SELECTED ANECDOTES WITH PRAISE & APPRECIATION LETTERS FROM HOSTS, READERS & AUDIENCES
On March 3, 2020, I had the honor to speak to 200 students who attended the Department of Defense Schools in Japan (Yokosuka Middle School), England (Lakenheath High School), U.S.(Circle Middle School), Vietnam(Concordia Hanoi), and France (College Jacque Monod) via Google Meets.
On March 23, 2021, I spoke to different groups of about 200 8th graders from those countries again.
The students were reading my internationally acclaimed, award-winning memoir, When Broken Glass Floats: Growing Up Under the Khmer Rouge for their Global Connections Unit.
Andrea Greer (in flowered blouse) 8th grade Teacher & Organizer of this global video conference. She generously uses her own money to pay for speaker fees every year.
Lansana, good question! I just need to win a huge lottery jackpot, so I can produce the movie myself. Read More about the Script Here...
Isabella Pabon saw my dance performance at the Federation Square.
I speak with my hands. This was the moment where I described how I witnessed the US bombing of Cambodia when I was about 4 years old. That war trauma continues to haunt me until now.
THE CAMBODIAN GENOCIDE: THROUGH THE EYES OF A CHILD.
My first visit to Washington State University in Pullman, Washington was in April 2006 during which I spoke to some of the most highly motivated undergrad and graduate students in America. That Comparative Genocide class was taught by Professors Roger Chan and Raymond Sun.
During Q & A, Alqawi Majidah greeted me with a heartfelt question about my young brother Phalkunarith, who was a little boy in my book. Majidah was very articulated and pleasant student. Little did I know how I inspired her that day.
Four years later, in 2010, she invited me to speak at a lecture entitled, "Bodies without Names: Humanizing Genocide" at the Seattle Center where I shared a panel with Dr. Daniel Chirot, a professor of International Studies, and Dr. William Haglund, a forensics expert.
Then, on April 27, 2021, I spoke to Professor Sun's Comparative Genocide class again. This time it was on Zoom instead of in-person because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
It was the fourth time I spoke to his students who were reading When Broken Glass Floats. Of all of my talks here in America and overseas, since the 90s, this time I didn't hold back -- because I wanted to teach the students something that they could take with them. To better themselves. To fight for what is right....So I spoke from my heart very openly about my indignation toward wicked U.S. leaders and others who have caused me pain and suffering. EVEN NOW.
After the students hung up, Professor Sun, whom I called Ray, said to me, "Chanrithy, I've known you for a long time, but I didn't know that you're such a badass speaker...."
Below are responses from Ray & his students:
Dr. Raymond Sun, Chanrithy Him & Dr. Roger Chan at WSU in 2006
Chanrithy with Trevor Fisher, her ER doctor friend whose family hosted her & came to her talk in 2010.
Book signing after the lecture
I was also thinking that in a sense you are acting as the embodiment of all the strong and courageous women who looked after you in your childhood, your mother and your older sisters (and also your beloved father!) in your mission as an adult to educate and protect today’s students by giving of yourself to share your story....
I was thinking a lot about your presentation. I think you were extraordinarily open with the class about your personal post-genocidal journey, and the students clearly recognized, and appreciated your willingness to share so honestly.
Attached are student responses that I received following your talk to my genocide class on April 27, 2021. I think their messages will make it clear how impactful your presentation was, and how much the students recognized and appreciated your honesty and clarity in sharing from the heart.
Thank you again, for giving of yourself to educate my students.
With respect and friendship, Ray
Dr. Raymond Sun, History Professor & Director of the History Department at Washington State University.
Dear Chanrithy Him,
I would like to express my sincerest gratitude for your sharing with our class. It is hard for me to find words that can give my deepest thanks for what you have contributed to my understanding of your experiences. It is your continual bearing of such pain that demands the world never forgets your story and those who cannot speak up for themselves.
Your use of metaphor and language is so very beautiful and chosen with such grace. I have found in trying to share what I have learned in this course this semester with my family and peers that I cannot raise up my own voice or opinions to any kind of comparison to those who have lived it.
This course and your gifts to history have changed my path in life in a way that demands action and the continual pursuit of knowledge on the subject like no other class has before. I will never forget you.
