OPENING REMARKS – OUTLINE & MAIN TEXT
CAMBIO DE COLORES 2004
1.Bienvenidos / Welcome
· It is just perfect that we are opening this conference, precisely in the day in which, exactly 200 years ago, the flag of the United States was raised for the first time in what then was called St. Louis of Illinois, marking the incorporation of the Upper Louisiana—including what today is the state of Missouri—into the United States of America.
· If you live in
· Confusing times: a
Frenchman was in charge of the Spanish crown's interests, and a U.S. Army
Captain raised the French flag in March 9th, and then lowered it to
· Land, people, and culture were being transferred from one nation to another and even another one without much of an opinion of those directly affected.
· Imagine the wariness of the 1500 Frenchmen and the few Spaniards, the curiosity of the newly arrived “Americans,” and the puzzlement of the fewer and fewer natives—suffering from wave after wave of exotic European diseases for over 200 years—and the growing number of slaves, who were most likely left out of the festivities.
· In one hundred years, the state of Missouri will start developing its unique crossroads character: rolling prairies towards the North; plantation bottomlands in the Cape region; mining and small farm agriculture through the Ozarks; wineries in what would become the German midsection of the state; ranches to the West and Southwest: a very diverse and multicultural state.
· We do not much time, so
let us jump to 1904, the year of the World's Fair: “The Louisiana Purchase
Exposition” definitely converted
· “The Exposition of 1904 is cosmopolitan, it is universal, it is ancient and it is modern.”
· Imagine the fair: Incredible fairgrounds, visitors from all over the world, Olympics? Nobody could care less about the Olympics. The fair was the things to be in.
· Quote: David R. Francis, president of the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition: “When the civilized nations of the earth meet in friendly rivalry, their better acquaintance engenders increased respect. The closer commercial relations that follow are conducive to mutual benefit. They efface prejudices; they broaden sympathies; they deepen and widen the foundation of human progress.” Good view about diversity. But...
· There is another name I
want to reflect upon: Ota Benga, a small man who was brought to the Exposition
· Once the Exposition was
over, Ota Benga was not returned to
· People, trying to help,
found him a place to be in
· I provide these examples not to indict people of 100 and 200 years ago, but to show how things can go wrong when one sees only one side of the coin, which—if undesirable in many respects—should always be inexcusable when we are dealing with human beings.
· Ignorance of this kind is not bliss: it's evil. And to talk about diversity, while practicing exclusion, makes, of course, no sense.
· To close this reflection, let me quote a poet that grew up in this town, and that warns us about the dangers of not doing things when they need to be done, the dangers of missing the boat of history—if you allow me a Lewis & Clark pun I could not resist.
· T.S. Eliot, the
grandchild of the founder of
· In short, there’s no consolation on what it could have been done “then.” This is our “then.”
4.It's now 2004: What do we have left to imagine?
· We do have significant changes happening in front of us, not driven by great explorers or visionary wise people, but by common folk that this time happen to come not from far away lands, but from neighboring countries; and who speak a very common world language.
· These changes are almost exclusively driven by market forces: they are part of the global economy: just the other side of the equation.
· It is up to us, then, to make this process more beneficial for everybody in the state; to bridge the gap of ignorance and, yes, prejudice that exists in newcomers and established people.
· We are here to deal with this change, not to judge it; and we will do it with goodwill, open minds, and a clear purpose of giving everybody's children a better world to live in.
5.University role: mandate to work for the welfare of all Missourians. The UM system has to work for the welfare of the state.
7.So let us keep busy in the next three days... And months, and years to come.
8.Thank you for your presence, again.
Let us have a short break before the first plenary.