Tag: Bert Ballard

“Operation Babylift” screened at Pepperdine University

By: Jacklyne Rodriguez, Pepperdine University Graduate Student

Bert Ballard with his son, who was adopted in 2010. The journey to adopt the boy is highlighted in the film.
Bert Ballard with his son, who was adopted in 2010. The journey to adopt the boy is highlighted in the film.
Lyly Koenig Mendez and Ross Meador respond to questions from the audience. Mendez was evacuated during Operation Babylift and Meador was an orphanage volunteer during the Babylift. Both are featured in the film.
Lyly Koenig Mendez and Ross Meador respond to questions from the audience. Mendez was evacuated during Operation Babylift and Meador was an orphanage volunteer during the Babylift. Both are featured in the film.

On Saturday, February 9th, Pepperdine University screened  Operation Babylift: The Lost Children of Vietnam. The screening was part of the School of Law’s annual conference on Law, Religion, and Ethics, which focused on intercountry adoption this year.

The audience, about forty, consisted of Pepperdine faculty, students, friends and various cast members from the film as well as conference attendees.

The documentary film featured volunteers, activists, and orphans who were brought to the United States as a result of the government sponsored “Operation Babylift,” which evacuated nearly 3000 orphans from war-torn Vietnam in April 1975.

The film highlighted activists’ memories of the overcrowded orphanages and featured stories of the adoptees who grew up in the U.S. enduring feelings of separation and experiences of racism.

After the film, a question and answer discussion commenced with updates from two of the orphans featured in the film. Bert Ballard, a communication professor at Pepperdine and adoptee, and Lyly Koenig Mendez, adoptee and small business owner, shared their reflections and personal stories.

Orphanage volunteer, Ross Meador, also joined the discussion and explained why he felt leaving the young orphans behind was never an option.

The film also focused on the Ballard family’s attempt to adopt a son from Vietnam. His wife, Sarah Ballard, also a Pepperdine communication instructor, was present and shared about the journey.

Although the film concluded without the audience having a definitive ending regarding the Ballard’s adoption, the audience met the Ballard’s adopted son who was adopted shortly after the film was released in 2010.

With active participation from audience members during the discussion, it was clear that the film and the journeys shared left a strong impact for all those in attendance.

The screening was also sponsored by Pepperdine University’s Center for Entertainment and Media, who also moderated the discussion.

Going Against The Grain: Bert Ballard

November is National Adoption Month. ATG is proud to highlight Bert Ballard, a Vietnamese adoptee and adoptive parent. He was a film advisor and his family’s compelling story was featured in Operation Babylift: The Lost Children of Vietnam. He is an assistant professor in speech communication at the University of Waterloo (Ontario) where he researches, speaks, and writes about international and transracial adoption, and he also co-founded an online humor blog for adoptees called Adopted the Comic.  He is married with three children – Adria (8), Kyla (6), and most recently, Jayden (1).

Full Name
Robert “Bert” Ballard

Rangely, Colorado

Current City
Waterloo, Ontario, Canada


What does it mean to you to  “Go Against The Grain?”
To “go against the grain” to me means to carve a path that is different than others. Sometimes this is radical, sometimes it is subtle yet enough to make a difference or provocative enough to cause people to think. As an adoptee, in a lot of ways I think my life is a series of going against the grain – born in one country, raised in another; Asian on the outside, Caucasian on the inside; an only child with seven parents (2 birth parents, 2 adoptive parents, 2 stepmothers, 1 stepfather); in an interracial marriage and family; an adoptee who has adopted internationally; an academic who works to translate research and knowledge directly applicable to families and adoptees. 

My hope is that with my life going against the grain I will challenge others to consider ways to reflect upon and take responsibility for their own lives. I hope they will be inspired to act in ways that positively impact and influence others and go against the grain in their own ways.


What made you decide to pursue a career in adoption? 
At the 25 year reunion of Operation Babylift adoptees in 2000, it was the first time in my life that I felt like I fit, like I didn’t have to explain who I was to others. It was a wonderful feeling and it was one that I wanted other international and transracial adoptees to feel and experience. Originally my work took root in helping to create spaces and communities where adoptees could feel secure and safe in expressing and sharing their feelings. That moved to conducting research on adoptive families and adoption identity and writing and editing articles and books for scholarly, professional, and non-professional audiences. Recently, I organized the inaugural Intercountry Adoption Summit (http://adoptionsummit.uwaterloo.ca) that brought together representatives from influential countries and scholars around the world to dialogue about the current state of international adoption and its future. Through this evolution in activities and involvement, I try to remain grounded in my experience of finding fit and hope that my work can help families, adoptees, professionals, and researchers consider ways to reduce corruption in the adoption process and offer more support and awareness of what it means to adopt or be adopted. 

