Sunday, November 18, 2007

Jesuit Educated: Former Mexican President Vincente Fox

Review Mexico’s Vicente Fox offers remarkable autobiography
SCOTT FONTAINE; The News Tribune

Revolution of Hope
Viking Adult, 400 pages, $27.95 By now, it’s standard procedure. Get elected to the top office, travel the world, meet the most powerful people on the globe, maybe get re-elected, stand down, retire somewhere quiet but still remain in the spotlight, start a foundation and work on your memoirs, which invariably turn out overwritten, underedited and overhyped.
By that formula, former Mexican President Vicente Fox isn’t much different than other world leaders. There is, however, one major difference:
His autobiography, “Revolution of Hope,” is more than a stodgy
collection of name-dropping. This book is surprisingly fun. How many
image-conscious politicians recall fondly the days of driving a truck around the
country, drinking all night long, slamming a beer to kill a hangover and then
slashing the tires of the competing truckers?
Or write about the “combat drinkers” at the Kremlin and about trying to keep pace with Russian officials? Fox intertwines the stories of his life, his ancestors, the history of Mexico and his views on modern politics. His rise to Mexico’s presidency is remarkable. His father owned a 1,000-acre ranch in Guanajuato and seemed financially comfortable but remained stingy (Fox and his brother were sent to Wisconsin for a year of a high school, but their parents didn’t send any money).
Fox attended a Jesuit university in Mexico City – he’s devoutly Catholic, and
it’s obvious his faith is a cornerstone of his life
– and took a good job with Ford. Bored with the office life, he quit and became a truck driver for Coca-Cola. He rose through the ranks and eventually became the president of the company’s Mexico division. He then quit that to return to the family farm, which grew broccoli and manufactured leather boots. Fed up with the ruling PRI party, he entered politics with the right-of-center PAN party and successfully ran for Congress in 1988. Mexican politicians are barred from re-election, so he ran for governor of Guanajuato in 1991. He lost that rigged election but ran again for governor in 1995 and was elected with 58 percent of the vote. Fox built a political alliance with other opposition parties to challenge the PRI’s stranglehold – the party ruled since 1920 – on the presidency. He crisscrossed the country again and again during his campaign (a time he compares to his trucking days at Coca-Cola) and slowly built momentum. Strong showing in debates swung the electorate his way, and Fox won the 2000 election with 43 percent of the vote. He calls his story a piece of the American Dream ............................It’s interesting, but his political views are by far the slowest reads in the book – not because of the way views are articulated, but because his life and the histories of his family and Mexico are so much more interesting. The final chapters of the book are especially gummed up with these political writings. Fox also has a tendency to push metaphors a bit too far at times. An example: “When I first got into politics, I was the bull in the ring. Like the angry five-hundred-pound beasts I faced in the ring as a young toreador, I charged straight at my opponents in the belief that I could bowl them over with the force of my convictions, stampeding into the bright red cape of the perfect dictatorship.” Ugh. And there are plenty of lines where Fox boasts about his machismo.
Fox distances himself from vegetarianism by rhetorically asking, “Why be a
Mexican rancher if you can’t eat beef, drink tequila and smoke cigars?”
Statements like that seem gratuitous – and some are jammed into unrelated stories where they don’t really belong – yet they somehow leave a charming feel. Raw emotion surfaces at times. He writes honestly about difficulties in having children and how he believes God blessed him with four adopted kids in a country where mothers rarely give up their children. He’s open about the ending of his first marriage after 20 years, when his wife left him for another man. And he admits he felt defeated politically and personally after losing the gubernatorial race in 1991. Passages like that make “Revolution of Hope” a step above other political memoirs.
Fox, like most politicians, is conscious of his image. But it’s a different kind
of conscious: It feels like he wants to remind readers he’s a man’s man.
He throws in occasional four-letter words, talks about drinking and comes across as a regular guy who has accomplished the extraordinary. And don’t those make for the best stories?

Link to original story (here)

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