Felipe Calderón, Mexico's former president, spoke to more than 100 members of the Penn community about his homeland's "huge potential" and its complicated current relationship with the United States during a talk on Monday evening.
During the hour-long event entitled "Mexico in the Global Order" at the Perry World House, Calderón, who served as the president of Mexico from 2006 to 2012, gave a presentation on the current economic and political status of his country.
Calderón characterized his country as one of the world's largest economic influences and a major source of labor and innovation, but emphasized Mexico's need to improve its international relationships — especially with the U.S. — to capitalize on its potential as a global leader.
Noting that Mexico is the second largest market for U.S. goods and that both nations collect tens of millions of dollars in tourist revenue from residents of the other, Calderón contended that a sort of symbiosis exists between the two nations.
He insisted, however, that "Mexico cannot be taken for granted" in this relationship pointing to President Donald Trump's proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border as an example of an unfair impediment to Mexico's morale.
Calderón also described Trump as a "bully" noting that Trump is open to meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un but can’t work out terms of more open communication and harmony with Mexico.
In response to a question posed by moderator Trudy Rubin, a Philadelphia Inquirer reporter, about addressing the problem of immigration into the U.S., Calderón stressed the leaders must find a "middle ground" on the issue.
Calderón also examined certain issues relating to crime and corruption in Mexico and the North American Free Trade Agreement at the prompting of questions from Rubin and audience members, notably expressing concern over what he dubbed "radical" movements in the current left-wing administration in control in Mexico.
College junior Elvis Jimenez said he thought the former president presented a “holistic view” of the political landscape in Mexico, “drawing on both the strengths and weaknesses of the country.”
Calderón, one of this year's Perry World House visiting fellows, is in the midst of a three-week stay on campus during which he has been lecturing, visiting classes, and meeting with faculty and students. He has made several public appearances at Penn — so many that Inaugural Perry World House Director William Burke-White characterized Calderón as "truly a member of the Penn family" at the event.
For his part, Calderón described campus as “the best place to talk thoroughly and academically” about Mexico’s status in world politics.
College freshman Clarice Helfand echoed this sentiment, saying, “With all the great resources we have here at Penn, there’s definitely a sense of responsibility to expose ourselves to different perspectives on [world politics].”
Calderón ultimately left the audience with a message looking forward.
“I hope really that Mexico advances a new age of prosperity, but let’s see; we need to do a lot of work before,” he said.