“When you rise to lead, never forget your integrity.”
Former president of Colombia Álvaro Uribe Vélez said these words to TCU students at the Vicente Fox Forum of World Leaders on Tuesday.
Nearly 150 students and local residents filled the Brown-Lupton University Union Auditorium for the chance to hear from two former international presidents.
Fox, former president of Mexico and co-founder of the forum, waited in the front row for his turn to speak.
Nowell Donovan, Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs, and Juan Hernandez, a university graduate and co-founder of the forum, introduced Uribe.
“He fought a war against people who would tear Colombia apart, and he won,” Donovan said of Uribe’s security policy, which combatted the illegal drug trade in Colombia.
After being introduced, Uribe gave the audience a brief history of Colombia before and during his administration.
Uribe spoke of calls made by his opponents and colleagues to change his rhetoric and policies and said he refused to do so. He said this type of consistency was vital for a leader, but the leader must be willing to have an open mind.
“You need to be open because of the arguments, not because of the opportunity, not because of the audience,” Uribe said.
Fox was introduced after Uribe’s address and was quick to praise Uribe.
“He is a world leader that never forgot his integrity, his ethics or his capacity to make things happen,” Fox said.
Fox also spoke about the rewards one could receive when he or she embraced leadership, but warned that it must be done for the right reasons.
“As long as we have heroic aspirations,” Fox said, “as long as we have integrity, ethics and values, we can accomplish the impossible.”
Uribe and Fox conducted a joint Q&A session, where both presidents spoke of political corruption and policies implemented to ensure social equality for minorities in their countries.
When asked about their opinions on drug legalization, both former presidents were hesitant to give straight answers.
After speaking about the history of prohibition in the United States, Fox labeled Nixon’s war on drugs as a complete failure. He said the drug debate is one that needed to continue.
Uribe spoke about the drug policies in Colombia and the attitude taken when treating drug users as victims rather than criminals. He also said families needed resources to combat drug abuse on their own, instead of relying fully on government intervention.
Uribe was the forum’s third speaker since it began last November.
According to the forum press release, other world leaders scheduled to speak at the forum later in 2012 include former prime minister of Spain Jose Maria Aznar, former president of Poland Lech Walesa and former president and prime minister of Israel Shimon Peres.