We were humbled by Room to Read's country director for Laos, Somphet Phongphachanh, and the work she's doing for her country. One can't doubt her passion; she became emotional as she discussed lessons her parents had taught her about the value of education -- how it ultimately meant she could achieve so much despite starting off as poor as she did. And now her life's work is to see those same opportunities extended to all of Laos' children.
Photographs taken by Browne of the self-immolation quickly spread across the wire services and featured on the front pages of newspapers worldwide. The self-immolation was later regarded as a turning point in the Buddhist crisis and the critical point in the collapse of the Diệm regime. Although Diệm's decline and downfall had already begun, the self-immolation is widely seen as the pivotal point in the Buddhist crisis. The historian Seth Jacobs asserted that Thích Quảng Đức had "reduced America's Diệm experiment to ashes as well" and that "no amount of pleading could retrieve Diem's reputation" once Browne's images were ingrained into the psyche of the world public. Ellen Hammer described the event as having "evoked dark images of persecution and horror corresponding to a profoundly Asian reality that passed the understanding of Westerners." John Mecklin, an official from the U.S. embassy, noted that the photograph "had a shock effect of incalculable value to the Buddhist cause, becoming a symbol of the state of things in Vietnam." William Colby, then chief of the Central Intelligence Agency's Far East Division, opined that Diệm "handled the Buddhist crisis fairly badly and allowed it to grow. But I really don't think there was much they could have done about it once that bonze burned himself."