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Vincente Fox
Former president of Mexico
152nd Landon Lecture
Tuesday, Sept. 23, 2008

 

Thank you. I get a lot of introductions of personalities here in this audience and I'd like to introduce the one that is here with me, which is Marta my dear and loved wife, my companion, my professional associate, the woman who I share life with, dreams, we work together the Whole day.

We're building a presidential library in Mexico for the first time ever, right there at Rancho San Cristobal where all of you have your home, and I mean it - where all of you have your home. You're all invited to come and see that presidential library.

We will extend our open arms to welcome all of you, put out the tequila with some enchiladas because we are partners the United States and Mexico because we've been friends and we're neighbors and we need our great effort among ourselves to know more about our mutual nations, economies. I think it's very important and I'm very thankful that I was invited to come here to this university.

Before I start putting some ideas in front of you on this relationship that we have built between the United States and Mexico, between United States and Latin America, I think it's always so very important that I with your permission say hello to all the Pedros, the Quinitas, the Lupitas, the Anitas, and all those wonderful, wonderful Mexican people dear pisanos that are here working in this great nation. To them my respect, to them my love, they are an example for me. They are a very special cast of people like every immigrant is and at the very end we are all migrants sooner or later looking behind your own family. You will come from somewhere abroad from some nation.

This nation has been built by immigrants among them my own family. The Fox family came from Strasberg in Germany, came to Cincinnati, Ohio back in the 18th century.  They settled in Ohio working hard trying to do better for their families.

My grandfather back in 1895 decided to move south. He took a horse, they started with riding across deserts, crossed mountains, crossed borders, if any at that time I don't even think borders existed, and he settled as an immigrant in Guanajuato, Mexico looking for his American dream. He was coming from that heart of the United States in Ohio which by the way gave seven presidents to this nation, just that state by itself. It was a crossroad region and he came to a crossroad vision down in Mexico looking for opportunities without a penny in his pocket. He started working as a night watchman in this horse Carriage factory and in 10 years by hard Working he would become the manager and two years later the owner. So he bought that piece of land in the heart of Mexico

This is the dream of the Americas, equal opportunities to everybody. The dream of America is freedom, democracy and, this is what we share in our Latin America. This is why I salute my pisanos here and this is why I want to tell them that I'm with them all the way.

But I am surprised that this nation is building walls. This is the living nation of the world and I am part of this great nation and with all respect I tell to this nation, why building a Wall? Why isolating from the rest of the world? If we'd been building together a future working for instance with NAFTA by associating ourselves, North America, Canada, United States, and Mexico and we've been building great things that many people are not very well informed of. For instance, the trade balance that we have built between the United States and Mexico and Canada is the largest in the world and we're part of that trading balance because we import from United States, we Mexico, We import more products and services than what Italy, France, Germany, and Britain do together.  We import over 250 billion U.S. dollars every year of cars manufactured in Michigan, of computers, of meat products from this great state and all kinds of products and that means literally means hundreds of thousands of jobs for U.S. citizens and we can keep building a much stronger association and the most competitive and largest market in the world if we keep working together, United States, Mexico and Canada.

All other parts of the world are doing the same. Look at the European Union now with 30 different countries united in one purpose which is human development, which is economic development, which is progress and prosperity to all families there.

It is incredible how living nations like France, the proud France or the proud Germany or the proud Britain, had the wisdom and the vision to associate with their poor neighbors like Spain, Greece, Portugal, Ireland. Ireland had a per capita income 25 years ago of not even 3,000 U.S. dollars, per capita income. Today Ireland enjoys a per capita income of 40,000 U.S. dollars slightly higher than the per capita of this great nation. They've been working together.

China, Goldman Sachs recently stated that by year 2040 the largest economy in the world will be China, not the United States anymore, So China will overpass the size of the U.S. economy. The United States will be second. Japan that is second today will go to fourth place and India will come in the third place. Guess who according to Goldman Sachs is coming to be the fifth largest economy in the world? Yes, you're right, Mexico. Mexico today is the 11th largest economy in the world. Mexico today is the seventh largest exporter of goods and services in the world.

Mexico used to have a per capita income 25 years ago of 2,500 U.S. dollars.  Ten years ago it was only 3,000 U.S. dollars. Today it is over 8,000 U.S. dollars and that is due to the visionary NAFTA.

I saw a vision that's why Mexico has been able to progress and to move ahead. I know we have problems. We have poverty, we have violence, but we're working hard to build a nation on the principles of the founding fathers of this nation - democracy, freedom, equal opportunities to everybody. We're trying hard to do our best. And yes many, many, many Mexicans have not found opportunities they're looking for in their own land. Very sadly they have to say goodbye to their mothers like many of your ancestors did someday in France, in Germany, in Ireland, in Italy, in Bangladesh, in India or somewhere to come to this land of opportunities.

