Of Words and Wisdom - The day a president talked too much
You may have heard these words of Arabian philosopher Omar Idn Al-Halif: “There are four things that come not back: the spoken word, the spent arrow, the past life, the neglected opportunity.” Two other Arabian proverbs also aptly convey lessons on the spoken word: “The words of tongue should have three gatekeepers,” and “When you have spoken the word, it reigns over you. When it is unspoken, you reign over it.”
In May, while meeting with Texas businessmen in his country, Mexican President Vicente Fox uttered these fateful words in reference to the role many Mexican immigrants play in the U.S. economy: “There is no doubt that Mexicans, filled with dignity, willingness and ability to work, are doing jobs that not even Blacks want to do there in the United States.” Those words have come to reign over President Fox, at least for now. So great was the outrage of Blacks, that President Fox telephoned civil rights activists the Rev. Jesse Jackson and the Rev. Al Sharpton to express regret “if he offended the African-American community.” According to a statement from the Mexican foreign ministry, he declared that he has “great respect for the African-American community” and even invited the good reverends to Mexico to “join forces” on working for immigration rights and civil rights for immigrants in the United States.
BBC News Online offers the following biographical information about the Mexican president. Born in July 1942 to a wealthy farmer in the rural state of Guanajuato, the six-foot five-inch Fox studied business administration and management at Jesuit-run Ibero-American University in Mexico City and at Harvard. He was a successful businessman before he was elected president in 2000, managing a 1,220-acre ranch where he raised cattle and ostriches and grew vegetables for export to Europe, Japan and the United States. He made much of his agricultural ties during his presidential campaign, announcing he was the only candidate to have ever milked a cow.
Fox joined the Coca Cola-Co. in 1964 as a route supervisor and in 15 years moved up to president for Mexico and Central America. He ousted Pepsi as Mexico’s top-selling soft drink. He was elected to Congress in 1988, ran for the post of governor of Guanajuato in 1991 and won by a landslide on his second attempt in 1995.
Fox is no stranger to controversy. During the 2000 campaign, he called his rival a “sissy” and a transvestite. He was accused of flaunting his Catholicism when he used a banner of the Virgin of Guadalupe, Mexico’s most sacred religious symbol, during a political rally. He stopped using the banner. He was criticized for his proposal to privatize Petroleos Mexicanos, the state-owned petroleum company that Mexicans hold as a symbol of their sovereignty. He reversed his stance.
Fox promotes himself as a down-to-earth man of the people, the BBC says. He rarely wears suits, favoring open-necked shirts, T-shirts and cowboy boots. He also wears a cowboy belt with a huge buckle bearing his name. Could it be that such a man has never learned the lessons of the spoken word? Here’s another Arabian saying: “Wisdom consists of 10 parts: nine parts silence, one part a few words.” Enough said!
By Rosalind McLymont