The New York City native quietly champions legal reforms in Southeast Asia, a region where the rule of law is often weak and governments are criticized for their human rights records.
On Thursday, the US and Vietnam start cleaning up dioxin from Agent Orange. This reconciliation, 37 years after the war, may set a precedent in the ethics of dealing with the aftereffects of war.
Planting mangrove forests on Vietnam's coasts creates living storm barriers as well as rich new fishing grounds.
With tensions between China and its neighbors over the South China Sea already high, any disagreement runs the risk of becoming militarized.