Magic Diplomacy

At a Glance: 

Chairman Howard Cohn of HKI-Europe shares a story about performing magic tricks for a group of doctors and children in Hanoi, Vietnam. 

Howard Cohn is an American ophthalmologist with a specialty in glaucoma, and a strong interest in international ophthalmology and blindness prevention. Dr. Cohn has been instrumental in re-establishing a European branch of HKI dedicated to fundraising called Helen Keller International Europe, and has actively worked on HKI programs in Asia. He joined the HKI Board of Trustees in 1991 and currently resides in Paris, France.

I am an amateur magician, and always travel with a few props should the occasion arise. One night after dinner at the first surgery training in Nam Dinh, I did some tricks for the doctors around the table and a good time was had by all.  The hospital director asked me if I would do a show for the staff children the next night.  I, of course, agreed.  The next night after dinner, we went out to the courtyard where there were easily 200 children and adults patiently waiting. It was one of the highlights of my magic career!  A few sponge balls, magic silks, and ropes go a long way for children who have never seen the sea that is only a few miles away.

On the way back to Hanoi, The Minister of Health, getting the report of the cataract training, called to invite us to a private dinner with his family and grandchildren, with (you guessed it)  a magic show for dessert. In short, we have been close friends since.

On a later trip, when again I was asked to perform, the ever-present Communist Party observer was standing at his usual place in the back of the room expressionless with arms folded. I called him up and had him restore a cut rope himself. At the surprise ending, with a loud laugh he gave me a bear hug of appreciation.  For the rest of the trip, he was all smiles.