Anne Gardner, Dr. Sun's Student, Class: Comparative Genocide 5/4/21
Thank you for taking the time to speak to our class last on April 27th. We all appreciate your vulnerability and sympathize with your traumatic experiences. I do not have any specific questions for you, but prior to reading your book, I knew very little about the Cambodian genocide. Most of my high school history class primarily discussed the Holocaust during World War II. It was my first year at community college when I first learned of the Rwandan genocide.
One thing I specifically remember from your presentation was a response to one of my peers regarding the appropriate words to use when speaking to survivors to avoid triggering or insulting them. I think it is important to remain mindful when having conversations about genocide because not everyone comes from the same privileged background.
Thank you again for speaking and your willingness to answer questions. I hope to hear from you again in another presentation.
Best, Ashlie Oxford
Dr. Sun's Student, Class: Comparative Genocide 5/4/21
I just wanted to say how incredibly brave it was for you to come talk to us, sharing such a deeply personal and tragic story is inspiring, especially when it was with complete strangers. Each of us face our own tragedies and hardships but none like the ones you have seen at a young and impressionable age.
I have read Machete Season which is from the perpetrators perspective, hearing both sides of the story is important to fully understand everything that happened. Every victim's story is unique and relevant, yours is no different so thank you for sharing with us. Mary Schuetze
Dr. Sun's Student, Class: Comparative Genocide 5/4/21
I feel honored that Chanrithy was able to come to class to present to us about her book and her experiences in the Cambodian genocide. Before I took this course, I had no idea about the Cambodian genocide and the Khmer Rouge.
Her presentation was insightful, and the Cambodian genocide was a very devastating event that nobody should go through. Her book was very powerful and moving. I enjoyed reading her book and how she showed her strength and courage to survive, even through the darkest moments like witnessing death, dealing with disease, and living in labor camps.
I can not imagine what it felt like to live under the Khmer Rouge as a young child and losing most of your family. She was very brave and showed us how fortunate we are. I feel honored that she came to our class and I thank her for telling us her stories.
Paul Tamasan, Dr. Sun's Student, Class: Comparative Genocide 5/4/21
I want to thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for your bravery, vulnerability, and generosity in speaking with our class last month. I can only imagine the amount of strength one would have to muster to be so selfless over and over again. I want to let you know that your book and talk with our class moved me in a profound way. I have shared your book with my mom and intend to disseminate it to the rest of my family and friends.
I am sometimes referred to the "memory keeper" in my family, as things like traditions, family photo albums, and heirlooms have been placed in my care/protection. I know it is an immense privilege to possess and care for these things. I wanted to let you know that I intend to keep the memory of your story, and the story of those lost in the Cambodian genocide, in my household and in my heart. I am going to frame your poem, Please Give Us Voice, and keep it on my desk as a constant reminder to remember and honor the survivors and victims of the genocide. Thank you again for sharing your continued story.
Sincerely, Amanda Fleming
Dr. Sun's Student, Class: Comparative Genocide 5/4/21
I really wanted to thank you for coming to speak to our class about your book and I wanted to specifically thank you for the vulnerability that you shared regarding your experience, especially with your mental health. I am a history major who chooses to focus on social histories, so I specifically like to understand the way that different historical events affect people and the way that people lived and interacted with each other at the time. Your personal account in your book and even more so in the talk that you gave to our class helps me understand the way that individual people were affected by the Khmer Rouge’s attacks. I just really appreciate getting to hear your story from you personally and about how it still affects you even after that period in your life is over.
A specific part of your talk that stuck out to was how you addressed your mental health and how you dealt with it as a young adult which I think a lot our class, as college students, could see themselves in. Obviously, we did not face the same things that you did, and we hope that we never will, but in understanding what happened, it can really help to see this side of history. I also really appreciate how personable you were with our class because I feel like most students do not get that with the authors of the books that we read in all of our other classes.
Thanks again because I know everyone in our class really appreciated how you took time out of your schedule to speak with us, especially about something so personal.
Mystique Demyers, Dr. Sun's Student, Class: Comparative Genocide 5/4/21,
I just want to take this space to express my gratitude for your incredible ability to be vulnerable and open about your experiences.
I hope that you continue to find ways to help yourself heal, and I hope you know you’re doing an incredible honor to your family and Cambodia to continue telling these stories.
You have added undeniable value to my education and I’m so appreciative that you’ve been able to continue raising awareness despite the enormous personal and emotional costs.
I am also a spiritual person so I hope that you are able to feel my sincere prayers for peace and healing to you and your family.
