University students, faculty and students from 16 local high schools gathered to hear the former president and ruler of Nigeria speak about the importance of leadership Thursday morning.
The Vicente Fox Forum of World Leaders began with Provost Nowell Donovan welcoming students and faculty. He also introduced the forum participants: co-founder of the Hispanic Leadership Alliance, Juan Hernandez; the former president and ruler of Nigeria, Olusegun Obasanjo; and the former president of Mexico, Vicente Fox.
Hernandez, the co-founder of the Hispanic Leadership Alliance and an alumnus, was next to speak about how he helped bring the forum to the university. He said it would enlighten students on the importance of leadership, and would broaden students' knowledge of international leaders.
After Hernandez spoke, Obasanjo took to the podium and began with detailing what he did during his time as president of Nigeria. He said that everyone in attendance could learn something from both himself and Vicente Fox.
“There is nothing better than the opportunity to interact with us leaders,” Obasanjo said. “If you have nothing to learn from us, learn from our mistakes. Today, you have two leaders, who have by any standard, been game changers.”
According to Obasanjo, neither he nor Fox gave up on their countries and did their best to provide democracy for their people.
“What is very interesting for both of us is that we didn’t throw in the towel, we changed the game,” Obasanjo said. “Like they say in my part of the world, ‘we are tired, but we are not tired.”
Obasanjo said he was also the first Nigerian, and likely the first African, to win an election without votes from his tribal base.
“My tribe refused to vote for me,” Obasanjo said. “In Africa you normally have a tribal base to help you rise to political power. This is one of the things that made me refer to myself as the game-changer.”
Before the question and answer session, Fox made a few brief statements on the importance of leadership and democracy.
“We still have to move from a democracy, to a democracy that delivers to the people and citizens and what they are expecting from democracy,” Fox said. “This becomes important because everyone here is a leader and we must all exercise that leadership for the good.”
According to Fox, to be a leader, one must go out and make a difference.
“Let’s shorten the processes, let’s get into the arena, and let’s make things happen,” Fox said. “That is the final attribute of a leader.”
Senior political science major Saria Nicole Hawkins said she found the forum to be very interesting. She said she thought it was a great way to discuss issues that plague not only Nigeria and Mexico, but the rest of the world.
“I just hope people take the advice from the people who spoke personally, because it’s not just them that can make a difference, they said it’s in our hands,” Hawkins said. “They hope the people learn the information for themselves in order to create a better world. I just hope action comes from this and not just words alone.”
Junior strategic communication major Tracie Green said she thought the quote, “We’re tired, but we’re not tired,” was very intriguing. The quote applies to every situation in life, she said.
“It was very profound to me, and I guess what I took away from it was we’re physically tired, but we’ll always keep fighting until we’re done fighting for what we believe in,” Green said.
Green said she believes Obasanjo will never stop fighting for what he believes in, and that’s his country.
“He believes in them and they believe in him,” Green said.
Sophomore pre-major Nikki Woodward said she was amazed and grateful for the opportunity to hear the two former presidents speak.
“That was kind of an ‘awe’ moment that you are at a school that provides that for you,” Woodward said. “We are the future leaders of the world, so we do need to be exposed to stuff like this and have an eye-opener to understand what is going on out there.”