Who will take over for Vang Pao?


One of the biggest questions that continues to be brought up when discussing the Vang Pao (VP) debacle is of leadership. More specifically, “Who will take over the leadership of the Hmong after VP has left the post?”

Opinion: Who will take over for Vang Pao?

The smart people have been thinking about this question way before VP ever thought about getting arrested. They understand that there isn’t a war going on so obviously a leader of VP’s stature and function will not be relevant in today’s world. Those same smart people also understand that the traditional “clan” leaders are simply not sophisticated enough to navigate through the complexities of leading a people through the grind of today’s social constructs.

Over and over again, I don’t receive answers to this question. I continue to receive more questions!

“Why would the Hmong need a leader when there’s no country?” “Who would have the time to lead people these days?” and of course, “Does being the leader pay well?”

The ultimate truth, I’ve concluded, is that when measuring the need against the rewards, not too many people these days will be willing to make the sacrifices to withstand the rigors of leadership. Especially when it’s done on your own time!

And worst of all, even when a person does willingly commit to sacrificing his or her life to leading our people, that person is more often rejected by the people. Case in point, when Zong Khang Yang led a small group of activists on a 1,200 mile walk to Washington DC in the name of saving the Hmong in Laos, his efforts went wasted at the end when established leaders made the call not to join the Long Walkers for their big rally in Washington DC because, of all things, they didn’t want to share their power—or people for that matter.

So, we end up on square one all over again: Who will lead the Hmong people when VP no longer can?

Do we keep going in circles with this question until we finally give up and just concede the notion that, hey, we don’t need a leader!? Do we then just also concede, therefore, that we don’t need our culture either?

As a people we will need to look into the proverbial mirror and begin preparing for that fateful day when the leadership will need to be inherited.