So to my point of view migration is an asset and migrants are a very special cast of people. Of course, of course I am not for open borders. I'm not for people to come freely to the United States just because of that great reason in trying upgrade themselves.

Of course I'm for an orderly solution of this issue. I don't even call it a problem I call it an issue, an issue that we could administrate that if we could have the vision to make it a win-win situation to all of us as long as we have regulations, as long as we have order, as long as we plan for the future what we want to do. I'm speaking about Mexico and the United States right now.

There is a proposal, there is a bill in the U.S. Congress that addresses the issue very intelligently with a visionary support and this is the Kennedy-McCain bill on immigration reform. Three very simple things, number one, there are millions of people that are working here undocumented but somebody's giving them the job. Somebody's hiring them and somebody needs them. Who else is going to crop the apples in Washington state or who is going to harvest the vegetables in California or who is going to build your homes or who is going to attend the elderly? Who is going to nurse them? So it's a convenient flow up to a limit and that limit has to be established.

I was reading on the news this morning that there is about half the people coming this year as immigrants than there was last year. It's easy to understand. It's a market issue. It's a supply and demand issue. If there are opportunities here, people come. If people here don't want to take some jobs other people want to take them, those jobs, all to a limit.

The number two point that is in that proposal in Congress or bill and I read it also this morning and it's pretty well supported that this economy needs additional 500,000 new workers every year. Jobs that U.S. citizens are not providing for and jobs that are needed to the economy so the second point addressed by that bill is a temporary guest program as long as and as big as the amount of people needed by the economy there will be open jobs to offer but the estimate is half a million. So every year according to that proposal it should be determined how many and where will they come from?

The third point has to do with the human side of migration, breaking families is a criminal act. I think it's something very bad. It's okay that an immigrant comes like maybe some of your ancestors came, leaving the family behind coming to have a job, earning some money and then going back to their families. So the human aspect of migration is considered in that proposal. I think it's a great proposal and the only thing we need to do is sit down address the issue and solve it.

But many people say Mexico's not doing anything to control its people to give them an opportunity there and it is true. We used to grow at rates of 3.5 to 4 percent a year. Mexican population doubled three times during the 20th century from 18 million at the beginning of the century to 36 million to 70 million and to 105 million in one century. That will never happen again because now population growth in Mexico is lower than one percent a year so we'll go as far as 135 million Mexicans, one third of the size of the United States, 135 million Mexicans and that's it. The population pyramid shows that by year 2035 we will level off and before that we'll be absorbing most of our energy and the youth and the hard working and the quality and the productivity of that labor.

But the issue was further in a way than the relations between Mexico and the United States in trading. We have a common problem that has to do with drugs and again Mexico is blamed. What is Mexico doing to prevent drugs from coming to the United States? We say what is the United States doing to prevent consumption of drugs in this nation so that that drug does not come from Mexico being produced in Columbia or Venezuela? We just happen to be in between.

Drugs produced in Colombia and Venezuela transported through Mexico coming into the United States, we all have a problem because drugs hurt our youth and even our children today. Drug provokes violence like we're suffering in Mexico every day. Tens, dozens of people killed some of them policemen, some of them public servants in government, some of them members of the cartels. Why? Because the more successful we are in refraining drugs crossing the border the more the cartels and the criminal organizations distribute and promote that drug among our youth in Mexico.

So at the very beginning Mexico was only a place of transit for drugs. Then Mexicans learned and began producing drugs and now Mexicans are consuming drugs. So now we I have the three problems: trafficking, production, and consumption. So we have a joint responsibility to work on this and stop this from happening.

I am very glad that your Congress approved an amount of money to keep supporting the fight against drug cartels in Mexico and Colombia. Venezuela we better forget about because this guy there is involved maybe in drug trafficking, Hugo Chavez, because the way he thinks he has to be drugged or crazy.

One question we ask ourselves with all respect, once the drug crosses the border who moves it up to the Chicago market, the Seattle market, the New York market? Who collects the money? Who launders the money that comes from the drugs? We Mexicans are smart but not for those greater organizations that are operating here in this nation otherwise how do you explain the amount of drugs consumed here?

And that money which means billions of your dollars comes back to Mexico to bribe policemen, to bribe public officials. It's very difficult to compete because a policeman in Mexico is making somewhere around $600 a month, $800 a month and here comes this offer they cannot refuse of $10,000, you close your eyes. Or $25,000 and you let me bring in the drug through here. Or $100,0000 and you do this or do that.

Right now we are undergoing a war in Mexico and fortunately we have President Calderon. He's a Harvard graduate, very strong character and determined to finish the drug cartels in Mexico and drug trafficking in Mexico. We are all Mexicans working with President Calderon to make that dream come true and we'll make it be sure that we will make it because it will be to the better of our youth, because it will be to the better of our relationship between Mexico, United States and because it will be better for everybody. So we're doing our job in Mexico.

