, understanding, reading, and writing the English language.

There are many levels of foreign language fluency. The challenge that you face is to rise from having basic English skills to reach a level high enough to study in English at the university level. Each of you has the potential and intelligence to achieve this great goal. What you must do is to study and practice English more intensively than you have ever studied anything.

FEL Rocketeers participate in group discussion on the first day of class

For many years in Ho Chi Minh City, Fulbright has been educating in economics top Vietnamese university graduates who are current and future leaders of Vietnam. This graduate level program was founded by Harvard University which is probably the most famous university in the world. Fulbright is not a branch of Harvard but many people associated with Harvard are strongly involved in creating this new university.

Fulbright University Vietnam is strongly supported by the governments of Vietnam and the United States. In addition, many successful and well educated Vietnamese and Americans are enthusiastically participating in founding this new university. Fulbright is an important part of the national development of Vietnam. A crucial part of this nation’s growth is to offer its best students the opportunity to study at university level English, science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Vietnam needs to encourage its students to be educated in Vietnam and to contribute their talents to their own country.

Vietnam is an important nation in Asia and in the world. The population is over 95 million and will surpass 100 million in the next 5 years. This makes Vietnam the 15th ranked country in terms of population. Its population is 25 percent larger than Germany, which is Europe’s most populous nation.  Vietnam has almost 30 percent of the population of the United States and has 60 percent more people than Thailand. Because Japan’s population is declining, in 20 to 30 years, when your careers are at a peak, Vietnam is forecast to surpass Japan in population.

Vietnam’s population is much younger than countries such as the United States, Germany, and Japan. Economically, Vietnam is growing faster than any Western country. According to international surveys the people of Vietnam are much happier than the citizens of the United States.

If I were your age and with your potential, my goal would be to contribute my talent to the future development Vietnam. Fulbright University Vietnam is a crucial part of Vietnam’s future. I hope this new university will be the beginning of making your dreams come true.


Mr. Jack Tate