When I read the Lodi News-Sentinel story last week that University of Pacific seniors would wear graduation gowns made from recycled plastic bottles, I was impressed. Curious about what other innovations Pacific might have developed, I went to its website to take a look.
To my dismay, I learned that Mexico's former president, Vicente Fox, will be Pacific's Commencement Week keynote speaker. The prior evening, Fox will give the International School's Gerber lecture, thus providing the community with two chances in less than 24 hours to hear his propaganda.
With hundreds of candidates to chose from, why would Pacific honor Fox with such a prestigious invitation? During his six years in office, from 2000-2006, Fox did not improve Mexico's dismal economic status one iota.
Rather, Fox continued a long tradition of ignoring Mexican poverty, preferring instead to come to the United States to pontificate to the U.S. about the value of welcoming his citizens. Among the many insults Fox leveled at Americans was his infamous 2005 slur on African-Americans. Said Fox to an audience of Texas businessmen: "There is no doubt that Mexicans, filled with dignity, willingness and ability to work, are doing jobs that not even blacks want to do there in the United States." Although Fox later apologized under pressure, one has to wonder if his scripted comments don't reflect his true opinion.
Corruption tainted Fox's administration before he assumed office. First, Mexican banking officials charged Fox with accepting illegal foreign campaign contributions. Then, immediately following his election and as reported by the Los Angeles Times, Fox admitted that his ranch employed minors, some as young as 11. Fox quickly sold his interests to relatives and then claimed that child labor was no longer his problem but that of "other people named Fox."
Fox openly confessed to his failed leadership. On Oct. 8, 2007, when Fox appeared on CNN's "Larry King Show" to talk about his book "Revolution of Hope," a viewer emailed King a question for Fox. From the transcript: "Don't the leaders of Mexico feel ashamed that so many of their countrymen are leaving to find a better life in a country rather than their own?"
Fox's reply: "Partially, yes. That's partially true, this comment. It's our main obligation, our first obligation, to build up these opportunities in Mexico for our own people."
Looking back, there's not a shred of evidence that Fox came close to improving living conditions for his "own people." In May 2006, Fox's final days in office, the organization Human Rights Watch issued a 150-page report titled "Lost in Transition: Bold Ambitions, Limited Results for Human Relations Under Fox." Writing that Mexico's preceding presidents had "routinely violated the rights of its citizens ... then covered up those violations ..." Human Rights Watch was initially encouraged by Fox's two 2001 initiatives to end the nation's "legacy of state lawlessness."
But in the end, Human Rights Watch concluded that the Fox administration had been "deeply disappointing." As an example, it pointed to what it labeled "one of the most notorious human rights cases in years," the murders and disappearances of hundreds of women in Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua.
Returning to my original question: What, except for a blind devotion to globalism, would prompt Pacific to invite the former president of Mexico (five years out of office) to speak to its eager graduates? Why pay Fox's expenses and his generous honorarium when there are so many more worthwhile speakers right in Stockton?
Were any individuals who truly make a difference considered? I'm thinking of the emergency room nurse who works long hours in an understaffed hospital; the primary grade teacher from an underfunded school who buys his students supplies from personal funds; the police officer who cruises Stockton's mean streets to keep innocent citizens safe; or a soldier home on leave from Iraq or Afghanistan.
I'd love to hear their "from the front" opinions. But I'm disappointed that the some of the last words Pacific's senior class will hear will come from a failed, anti-American Mexican politician.
Joe Guzzardi retired from the Lodi Unified School District in 2008. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.