Author: Laura Bowen
Former President of Mexico Vicente Fox spoke at the CalTech auditorium on October 17 to an audience of mixed enthusiasm about his new autobiography, Revolution of Hope: The Life, Faith, and Dreams of a Mexican President. There was a seemingly endless line of people winding out from the auditorium door and through the campus, waiting in anticipation as people were ushered inside.
The diverse audience included speakers of Spanish and English, young and old and calm and excited. One woman being filmed screamed “Vive Fox!” while at the front of the auditorium protestors gathered with signs condemning him and claiming that his political opponent, Andres Manuel López Obrador, was the legitimate president.
The auditorium, which seats 1,140, was filled almost to capacity. President of CalTech Dr. Jean-Lou Chameau introduced Fox, but was almost immediately interrupted by an audience member yelling, in Spanish, that Fox was a “thief and a liar.” Not everyone in the crowd was as emotionally charged. Audience member Terry Heath said, “I’m just here as a spectator . . . I came to see what he had to say.”
Fox was greeted with a standing ovation by most of the audience. He began with the most controversial issue, immigration from Mexico to the United States, and spoke of the “enormous contribution” that Mexican immigrants have made to the U.S. economy. He negated rumors that Mexico was pushing people to go to the United States, saying, “How could we plan to drain our human resources in Mexico?”
Fox described immigrants as an “asset” and said the true “threat [to the U.S.] is isolation.” He spoke about immigrants’ integral role in the economy and emphasized his desire to have a “continental trade agreement” to compete against Europe and Asia. He also talked about his intentions to make domestic improvements. Throughout his speech, Fox mentioned his efforts to “build bridges instead of walls,” condemning the wall that he sees being built on the Mexican-United States border.
Fox went on to highlight the positive and negative characteristics of the current state of Mexico, stressing the economic growth and strength of Mexico as a “solid partner” of the U.S. and its importance to the U.S. economy in terms of the amount of American goods it imports.
Fox addressed Mexico’s economic improvement under his presidency in areas such as unemployment and inflation rates, as well as Mexico’s debt in comparison to the United States (Mexico’s debt is currently $14 billion; the U.S. is at approximately $9 trillion). Fox also said there were improvements needed in several aspects of the government, especially education.
Fox touched on a more spiritual topic when he spoke about the relationship he had with the United States, saying, “Politicians would do much better [ . . . ] guided by God [. . . ], not by polls.”
In another contradiction of U.S. policy, Fox spoke about his disapproval of the United States’ intervention in Iraq, and said the U.S. is “losing respect in many places in the world.”
While Fox held true to his reputation as a smooth public speaker, inviting everyone in the audience over for “tequila and enchiladas,” protestors could be heard yelling outside the auditorium.
A question-and-answer portion was held after the speech. A majority of the questions dealt with issues in the United States and improvements that Fox had made, giving some people the impression that the event was promoting the former President. “He talked about what he wanted to talk about,” audience member Rick said. “He didn’t talk about anything controversial.”
Afterwards, book signings and purchases were available, as more protestors gathered and shouted against Fox in both Spanish and English. CalTech student Sheldria Ruiz said Fox was “trying to sell his book and his image to Americans.”
Fox stirred up controversy and received strong opinions, both negative and positive, when he outlined the issues he deals with in his autobiography as well as his opinion of the state of Mexico and its future. He put optimistic faith in his successor, President Felipe Calderón Hinojosa, and he expressed his hope that the “21st century should be the century of Latin America.”
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