Thank you again. Taliah Merkuria
Dr. Sun's Student, Class: Comparative Genocide 5/4/21
First, I would like to thank you very much for coming to speak with our class. Learning from those who have been through these terrible events is something that I believe should be required in school. Your class was very personal and helped me better understand the repercussions that genocide has on a survivor.
While I certainly do not think it is necessary to forgive or even possible to forgive those who committed such acts, I would like to ask what you believe was your first step that you took in healing from these experiences? I know that no one can truly heal but I would like to know where it starts.
Dr. Sun's Student, Class: Comparative Genocide 5/4/21
Chanrithy's response to John-Morgan Smithline's question: I plan to launch a YouTube channel called "THE HEALING PROCESS with Chanrithy Him" that will discuss how I personally has helped myself heal... Stay tuned.
Chanrithy Him at Nardin Acadamy High School
200 Juniors and Seniors were so tickled to hear Chanrithy's stories about culture shock when she attended Cleveland High school in Portland, Oregon at the age of 16.
I had the honor to visit the University at Buffalo, one of the top universities in America, two times.
Dr. Mark Ashwill invited me to perform the Cambodian classical dance, "The Blessing Dance" as well as speaking to students from different departments at UB and to students at Nardin Academy High School about When Broken Glass Floats.
It was one of the most memorable visits because Mark, now my good friend, care deeply about what happened to me and innocent Cambodians at the hand of the US leaders who had radicalized the Khmer Rouge. My connection with him and the audiences there was unique and special because Mark was instrumental in getting a lot of people to come to my talks and discussions.
Later, I said to him, "Mark, I hope to speak to about 2 million people worldwide about my book during my lifetime. (Two million represents an estimated number of many Cambodians perished during the Khmer Rouge era.)
Mark said to me, "I will ask my colleagues in the East Coast to invite you to speak...."
And he did. For that, I am grateful.
A young audience, who attended one of my lectures at UB, was a 7th grader Adam Croglia whose mother Linda Croglia brought him to hear me speak. Eight years later, Adam, as the Vice President of Student Government at Hobart William Smith, raised funds to invite me speak as a keynote speaker at Hobart during Peace Fest in 2008.
It was my talk about forgiveness...that moved and touched young Adam. And I'm thankful that his path has crossed mine for the betterment of the human family.
Linda Croglia, Chanrithy Him and Adam Croglia at the Hobart Peace Fest in 2008.
Adam, his friend, Linda and Chanrithy had a lovely dinner after the Peace Fest in 2008.
"After your departure, I thought about the many people here who you educated, touched and inspired. Chanrithy, with every lecture you give, every person you meet and every interview you grant, you honor the memory of your deceased family members and everyone else who perished during the Khmer Rouge era. I greatly admire your courage and commitment.
Dr. Mark A. Ashwill, Director & Fulbright Adviser, SUNY at Buffalo 10/23/00
Mr. Tommy Lord introduced Chanrithy Him
Chanrithy during a booksigning. To her left: her young brother Phalkunarith Him, a graduate student from BYU.
It was spring of 2004 when I got a heartfelt, personal invitation from Tommy Lord to speak at the 56th Annual NAFSA Conference in Baltimore. Mr. Lord went to Cambodia. There, he bought When Broken Glass Floats: Growing Up Under the Khmer Rouge sold on a street. He said, "I've read many books before, none made me cry but yours..." Those tears of deep motions propelled Mr. Lord to create The Distinguished Authors Session and featured me as the first author/speaker.
"Cambodian author Chanrithy Him discussed her experiences of growing up as a young girl in Cambodia when the Khmer Rouge was in power. Her book, ‘When Broken Glass Floats,’ documents not just the horrors of that period, but also the courage, compassion, and hope that survived in so many. Conference attendees called it unique for NAFSA, helpful to intimately understand other cultures and very important in thinking about conflict and conflict resolution."
NAFSA - the 56th Annual NAFSA Conference 5/27/04
"Wonderful session for NAFSA. First-person point of view is very important. Everyone was very appreciative and thankful for this session and requested another one next year!" —56th Annual NAFSA Conference attendees
Chanrithy Him donned in partial Khmer classical dance costume.
Chanrithy was with Mr. Lord's father and cousins at the 57th NAFSA Annual Conference in Seattle (2005)
Professor Ben Kiernan, Yale University
Dr. Craig Etcheson, Chief of investigations for the Office of Co-Prosecutors at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, urged Chanrithy to ask Dr. Albright to support H. Con. Res. 399. To see if she had impact.
