Vicente Fox: A man with a purpose

This is a piece I wrote for Widener University after hearing Vicente Fox speak at the Widener Speaker Series.

In a talk that moved from Washington state to Colorado to Ohio, through every presidential library in the U.S. and finished in Guanajuato, Mexico, Vicente Fox, former president of Mexico, covered a wide range of topics including the world economy, drug cartels in Mexico, and immigration in the U.S.
Through what appeared to be a random and chaotic talk, Fox elaborated on the global economy, NAFTA, jobs, immigrants, the American Dream, his grandfather, and his own life philosophy. Throughout the talk, a picture of an opinionated, driven man emerged. Picking apart the rather random nature of his talk, it is possible to put together a picture of Vicente Fox the man. In the story of his grandfather’s emigration from Cincinnati, Ohio to Guanajuato in 1895, Fox was quick to point out that his grandfather moved in order to pursue his vision of the American Dream. For Vicente Fox, the American Dream is alive and well in multiple countries through immigrants – what he called a “special caste;” those who want to be successful and are willing to work hard in pursuit of that success. He returned to his idea of the American Dream several times as the driving force behind immigration and it is clear that this is behind Fox’s support for guest worker programs as a part of immigration policy. The American Dream also drives support for NAFTA according to Fox. Couched in terms of more open trade and economic policy, Fox sees NAFTA and trade as a win-win situation for Mexico and the United States.

As an outside observer of American politics and actions, Fox believes that decisions made by the U.S. will have long-term effects on our neighbors and prefers to take a longer-term view than do most people. Fox was speaking in terms of trends over a century, rather than numbers of immigrants over a year and emphasized that decisions the United States makes will determine the quality of life in North America. The talk of immigration and the economy led Fox to his next topic of education and his belief in the leadership potential of every person.

This is where Fox revealed his life philosophy, one which drove him to become the first opposition party president (against the wishes of his own party) in Mexico in 71 years; the first since Mexico became an ostensibly democratic state. He stated very strongly his belief that power and leadership exist inside each of us and that we have the capacity to accomplish heroic things. He lamented the fact that most of us do not look within and question ourselves; self-questioning allows us to find our purpose. Fox emphasized the necessity of having a purpose in life and maintaining that purpose for our entire life; without purpose we can never grow. When he started his working life as a driver for a Coca-Cola distributor his purpose was to become president of the company. He achieved that goal, becoming the president of Coca-Cola Latin America. When he started out as a poll worker in his home town, his purpose was to become president of Mexico. After two terms as governor of the state of Guanajuato, he accomplished that goal.

When he moved on to the infamous drug cartels that operate along Mexico’s borders, it was a clearly saddened former president who detailed the fall of his beloved Mexico into the hands of the cartels. He was, however, quick to point out that he and his wife do not have any bodyguards and often walk around Guanajuato. How to control and eliminate the drug cartels led Fox into a libertarian discussion around the idea of legalizing drugs in order to remove the power of the cartels, which led to a discussion of removing government from personal decisions (such as whether to take drugs or not). Fox emphasized that we should not be willing to turn over personal responsibility to the state.

As a final point, Fox noted that he believes that Mexico is a rising star on the world stage and he does not want to see the United States building walls between neighbors. He believes that bridges of understanding and partnership are more useful and beneficial to all concerned. He closed by once again invoking his grandfather and emphasizing that the American Dream is a dream for all of the Americas.

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