President of Mexico Vicente Fox will be the principal speaker and the recipient of an honorary doctor of laws degree at the University of Notre Dame’s 157th Commencement exercises May 19 (Sunday). The ceremony will begin at 2 p.m. in the Joyce Center on campus.
p. Fox, who follows President Bush as the second consecutive head of state to serve as Notre Dame’s Commencement speaker, took office Dec. 1, 2000, after a historic election in which his National Action Party (PAN) ended the 71-year presidential reign of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI).
p. “President Fox is a leader who is at once pragmatic and passionate,” said Rev. Edward A. Malloy, C.S.C., Notre Dame’s president. "While he has worked tirelessly to end corruption and strengthen his nation’s economy, he also has demonstrated a steadfast commitment to representing and serving the most vulnerable among his constituents, from the poor to the unborn.
p. “We are delighted that he will honor us with his presence.”
p. The descendant of Spanish and Irish immigrants, Fox, 60, was born into an agricultural business family. He was raised in the Mexican state of Guanajuato and educated in Jesuit schools there. Prior to entering the political arena, he worked first as a rancher and then for 15 years for the Coca-Cola Company, rising from route supervisor to president of Coca-Cola Mexico.
p. Fox joined PAN in the 1980s and in 1988 was elected Federal Deputy for the Third District of León, Guanajuato. He lost the election for governor of Guanajuato in 1991, but four years later won the office with ease.
p. As PAN’s presidential candidate, Fox ran on a platform of government reform, democratic change and fighting corruption. His July 2000 election came in what is considered the fairest race in Mexico’s history.
p. In his 15 months as president, Fox has focused on immigration, trade, tax reform and human rights.
p. Notre Dame has offered international study and service-learning opportunities in Mexico for many years; its current study abroad programs there are based in Monterrey and Puebla, and service-learning initiatives include two Social Concerns Seminars and several summer service programs.
p. It was in Mexico in the summer of 1962 that Father Malloy experienced his calling to the priesthood while volunteering with the University-sponsored Community of International Lay Apostolate (CILA).
p. Fox will be the sixth foreign head of state to speak at a Notre Dame Commencement, following Canadian Prime Ministers Lester Pearson (1963) and Pierre Trudeau (1982), Salvadoran President (and Notre Dame alumnus) Jose Napoleon Duarte (1985), Chilean President Patricio Aylwin (1992), and Irish Taoiseach Albert Reynolds (1994).