As NAFSA's motto says, "Connect People. Changing the World". It was at the 56th NAFSA Annual Conference where former US Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright and I were scheduled to speak. Where we met. Where I connected with highly motivated attendees around the world. It was there where I confronted Dr. Albright, as one of the most powerful leaders in the world, about H. Con. Res. 399 and the US government's evil actions that destroyed my home country Cambodia.
The confrontation has been dramatized in my feature screenplay WHEN BROKEN GLASS FLOATS with the hope to change the world by warning the global citizens of unrighteous leaders here in America and around the globe.
After I received the invitation to speak at the NAFSA conference, I got an email from Professor Ben Kiernan at Yale University, asking me to write a joint letter to Rep. Henry J. Hyde, Republican committee chairman.
Prof. Kiernan wrote, "Henry Hyde is bottling it up in the House International Relations Committee, preventing the resolution (H. Con. Res. 399) from reaching the House floor for a vote. As you know, it is US law to support a Cambodia tribunal, and the State Department has already allocated $4m. in funding for the UN administration of the tribunal..."
Mr. Hyde was playing a game with justice for me, my fellow survivors, and those who have no voice. Yet, this man has been praised for being the greatest hero of the pro-life movement in America. But is he really?
Needless to say, I was incredibly indignant at Hyde! 'The greatest hero". I was in a fighting mode and couldn't sleep for days leading up to my talk at the conference.
Read my letter to him, posted on the Yale University Genocide Studies Program page.
Rep. Henry J. Hyde, photo: REUTERS / Alamy
Mr. Gary O'Dwyer, Chanrithy Him's adopted Irish uncle. :--)
It was in October 2003 when I had the honored to speak at St. Mary's Secondary School, Rotary Clubs, and public schools in Ontario, Canada. There, I felt welcomed and loved by the organizer & host of my visit Mr. Gary O'Dwyer, students and teachers alike.
Mr. O'Dwyer is now my adopted Uncle. He wrote me,"...PS Now that you have an Irish Uncle I hope you celebrated St. Patrick's Day!"
I did. Still do. My last name is now: O'Him. Chanrithy O'Him. :-) (aka: Athy, Ty, Tee...)
It was so lovely to have the 2003 Thanksgiving dinner with Uncle Gary's family: His wife Pauline and daughters.
Chanrithy with "Uncle Gary" and his fellow teachers.
Chanrithy was with the chef team who cooked delicious lunch for everyone. They wanted to cook frogs for Chanrithy, but couldn't handle the frogs. Aw! :-)
Well Ty it is hard to believe that only last week you had completed an extremely successful week at St. Mary's and in our community! To simply write and say "thank you" seems shallow. You made such a tremendous impact upon the students, they truly felt blessed by your presence....
I was touched by two students who waited to give me their heartfelt letters before I returned home to America:
"Mein (Aunt) Thy, you came to speak to us about horrors that are difficult for us to fully comprehend. What you lived through is frankly wrong. I'm sorry for being blunt and frank. I, we, learned about all of these things, and yet when I was walking home from school on Tuesday, what I felt was joy. Happiness and playfulness. Along the paths of life we often need reinforcement in our beliefs and joy of being alive. You who have every right to be bitter and negative, showed unlimited love, hope, and forgiveness. I can never thank you enough for sharing that with us…."
Christine M. Cleary, Student - St. Mary's Secondary School, Canada
"Dear Athy, I am attempting to write a letter of thanks for coming to speak at our school on Tuesday, only I don't know where to begin. I read When Broken Glass Floats. I was touched and horrified by the memories that are a reality to you. When you came to speak, I expected to hear more of the horrific genocide. I prepared myself to hear things that were difficult to hear. I expected to feel helpless. I was, however, met by a woman with incredible spirit and care. I was deeply touched by your ability to recount life threatening experiences. However, what touched me more was the spirit with which you used to tell these stories. Because of your spirit, I now feel hopeful about many worldly issues, such as genocides. Issues that before I felt helpless about. I recently had to write a comprehension test on your book. An essay question on the test was "which part of the book touched you the most?" The part that touched me the most is the part of your friend Cheng taking care of you. I was touched by Cheng's love, a love which you also possess. I wrote that I hoped one day to be able to give this kind of love to others. When I read about such love, I allow the emotions in my body to take over my whole being. I savor the moment because I know that it is only in this love that the world is able to operate. I have a deep respect for you, and for the way which you treat others with love. You share this love with everyone around you. You have taught me a life lesson, that the essence of life is love and forgiveness (and of course humor and partying). Thank you for being so open. You have touched many people. Thank you!"
