Last night, former Mexican President Vicente Fox came to speak at Harding. Carolina has been so excited about this for a long time. I can't mention all of the evening, but I'll hit some highlights:
It began with a reception where he was more than willing to pose for pictures. He was polite, and his wife Marta was extremely personable. We got a picture taken with them that should come to us in the mail soon. We went to a dinner where they handed out reserved seats for the speech. I was in the 5th row, dead center (hence the good pictures I was able to take).
Fox's speech was not the typical American Studies kind of speech. I think it was really good for this particular crowd to hear some new perspectives. I remember several years ago when Barbara Bush came, I was really disappointed with how she handled hard questions. She would get flustered and try to turn them back on the one asking.
Fox didn't shy away, in my opinion, from any hard issues. He spoke about his views of the war. Namely, that we should already be out of there and that the Iraqi's need to decide to learn to fly on their own. He spoke in fatherly language about helping your children be able to make it on their own. He also made it very clear that he thinks the UN should have been much more involved in handling Iraq. What I liked about him was that he didn't sound like the average anti-war person you encounter. He was very respectful and intelligent. Whether or not you agreed with him, he actually presented his reasoning instead of just blasting our administration.
In regard to immigrants, he portrayed a better picture of them than what I think most people here are used to. He spoke about how much money they are sending in to Mexico from their jobs here, which far exceeds any other source of revenue that Mexico has. He said that the fact that they are sending so much back says (1) they care a lot about their families and (2) they want to go home when they can. I thought he made a strong case for a visiting worker program. He said, "They didn't come all the way here to eat hamburgers and hot dogs, because in Mexico, we have delicious tacos!" He lamented that in Mexico, there is still such a need for more jobs. He was more than happy for Mexicans to go to other countries to fulfill their dreams, but he doesn't want hunger or unemployment to be the reason why they go.
Something I had not really considered is how many of our products that Mexicans buy. He pointed out the millions of jobs created in the US purely based on Mexican consumers. When I thought about it, it's really true. Carolina's dad won't drive anything but American vehicles (especially GM). There is American stuff all over the place down there. As much as many Americans like to think we are some kind of big sugar daddy who props everyone else up, we really do benefit a lot from Mexico, though probably not as much as they do from us.
He was asked several questions about the border, and he said in very strong terms that he is against building a wall. He referred to the Great Wall of China and how ineffective it was in keeping out the Mongols. He talked about President Reagan who stood by the Berlin Wall and said "Tear it down!" Walls are in opposition to the democratic spirit. He really understood the value of networking and cooperating. He warned about the danger of China's growing economy and how we should band together to make sure that in North America we will have a future.
He really had an appreciation for teaching Christian principles, and saw them as key for a democracy to function. Democracies cannot be strong when the people are ignorant. He explained several of the things they have done to try and increase education in Mexico, which he sees as key to having a more solid economy. It was touching to hear him describe how under his leadership, Christian ethical teaching has been brought into Mexican schools. He talked about what a shallow life it is when all you are educated on is simply facts without any moral basis. It made me sad that in my own country, we don't have this freedom anymore.
For someone who speaks English as a second language, I thought he made a great presentation. His intelligence and talents for leadership were very obvious, and I can see why people would follow him.
I have to brag, too, because as I type this, Carolina is with President Fox and his wife Marta. She is one of two representatives from Harding accompanying them to Little Rock, where they are getting a VIP tour of the Clinton Presidential Library, then lunch at the Peabody down town. They're riding together in the Harding Security SUV. Not many people can say that they got to hang out all day with the President. I'm hoping she'll get me some good pictures to put up. She has been beaming ever since earlier this week when she found out that she would get to do this.