Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos returns to KU
- Sep. 24, 2012
- 1 Comment
For Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, his speech at the Dole Institute of Politics Monday was less of a visit and more of a homecoming, as he returned to his Alma Matter for the first time since graduating in 1973. The visit marked the first time a sitting head-of-state spoke at the Institute.
Santos and his delegation stopped over in Lawrence before they headed to the United Nations’ General Assembly in New York, which starts on September 25.
During his brief visit, Santos spoke to an audience at the Dole Institute of Politics Monday afternoon, before being presented with the Alumni Distinguished Achievement Award, the highest award given out by the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.
“When you consolidate the principles, the values, the experiences you have as a student, they eventually give you the instruments to be successful in life,” Santos said. “I repeat with pride, those instruments were made at KU.”
Santos has applied them to how he’s governed Colombia. Recently, Colombia captured the last remaining major drug lord, Daniel Barrera, in Venezuela with full cooperation of the Venezuelan authorities.
“I thought it was really interesting, everything he’s done to calm down the drug wars over there,” Michael Virgo, a graduate student from Overland Park said. “That’s definitely an important thing and it affects Americans too.”
Earlier this year, Santos entered into peace talks with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, also known as FARC. They will continue their talks next month in an effort to put an end to the violence that has plagued Colombia since 1964.
Jessie Pringle, a freshman from Chanute, said Santos’ achievements show what is possible with a degree from the University.
“Even though he didn’t hold any leadership positions, anything is really possible,” Pringle said.
Santos spent his first year at here living in McCollum Hall. He joined the Delta Upsilon fraternity, where he lived for two years before moving into an apartment for his final year on campus.
While at the University, Santos also honed his poker skills. This led to him investing his winnings in a small pizza chain restaurant, Pizza Hut. Santos used money he made off of his investment to purchase his first car.
Vanessa Beltran, a junior from Overland Park, holds Colombian citizenship. She jumped at the chance to see President Santos.
“I didn’t know what to expect,” Beltran said. “In Colombia it’s really hard to see the president, and it’s really cool that I can see him here.”
With his Kansas values under his belt, Santos heads to the U.N. General Assembly hoping to find solutions not only to the problems that face Colombia, but to ones that have a global impact.
And he feels the general assembly is a great place to get things done.
“Diplomacy is always a better solution than war,” Santos said.
Editor’s Note: The lead has been corrected to say president Santos was the first head-of-state to speak at the Dole Institute of Politics.