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2008 Robert G. Wesson Lecture: Economic Growth, Poverty, and Democracy in Latin America--A President's Perspective

  • The Honorable Vicente Fox

Vicente Fox served as Constitutional President of the United Mexican States from December 1, 2000 through November 30, 2006.

Originally from Mexico City, Fox was born on July 2, 1942, the second of nine children born to José Luis Fox, a farmer, and Mercedes Quesada. When Fox was just a few days old, his family moved to the San Cristóbal Ranch in the municipality of San Francisco del Rincón, in Guanajuato state. There, Fox came into contact with the children of ejido owners and was able to gain firsthand experience of one of the problems that could be avoided in Mexico: poverty.

In 1964, he joined Coca-Cola de México as a route supervisor and, while riding aboard a delivery truck, he had the opportunity of traveling almost 2,500 routes, some of which led to the most isolated places in Mexico. This experience and his constant contact with everyday people led Fox to develop an understanding of adverse situations and, upon returning to Guanajuato, he decided to participate in the business, political, social, and educational sectors.

Whether as a business leader or politician, Fox has always sought the common good, and has constantly given his support to Mexico's people. He was President and Founder of the Amigo Daniel Children's Home Foundation; President of the Loyola Foundation; and a promoter of the León campus of the Universidad Iberoamericana, and the Lux Institute, an educational center where thousands of state residents have received training.

As part of his constant efforts to apply his business knowledge to benefit his fellow countrymen, Fox has been a Counselor of the Mexico-American Chamber of Commerce. Likewise, as Director of Grupo Fox, he has managed companies operating in the areas of agriculture, livestock breeding, agro-industry, and the production of shoes and boots for export. All of these activities have generated sources of employment.

During the 1980's, Fox began his political career by joining the Partido Acción Nacional (PAN). In 1995, he participated in the extraordinary election for the governorship of Guanajuato, and was elected by an overwhelming majority of two votes to one.

Fox was one of the first state governors to give a clear, public and timely account of the finances of Guanajuato state. He strove to promote economic development by encouraging the private sector, foreign investment, and, above all, the consolidation of small firms. In order to open up new markets, he promoted the sale of goods manufactured in Guanajuato overseas. Fox improved and broadened the state's economic infrastructure so as to attract domestic and foreign investment. He also created a unique system in which micro-credits with no overdue portfolio were granted. Under Fox's leadership, Guanajuato became the fifth largest state economy in Mexico, and in certain productive sectors, even surpassed the national average.

Fox has a great commitment to Mexico and to his desire to continue working to attain a better life for all. Thus, he has constantly traveled the country, speaking to different sectors of Mexican society. In his speeches, he commonly remarks: "I've set my heart and all my strength and determination to overcoming this challenge, and I wish this to be clearly understood. I will uphold my commitment until the very end."

In Fox's first message as Mexico's President, he stated: "I will undertake to form a plural, honest and capable government. A government that incorporates our country's very best citizens. I, Vicente Fox, give my word as a free and honest Mexican, I give my word to the nation and to history that I will do everything in my power to achieve a better future, without limits or reluctance, and with true love and passion."

Fox studied Business Administration at the Universidad Iberoamericana and Management at Harvard Business School.

This event is co-sponsored by Stanford Graduate School of Business.