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Editor's note: Read more of the highlights from the ASU + GSV Summit on our blog.
Mexico has progressed rapidly over the past generation thanks to better education, according to Vicente Fox, a businessman and the former president of Mexico.
Fox, who served from 2000 to 2006, delivered the final keynote address Wednesday at the ASU + GSV Summit in San Diego, an evening that focused on education’s power to transform and featured Hollywood star power in the form of Matthew McConaughey speaking about his student-focused foundation.
But before the Oscar winner took the stage, Fox spoke of his admiration for teachers.
“The great thing about teachers is that they’re molding the people around them,” he said.
“To me, the best aspirations of a human being is doing for others, so teachers are transmitting your personality, your capacity, your skills, your heart and your soul to other human beings.”
Fox also spoke in support of the NAFTA trade agreement.
“When NAFTA started, the gap in income between Mexico and the U.S. was tenfold. You’d make one dollar on the Mexico side and if you crossed over, you’d make 10 dollars.
“Who of you would not go for that powerful incentive?” he asked.
The speaker before Fox was Andrea Mondragón-Rodriguez, who was brought from Mexico to Chicago as a toddler by a mother who believed that education was the key to a good life.
“As a DACA 'Dreamer,' mapping my future has not been an easy task,” she said.
Fox said that much has changed in Mondragón-Rodriguez’s lifetime.
“What happened 25 years after, the lifespan of Andrea, is that income gap reduced to five to one. That’s why you see the reverse trend of Mexicans going back to Mexico and reducing those coming to the U.S.
“There is only one way you can change a nation in one generation, and it’s through education. This is what happened to Andrea,” he said.
“My belief is in education, and what we are trying to do in Mexico is to keep it open. Education should not have borders and should not have limits.”
Mondragón-Rodriguez believed college would be out of reach despite her 4.0 grade-point average in high school.
“My dream was to attend Denison University, and I had all but written off the possibility of going there due to cost,” she said.
Then she won a four-year full scholarship.
“I keep rising to the occasion. One of my first projects was to have Denison declared a sanctuary school. During the meeting I found out I was the first and only DACA student enrolled at Denison,” she said.
She also organized a peaceful demonstration of unity for DACA students and worked with Amnesty International.
“I have found my voice, and it continues to get louder every day,” she said.
“I am a dreamer that still believes in the dream.”
Also at Wednesday’s keynote, Dan Rosensweig, CEO of Chegg, sat down with Academy Award winner Matthew McConaughey to discuss the mission of his foundation, Just Keep Livin’. The organization was founded by McConaughey and his wife, Camila Alves, 10 years ago to empower high school students by providing them with the tools to lead active lives and make healthy choices.
“The last place you can catch kids before they’re in the free world and the consequences become much more harsh is high school,” McConaughey said. “I said, ‘Let’s get the ones that are on the wrong track and try to get them on the right track. If they’re on the right track, keep them on the right track.”
To date, 2,500 students have gone through the program, which is currently in 31 Title I schools in five states. Throughout the program, students are encouraged to make positive life choices to improve their physical and mental health through exercise, teamwork, expressing gratitude, nutrition and community service.
On the program’s “gratitude circles”: “I believe there is a science to gratitude. The more you’re thankful for, the more you’re going to create in your life to be thankful for.”
On the program’s community service component: “They find ownership in the program. They like the accountability and having responsibility that they have to give back as well.”
On resilience: “We’re sitting in a privileged position up here right now. I know in my own life, getting up and proverbially dusting yourself off, to say no, it’s not the end, it’s not over, this game of life is not over, is a very important trait. Essential trait, to have you succeed in whatever you do.”
Written by Mary Beth Faller and Katherine Reedy. Top photo: Former Mexico President Vicente Fox delivers the keynote address Wednesday evening at the ASU + GSV Summit 2018 in San Diego. He spoke about his country's embracing education as a way to advance its people and broaden the middle class. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now