Bringing the World to Penn: Mexico’s Felipe Calderón Meets With Penn Students

In advance of his Sept. 26 appearance at the Penn Biden Leaders Dialogue with former Vice President Joe Biden, former Mexican President Felipe Calderón had a private meeting with about 40 graduate and undergraduate students at the University of Pennsylvania who are Mexicans.Calderón was on campus at the invitation of the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement for the Dialogue event, the culmination of the Perry World House’s two-day colloquium, The Future of the Global Order in an Era of Populism, Nationalism, and Retrenchment.

During his tenure as Mexico’s 20th president, Calderón was credited with creating closer ties with the United States and Canada.

Addressing the Mexican students in Irvine Auditorium’s Café 58, Calderón talked about the future of Mexico, rebuilding after the earthquake, Mexico’s economy, immigration and NAFTA. He also insisted on taking photographs with every student in attendance.

Arantza Rodríguez Puertos, a junior in the Wharton School from Tampico, Tamaulipas, said she felt honored to have the opportunity to talk and engage with Calderón.“He is a great global leader,” said Puertos, a member of the Penn Mexican Students Association, or Mex@Penn. “His conversation with Vice President Biden [showed] a lot of knowledge and truth about Mexican-American relationships and global engagement.”

Puertos asked Calderón for his advice for young Mexican students who want to return to Mexico to improve it.

He told the Penn students to recognize the privilege they have to study at such a prestigious university and to take advantage of the opportunity by learning as much as possible. He said they are the future of Mexico, and it is up to them to help their country keep moving forward.

“I feel very motivated and inspired to work towards building a better Mexico,” Puertos said.“It is a tough challenge, but I'm confident that if I take advantage of the resources Penn has to offer, I will become a better leader and make an impact back home. Today made me think about the importance of global engagement when it comes to the individual success of a nation, whether that is a strong power like the U.S. or a developing nation like Mexico.”

Calderón also noted how proud he was of the students from Mex@Penn, who responded in a timely fashion toward their fellow countrymen after the earthquake.


William Burke-White, inaugural director of the Perry World House, said the current moment is a difficult one.

“It is extraordinarily timely and significant for the Mexican students at Penn and the broader student community,” he said. “Whenever a nation faces a challenge, connecting with its national leader who was an important part in that country’s history is a chance to reflect and connect.”

Led by former Vice President Joe Biden, the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement, along with Penn’s Perry World House, launched the Penn Biden Leaders Dialogue as a series of discussions to bridge the University’s academic research with policymakers and leaders from across the globe.

Burke-White said this is the first of several Penn Biden Leaders Dialogue sessions in the works.

“These kinds of visitors are important to us because it gives all 12 schools involved in the various meetings a sense of deep engagement as a part of a broader strategy making Penn a global agenda setter in world affairs.

“A big piece of Penn President Amy Gutmann’s vision for Penn’s global engagement is to be much better connected to the world of global policymaking, and the creation of the Penn Biden Leaders Dialogue elevates Penn’s platform for engaging the world through its leaders in the global policy space,” said Burke-White. “As a Penn professor, Vice President Biden has a network unlike anyone else. He has the ability to invite people to become a part of the Penn community for a day.”

President Calderon meets with Penn students.