When he was Mexico’s President, he spoke with a strong voice that echoed loudly in every corner of his nation. In a recent open forum at Metropolitan State University of Denver, former Mexican President Vicente Fox demonstrated that not only has he not lost a step in retirement but has maintained the timber and clarity in every spoken word. And his message held a special meaning to a university that has partnered in a cause close to his and his wife’s hearts.
Fox and his wife, Marta Sahagún, spoke to approximately 150 faculty, students and invited guests at Auraria’s Jordan Student Success Building on an over-arching list of issues important to his country and the United States. But most important to a unique group of Metro students was Fox and his wife’s CRISMA Clinic in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. The clinic is a Fox/Sahagún collaboration that they have been involved with since leaving office.
The newly formed collaboration will involve MSUD students and faculty in a study-abroad program. They will work on site and side-by-side with CRISMA’s speech and physical therapists and psychologists in San Miguel de Allende. In all, ten Metro departments including nursing, human performance and sport, nutrition, human services social work, biology, chemistry, psychology and speech, language and hearing sciences will be involved. MSUD students will began traveling to Mexico beginning in January.
Despite Mexico having its own form of universal health care, there are still those who will rely on the services of Fox and his wife’s non-profit clinic. MSUD students will work collaboratively with Mexican staff at a grass roots level addressing everything from pre-natal care to nutrition.
The new partnership, said Fox, creates an educational bond between the U.S. and Mexico and Mexico with Metro. “Education is the only way you can change a nation in one generation,” he said. “It’s good for students to come to Mexico to understand our culture, our soul, how Mexican people are good and talented and committed,” added Sahagún.
This was not the first visit to Denver and MSUD for Fox and his wife. They were here in 2017. It was then that Metro President Dr. Janine Davidson suggested that MSUD might be the perfect vehicle for a continued relationship with Mexico. Davidson also facilitated the forum in which Mexico’s former first couple spent the better part of an hour fielding questions.
Many of the questions focused on the newly announced Mexico-MSUD exchange program. But in answering questions from both students and faculty, Fox offered perspectives on a number of issues that have been prominent in recent news stories.
Fox, the country’s 55th president, sounded optimistic about Mexico’s future calling its current economy strong. “Some parts of Mexico,” he said, “are growing by 8 to 10 percent.” Education is also showing an uptick, said Fox. Recent figures show student enrollment in college has risen from 29 percent to 34 percent. But he also addressed the most serious issues Mexicans live with on a daily basis. “Corruption and violence,” said Fox, calling them “cancers.”
Much of the violence stems from the drug cartels who have thrived over the past decade. Fox suggested that legalizing drugs might be something to be considered in fighting this seemingly endless war. “We have this problem and we need to get out of it.”
Despite Fox’s difference with President Trump, he gushed over the fundamental relationship between the two nations. NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement, he said, has been a boon for the U.S., Canada and Mexico. It has been especially good for Mexican trade with the U.S. which now exceeds $600 billion in annual trade.
Fox’s relationship with the United States goes back long before he became an executive with Coca Cola and before becoming Mexico’s president. In his high school years, he left Mexico and spent his junior year attending high school in Cincinnati. It is there where he learned English, a language he is at ease in speaking.
While the primary purpose of the visit was to announce the Mexico-MSUD exchange agreement, Fox and his wife spoke about far more than the new program. Following the question-answer session with the MSUD guests, Fox held a brief question and answer session with reporters. He did not soften nor sugar coat his previous comments about President Trump and Trump’s infamous characterization of some Mexicans entering the U.S. as drug smugglers and rapists and, most especially, his campaign promise that Mexico would ‘pay for the wall.’
When asked if he had any second thoughts about using an obscene gesture aimed at the idea of a wall or using a four-letter expletive (starts with an ‘F’) in expressing his feelings about it, he repeated the comment that inspired the controversy. “I am not going to pay for this (expletive deleted) wall!”