What have been some of the challenges you faced/lessons you learned as an Asian American in Academia?
I suppose my “industry” is academics right now, but I’ve definitely worked in the adoption world too. I think the biggest challenges for me personally being an Asian American who is adopted run along two lines. The first is credibility. As an Asian American, I’m most often viewed as young and therefore lacking in knowledge or experience (and am often mistaken as a student by many of my academic colleagues). As such, I often have to “prove” that I belong, am knowledgeable, and have the appropriate credentials to be in academics (in fact, many at the Summit came to tell me how surprised they were that I was not a 50-year old white male named Bob!). The second is always being seen as a kid. Working with adoption professionals, who are often older, I find they still see me as a “kid.” Even though I am asked to be a trainer or speaker, many still position me as a “child” with much to learn. On my good days, this provides me opportunities to educate others; on my not so good days, it is frustrating and I wonder if I will ever be judged on my education, knowledge, and character over how I look.

What do you feel is your biggest accomplishment, and why?
Without a doubt, being married for 11 plus years and so far raising 3 children is my greatest accomplishment! There are few things in life as challenging or as rewarding as committing to one person for the rest of your life. It hasn’t always been easy for either of us, especially for myself coming from a family with so many divorces and remarriages and having married into a family with so many brothers and sisters! But it has been an amazing journey where I have learned so much about myself, most importantly that I am worthy of being loved by someone. As for being a parent, there is nothing more challenging and vulnerable than helping a human being come into her or his own; I’ve learned more from my children (two biological, one adopted; two daughters, one son) than I think they have from me. The hugs and cries of “Daddy!” when I come home from a long day makes it worth it and reminds me how important these relationships are in my life.

What’s up next?
Right now I’m working on two volumes coming out of the Intercountry Adoption Summit, which I hope will foster interdisciplinary research on international adoption while becoming important research contributions to international adoption as a whole. I am working on publishing work around my idea of “narrative burden,” and considering ideas for research on international and transracial adoptive families in Canada. I’m working on planning a screening of Operation Babylift: The Lost Children of Vietnam in Waterloo, Ontario, where I live. And I am also trying to get some sleep (and help my wife get some too) with our new 1 year-old  son who we recently adopted from Vietnam in June 2010!

Visit Bert’s Adopted the Comic web page.

OPERATION BABYLIFT Makes Canadian Premiere


Award-winning Documentary Screens at the Vancouver Asian Film Festival

Dallas, Tx – On Sunday, November 8th , Dallas based non-profit ATG Against the Grain Productions is proud to present Operation Babylift: The Lost Children of Vietnam at its Canadian premiere during the 13th Annual Vancouver Asian Film Festival (VAFF).  The award-winning documentary that was nearly five years in the making is described as “amazing…compelling and hard hitting” by Bolsavik.com and screens at 1:30 p.m. at Cinemark Tinseltown located at 88 West Pender in Vancouver, BC. Filmmaker Tammy Nguyen Lee will be in attendance for the Q&A.

Operation Babylift: The Lost Children of Vietnam tells the significant, yet untold story of the $2 million U.S. initiative that airlifted over 2,500 Vietnamese orphans out of a war-torn country from the impending threat of the Communist regime.  These adoptees grew up facing unique challenges in America, including prejudice overshadowed by a controversial war and cultural identity crisis.  Featuring compelling and insightful interviews of the volunteers, parents, and organizations directly involved, the documentary takes a contemporary look at Operation Babylift and its relevance to international adoption today.

Yooksik Oum, Executive Programming Coordinator for the Vancouver Asian Film Festival, says “[Operation Babylift is] a documentary that’s intense, emotional, and uplifting. It seemed only fitting that we had to share this with our audiences at VAFF.”