Toronto International Airport. Emotionally exhausted after my talks, I was ready to come home, wearing a gift from one of the teachers to remember my memorable visit to Canada.
Mr. Gary O’Dwyer kindly coordinated this visit to the Rotary Club in Cobourg. From Left to Right: Mr. Harry Cortesis, President of the Rotary Club; myself; and Ms. Jennifer Thompson, President of the Rotary Club.
It was a pleasure to have Dr. Mark A. Ashwill join us from Buffalo, New York while I spoke to students from St. Mary's Secondary School and other public schools, as well as to the Rotary Clubs in Cobourg.
Robyn V. V., Student, St. Mary's Secondary School, Canada
"….Combining her graciousness and her talent as a performer of traditional Cambodian dance with her articulate and passionate description of her family's (and her nation's) devastation at the hands of the Khmer Rouge, she held her audiences captive during her three-day visit [at] Mississippi State University, where I was then serving as Dean of the College of Arts & Sciences. None of us was the same after meeting and speaking with her. I was so impressed that, a year later, having accepted the position of Vice President of Academic Affairs at St. Bonaventure University in Olean, NY, one of my first orders of business was to bring Chanrithy to my new campus home in upstate New York. Once again, she left the campus a different place than she found it. So far, her visit remains one of the highlights of my tenure here. [Ms. Him] has formidable intelligence, sparkling personality, quick wit, and wonderful sense of humor…."
Dr. Frank E. Saal, St. Bonaventure University & Mississipi State University
"Some of the highlights of the talk were how her life went from such a normal everyday routine to a battle for survival . . . I was most impressed with how similar her life was to that of most Americans before the trouble started in Cambodia. The stories that she told of playing hide-and-go-seek with her sister and watching television were not at all what I expected from a person who had lived through the fighting and hardships that she has. It really makes you think about the reality that sort of thing could happen to the citizens of the United States. Americans have never been exposed to this kind of reality and we have a false sense of exclusion from war because in many of our lives we have not had this type of fighting on our home soil. We have a feeling that we are "untouchable" and I pray that we are never faced with hardships of this caliber because I think that we would not be prepared to handle them."
Mississippi State University Student #1
"After hearing Chanrithy Him, I had the most overwhelming feeling of pride and thankfulness that I live in a free nation. So often I take for granted that I am governed by a system in which something like the happenings in Cambodia would virtually impossible. It made me realize how fortunate I am to simply be able to talk to any of my immediate family whenever I want to...."
Mississippi State University Student #2
"I was impressed by several parts of the talk. The author had a lot of spunk and strength in her personality, which is remarkable considering the horror she has been through and was speaking about . . . The Cambodian dance costume worn by Ms. Him was also striking because of its beautiful designs and color. Overall, I found the lecture very interesting. I will remember the admirable author for a long time."
Mississippi State University Student #3
"As I listened to Him, I thought about all the children who didn't escape. And, I wondered how people get to the point where they can be so cruel to another human being. How can a person ignore the pain and suffering of another? Him also reminded me that no matter how rough you think your life has been, you can always look around to see someone else whose life has been rougher. I was most impressed with Him's unbroken spirit and her willingness to relive the past in an effort to educate others . . . Ms. Mylroie, thanks for this extra credit opportunity- and NOT for the extra credit! I plan to order Him's book. As a social studies teacher, it will be an asset."
Mississippi State University Student #4
"I truly enjoyed Ms. Him's presentation. She is a good speaker, and I was impressed at how well she was able to stand in front of people and talk about such a traumatic event in her life. I thought she had a nice sense of humor . . . Until I heard her story, I was unaware of any such events that took place in Cambodia. It was very interesting and I want to learn more about it."
Mississippi State University Student #5
"The lecture was very informative and taught me a lot of things that I did not know. It impressed me the way that she presented herself and seemed very normal. I can't imagine how I would be or feel if I had to go through that. Her strength and poise was most impressive and to be respected."
Mississippi State University Student #6
"Chanrithy's braveness is what impressed me most about this talk. I was amazed once I realized how much she went through just to stay alive. Her courage is incredible. Many people would have given up, but she didn't. Her story is one that I will always remember and I am glad that I got a chance to listen to her speak. This lecture really inspired me."
Mississippi State University Student #7