Let me finally say a few words about Latin America. And by the way coming back to a university Cicero used to say is like coming back to the crystal spring water, to the fountain of youth and the fountain of knowledge. It is true he was so right because it's the university with universal thinking where freedom and innovation is at its best, where the environment is the best that a human being can find, and the human being gives its best when it is in the proper environment and universities are the proper environment.

In this case by being here it's, I want to tell the students here that it's to the history and I know the president is an expert in history, he gave me a lesson in 30 minutes. I learned about the Mongols. I learned about the Germans and Hitler. I learned about the Russians and how they stopped the Germans. I learned about Iraq and the decisions that are being taken right there.

When you see history in Latin America, the 20th century very recent history, look at what happened there. The whole century most of us nations in Latin America were in the hands of dictators. Who doesn't remember the military dictators in Brazil, in Argentina, in Chile, in El Salvador, in Nicaragua, in Colombia, everywhere the whole of the century.

We did not have the opportunity to live in freedom and to live by democracy. And if it was not military dictators, then we suffered corrupt authoritarian governments like we had in Mexico. Finally at the very end of the century we woke up and we decided that we wanted to live by democracy, to have freedom in our societies and to have open market policies so that we could compete globally. We met the challenge and we did it.

In the '80s and the '90s most every nation in Latin America became free and became democratic except Cuba; it was the only one. The rest will move ahead. We wanted to meet the 21st century with better opportunities than the ones we had before and as I said what better environment for human beings to produce our best, to accomplish our dreams than in a free democratic environment working with a market economy with responsibility, with ideas, with innovation. We're hardworking. It's important.

We also took another challenge advised by this great leading nation, open your markets. We want to bring in U.S. investment to Mexico, to Chile, to Russia, to, everywhere. Open your markets and you will benefit and we did open our markets I and we did make those very painful economic reforms during the '90s in all of Latin America.

Today we know in Latin America that democracy and freedom work, that market economy produces and reduces poverty and increases opportunities to everybody. We know that now. In the last now six years Latin America as a region has been growing at rates close to six percent of gross product of the region. Decades and decades we have not grown that fast but all of a sudden this messianic leaders like Hugh Chavez appear dreaming that he will be the Castro, the Fidel Castro, of the 21st century. He invites others and he invests the oil money that it is not his.

It's Venezuela's peoples money but he still takes it and puts it in Bolivia and puts it in Ecuador, puts it in Nicaragua and he is trying to be that axis of this messianic, populist, the microbic leaders and again Latin America is facing the dilemma whether we keep hardworking under a democratic and free environment or we start again the oldest story of cheating to people, of giving away the fish instead of teaching how to fish, and intervening in other nations.

So Latin America has to keep its path straight to the future and I am absolutely sure that this 21st century is number one, the century of women. We need women on the leading of our nations, of our economies, of our businesses in everywhere because women bring a few very important things for development - number one, vision.

They're always thinking in the next generation not how I make money today. They're thinking how a good world can be built where our kids will grow with pride, with success, with opportunities. That's vision, that's leadership. Women also bring something else to the challenge of development, love and compassion. We machos that are in government, we don't like to talk about love, we don't like to talk about compassion, we don't commit and this world needs much more compassion and much more love because Machiavelli used to say you gain respect by fear and excess abuse of power. He says it's most sad he who provokes fear but the saint my hero, Yalola, Samuel Maseo de Yalola, he would say you gain respect by love. That's the way you gain respect.

So that's the kind of world we need and that is why we need women for leading this world. That is why on the board of Centro Fox the first presidential library ever in Mexico and Latin America is being built by this couple, Marta and myself, and in our board we invited not 40 individuals we invited 40 couples so that we make sure that the wives, the women, are there on equal terms, so we make decisions with that visionary often that women have.

And second of course, this has to be the century of Latin America. We have to work hard. We have to associate with a leader with this great nation and I pray to God that the leaders of this nation come back to the dreams of the founding fathers that the leaders of this nation come back to those great moving ideas like the Marshall Plan.

Europe would not be where it is today if it were not because of the Marshall Plan that came from this great nation and its leaders. That great idea that unfortunately was stopped by the death of President Kennedy, alliance for progress in all of Latin America. I really keep a lot of hope and optimism that we will have the wisdom to discuss our problems and conflicts, to associate to build the nations that we need, and to understand that nobody can be rich and successful just by himself.

We all depend today on everybody else. Yes, the United States depends a lot on Mexico. Yes, the United States depends a lot on Canada. Yes, the United States depends a lot on the market in China and a peaceful situation in China. Yes, other nations depend a lot I on the success of this nation.

Thank you very much to all of I you.