Adoptee and current Canadian resident Bert Ballard says, “Even though Operation Babylift was primarily a United States based event, there are many throughout the world who were and who continue to be affected by it. I am excited for the international and Canadian premiere of the film, and I hope it broadens awareness of the experience of all of us who were a part of Operation Babylift, as volunteers, activists, and most importantly the orphans and adoptees, many of who grew up in Canada. This is a truly international film with universal appeal for all! I am honored to be a part of the project.”

Producer/Director Tammy Nguyen Lee, a MFA graduate from UCLA’s Producers Program, adds, “This is our first time screening to Canadian audiences, and we are excited and anxious to share this inspiring and universal story that is relevant to a diversity of people on so many levels.”

Tammy Nguyen Lee is a first generation Vietnamese American who fled Saigon as refugees with her mother more than 30 years ago.  Lee founded ATG Against the Grain Productions, a 501(c)(3) non-profit, to promote Asian American cultural awareness through compelling media projects, while also raising funds for international orphanages.  This is her feature documentary directorial debut. For more information please visit www.AgainstTheGrainProductions.com or www.TheBabylift.com. Tickets and show times to the screening are available to VAFF members at www.vaff.org.


Kristine Sa of the “Kristine Sa Show” got up close and personal with our very own film-maker Tammy Nguyen Lee, alongside Bert & Sarah Ballard, Tiffany Goodson, and DC Wolfe of award-winning documentary film Operation Babylift : The Lost Children Of Vietnam and Against the Grain Productions. Check out this first-time, intimate interview with Tammy and the cast of Operation Babylift!

Pt 1 of 4

Pt 2 of 4

Pt 3 of 4

Pt 4 of 4

Thank you, Kristine Sa and VHN-TV, for sitting down with us!

Interview of Operation Babylift Adoptee–Robert Ballard

One of our very own adoptees, Robert Ballard, was interviewed for Canadian press The Record.com!

Robert Ballard
Robert Ballard

Read the original posting here:


Lost children of Vietnam TheRecord.com – CanadaWorld – Lost children of Vietnam

Thirty-four years ago, 3,300 orphans were evacuated from a war-torn Saigon in a massive humanitarian effort called Operation Babylift. UW’s Robert Ballard was one of those children

Published 04.02.2009


He was much too young to make sense of the chaos.

At just three weeks old, the child who would later be named Robert Ballard could not have understood why he and hundreds of other Vietnamese orphans were being corralled onto a military airplane.

A tiny wristband on his arm bore the name Vu Tien Do II — his only link to an identity and a family history that would intrigue him for the rest of his life.

Growing up in Colorado, he would often ask his adoptive parents about Operation Babylift — the 1975 evacuation of orphans from wartorn Vietnam — and they told him as much as they knew.

But Ballard was haunted by questions of heritage and belonging, and wondered what became of the other children from Saigon’s orphanages.

Some of his questions may be answered tomorrow night, when Ballard — now an assistant professor at the University of Waterloo — attends the world premiere in California of the documentary Operation Babylift: The Lost Children of Vietnam.

“I’m glad people will get to hear our stories and voices as Vietnamese adoptees,” Ballard said yesterday in his UW office.

Ballard is featured prominently in the documentary, not only as a Vietnamese adoptee himself, but also because he and his wife are now in the process of adopting a baby boy from Vietnam.

Much of Ballard’s academic work focuses on issues surrounding international adoption practices, and he is working on a soon-to-be-published book aimed at providing guidance for adopted teens.

Ballard and his wife will fly to Los Angeles tomorrow morning to attend the premiere of the film among fellow adoptees and director Tammy Nguyen Lee, as part of the Vietnamese International Film Festival.

The film documents the frenzied efforts that ensued when then-U.S. president Gerald Ford approved Operation Babylift, which ultimately saw the evacuation of roughly 3,300 children from Vietnam to the United States, Canada, France and other nations.

How, exactly, Ballard ended up on one of the flights is a mystery. There is no record of him at a Saigon orphanage. It’s possible he was one of many babies brought to the airport at the last minute by desperate parents hoping the airlift would carry the children toward safer, happier lives.

Such uncertainties have troubled Ballard in the past, but through his own research and involvement in the documentary, he has gained perspective on the events that shaped his life 34 years ago.

“I don’t harbour any resentment toward the people who made those difficult decisions,” he says.

“This is the life I have been given and I have made the best of what I’ve been given.”


Watch a trailer of Operation Babylift at www.thebabylift.com