Good morning. My name is Michael Cohen and I am a Director of the Observatory on Latin America with Director Margarita Gutman.
Mr. President Alberto Fernández, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Santiago Cafiero, Minister of Security, Aníbal Fernández, Minister of Education, Jaime Perczyk, Jorge Arguello, Ambassador to the United States, Madam Ambassador, Maria del Carmen Squeff, Permanent Representative of Argentina to the United Nations, Ambassador Santiago Villalba, Consul-General of Argentina in New York, Members of the Board of Trustees of the New School, Executive Dean Mary Watson, Faculty, Students, and Friends, welcome!
Welcome to this morning’s event in which The New School is very pleased and honored to host President Alberto Fernandez. We are delighted to welcome President Fernandez back to The New School which he visited more than ten years ago when he met with students and talked about his experience about having served as Chief of Cabinet for Presidents Nestor Kirchner and Cristina Fernandez Kirchner, both long-time friends of The New School. We are honored by the presence of a political leader who is also a Professor in the School of Law at the University of Buenos Aires.
The President of The New School, Dr. Dwight McBride, has sent a warm letter of welcome to President Fernandez which will be read now by Executive Dean Mary Watson.
This morning, Mr. President, we are excited to hear your perspective on many current global challenges. We note that you are speaking not only as the President of Argentina but also as the President of CELAC, the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States. We believe that your role in CELAC is critical in helping put Argentina and Latin America in the global conversation. This was reflected in the recent invitation to you to participate in the G-7 meetings in Germany. Here in New York, we have a saying, “if you are not at the table, you are on the menu”.
We are excited to learn more about Latin American thinking at a critical moment in world history.
Mr. President, from our perspective in New York, the relationships between The New School, Argentina, and Latin America are deep, they are wide, and they are committed to social justice in this hemisphere.
Let me explain with a few examples:
In 2003, President Nestor Kirchner was invited to the New School at the time of his participation in the UN General Assembly. The President returned in 2004. The First Lady, then Senator Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner came to the New School five times before 2007.
The New School facilitated the first interactions between Argentine leaders with Nobel Laureates Joseph Stiglitz and Paul Krugman.
We also received Latin American presidents Dilma Rousseff, Tabaré Vázquez, Rafael Correa, and Michelle Bachelet, widening the relationships of the University with the region.
In 2010 it was in this room that the late President Néstor Kirchner, as Secretary-General of the Union of Latin American States (UNASUR), gave his last speech outside of Argentina. He passed away suddenly a month later in Buenos Aires: a great loss, to his country and to Latin America.
The Chairman of the Board of Trustees of The New School at the time, the late Julien J. Studley, urged and supported The New School in establishing, together with the Universidad Nacional de San Martin, the President Néstor Kirchner Fellowship Program. The Program flourished over seven years, bringing young Latin Americans who were both academics and social and political activists to The New School. Former New School President David Van Zandt participated in Buenos Aires as co-chair of the Fellowship Jury for seven consecutive years.
Since 2002, The New School has benefitted from the presence of many Latin American thinkers and activists who have spoken to our students and faculty, such as Jose Antonio Ocampo from Colombia, Celso Amorim and Marco Aurelio Garcia, from Brazil, Heraldo Muñoz from Chile, and Alvaro Garcia Linera and David Choquehuanca from Bolivia. From Argentina these include multiple visits by political leaders such as Ministers Carlos Tomada, Axel Kicillof, and Jorge Taiana, Ambassadors Jorge Arguello and Cecilia Nahón, and Maria Rachid, the Vice-President of INADI, the Instituto Nacional Contra la Discriminacion, Xenophobia, y Racismo, the governmental agency responsible for the fight against discrimination. Recently we were honored to receive the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Santiago Cafiero.
The University has hosted Argentine intellectuals such as the late historian Tulio Halperin Donghi, the late philosopher Jose Pablo Feinman, Alejandro Grimson, Professor of Anthropology, Professor of Social Science Adriana Clemente, NGO leader Alberto Croce, and Architect Dean Berardo Dujovne. Recently we met the Mayor of La Matanza, Fernando Espinosa here on campus. Religious leaders from Argentina have visited the New School to discuss how the different faiths live within Argentine society.
These activities have built a close relationship which we have developed with the Argentine Consulate in New York, and I wish to thank Ambassador Santiago Villalba and his colleagues for their continued support.
All of this gives me confidence to say that Argentina and Latin America have never been an abstraction in this university. As President McBride noted, we have sent 175 Master’s level students to work and study for two months in Buenos Aires. We also sent hundreds of students to work in Brazil, Colombia, and Cuba. We have had dozens of students from all over Latin America. We have developed cooperation agreements with many Latin American universities and some of our most distinguished faculty and academic leaders have spoken in Argentina. During this past summer, 20 of our students studying in Cuba met with the President of Cuba for two hours.
Our relationships are deep, wide, and committed to social justice.
Mr. President, under your leadership Argentina demonstrated an aggressive problem-solving approach to COVID-19, earning praise from the international community. Despite many difficulties and the asymmetries of global political and economic power, Argentina and other Latin American governments have fought hard to return to equitable growth, as evidenced by recent elections in Chile and Colombia.
Your story in Argentina is not so different from other countries in the western hemisphere. Here, in the United States, we are struggling with structural inequalities, growing differences in incomes and opportunities made visible by COVID-19, inflation, and now devastating drops in educational performance of students at all levels. Social progress is under attack and the right wing tries to politicize the problems rather than offering constructive solutions.
After the President speaks there will be time for a few questions which should be submitted anonymously on the cards you have found on your seats. The President has a busy schedule so there is no time this morning for more open discussion.
Mr. President, welcome! We are deeply honored you have chosen to speak to our community.Argentina, Conference