Remarks for President Barack Obama
National Museum of Anthropology
Mexico City, Mexico
Friday, May 3, 2013
Hola! Buenos dias! It is wonderful to be back in México, lindo y querido. I bring with me the greetings and friendship of the people of the United States, including tens of millions of proud Mexican Americans.
This is my fourth visit to Mexico as President. Each time, I’ve been inspired—by your culture, by the beauty of this land, and most of all, by the Mexican people. You’ve welcomed my wife Michelle here. You’ve welcomed our daughter Malia and her classmates to Oaxaca. And as a proud dad, I have to say—her Spanish is getting pretty good. It helps that she is smarter than me.
It is an honor to be back in Mexico City—one of the great cities of the world. Es un placer estar entre amigos. It’s fitting that we gather at this great museum, which celebrates Mexico’s ancient civilizations and their achievements in arts and architecture, medicine and mathematics. In modern times, your blend of cultures and traditions found its expression in the murals of Rivera, the paintings of Frida, the poetry of Sor Juana and the essays of Octavio Paz.
Paz once spoke words that capture the spirit of our gathering today—in this place that celebrates your past, but which this morning is filled with you, the young people who will shape Mexico’s future. “Modernity,” Paz said, “is not outside us, but within us. It is today and the most ancient antiquity; it is tomorrow and the beginning of the world; it is a thousand years old and yet newborn.”
That’s why I wanted this opportunity to speak with you today. You live at the intersection of history of which Paz spoke. You honor your heritage, thousands of years old, but you are also part of something new, a nation remaking itself. And as our modern world changes around us, it is the spirit of young people, your optimism and idealism, that will drive the world forward.
You see the difference between the world as it is and the world as it ought to be; between old attitudes that can stifle progress and the new thinking that allows us to connect and collaborate across cultures. That includes how we think about the relationship between our two nations.
Despite the deep bonds and values we share, attitudes—in both countries—are sometimes trapped in old stereotypes. Some Americans only see the Mexico depicted in sensational headlines of violence and border crossings. Some Mexicans may think America disrespects Mexico, that we seek to impose ourselves on Mexican sovereignty, or, alternatively, wish to wall ourselves off. And in both countries, such distortions can breed myths and misunderstanding that only make it harder to make progress together.
I have come to Mexico because it is time to put old mindsets aside. It’s time to recognize new realities, including the impressive progress in today’s Mexico. For even as Mexicans continue to make courageous sacrifices for the security of your country; even as Mexicans in the countryside and in neighborhoods not far from here struggle to give their children a better life…it’s also clear that a new Mexico is emerging.
I see a Mexico that is deepening your democracy. Citizens who are standing up and saying that violence and impunity is not acceptable. A courageous press working to hold leaders accountable. A robust civil society, including brave defenders of human rights who demand dignity and rule of law. Political parties that compete vigorously, transfer power peacefully, and forge the compromise on which progress depends. And even as the work of perfecting democracy is never done—as we know in both our countries—you go forward knowing the truth that Benito Juarez once spoke: “democracy is the destiny of humanity.”
I see a Mexico that is creating new prosperity. Trading with the world. Becoming a manufacturing powerhouse—from Tijuana and Monterrey to Guadalajara and across the central highlands—a global leader in automobiles and appliances and electronics. But also a center of high-tech innovation, producing the software and hardware of our digital age. One man in Querétaro spoke for an increasing number of Mexicans. “There’s no reason to go abroad in search of a better life,” he said. “There are good opportunities here.”
Indeed, I see a Mexico that has lifted millions from poverty. Because of the sacrifices of generations, a majority of Mexicans now call themselves middle class, with a quality of life that your parents and grandparents could only dream of. This includes new opportunities for women, who are proving that—when given the chance—you can shape the destiny of your country, too.
In you, Mexico’s youth, I see a generation empowered by technology. I think I see some of you tweeting and WhatsApping right now. And whether it’s harnessing social media to preserve indigenous languages, or speaking up for the future you want, you’re making it clear that your voice will be heard.
And I see a Mexico that is taking its rightful place in the world. Standing up for democracy in our hemisphere. Sharing your expertise with neighbors across the Americas—when they face earthquakes or threats to their citizens or go to the polls to cast their votes. You’ve joined the ranks of the world’s.t economies, and became the first Latin American nation to host the G-20, another confident step on the world stage.
Just as Mexico is being transformed, so too are the ties between our two countries. As President, I’ve been guided by a basic proposition—in this relationship there is no senior partner or junior partner. We are two equal partners—two sovereign nations that must work together in mutual interest and mutual respect.
Just as I worked with President Calderon, I have reaffirmed with President Peña Nieto that the great partnership between our two countries will not simply continue, it will grow even stronger, even broader. In my time with President Peña Nieto, I’ve come to see his deep commitment to Mexico and its future. We share the belief that as leaders our guiding mission is to improve the lives of our peoples. And so we agree that the relationship between our nations must be defined—not by the threats we face—but by the prosperity and opportunity we can create together. And if we are serious about being equal partners, then both our nations must recognize our responsibilities.
Here in Mexico, you’ve embarked on ambitious reforms—to make your economy more competitive and your institutions more accountable to you, the people. As you pursue these reforms, know that you have the strong support of the United States. Because whether you’re looking for basic services, or trying to start a new business, we share your belief that you should be able to make it through the day without paying a bribe. And when talented Mexicans like you imagine your future, you should have every opportunity to succeed right here in the country you love.
In the United States, we recognize our responsibilities as well. We understand that the root cause of much of the violence here—and so much suffering for many Mexicans— is the demand for illegal drugs, including in the United States. Now, I do not believe that legalizing drugs is the answer; instead, I believe in a comprehensive approach—not just law enforcement, but education, prevention and treatment. And we’re going to keep at it—because the lives of our children and the future of our nations depend on it.
We recognize that most of the guns used to commit violence here in Mexico come from the United States. In America, our Constitution guarantees our individual right to bear arms, and as President I swore an oath to uphold that right—and I always will. At the same time, as I’ve said back home, I will continue to do everything in my power to pass common sense gun reforms that keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people—reforms that will save lives in both our countries. Meanwhile, we’ll keep increasing the pressure on the gun traffickers who bring illegal guns into Mexico, and we’ll keep putting these criminals where they belong—behind bars.
We recognize our responsibility—as a nation that believes that all people are created equal—to treat one another with dignity and respect. This includes recognizing how the United States has been strengthened by the extraordinary contributions of immigrants from Mexico and by Americans of Mexican heritage.
Mexican Americans enrich our communities, including my hometown of Chicago, where you can walk through neighborhoods like Pilsen and La Villita, dotted with murals of Mexican patriots, where you can stop at a fonda or hear the rhythms of timeless ballads, and where we are inspired by the deep faith of our peoples at churches like Our Lady of Guadalupe.
We’re grateful to Mexican Americans in every segment of our society—for teaching our children, running our companies, serving with honor in our military, making breakthroughs in science, and standing up for social justice. As Dr. Martin Luther King told Cesar Chavez, we are “brothers in the fight for equality.” Indeed, without the strong support of Hispanics, including so many Mexican Americans, I would not be standing before you today as President of the United States.
Our shared future is one of the reasons that we in the United States also recognize the need to reform our immigration system. We are a nation of laws, and like every nation we have the responsibility to ensure that our laws are upheld.
But we also know that, as a nation of immigrants, the immigration system we have in the United States now doesn’t reflect our values. It separates families when we should be reuniting them. It’s led to millions of people living in the shadows. It deprives us of the talents of so many young people—even though we know that immigrants have always been an engine of our economy; starting some of our greatest companies, pioneering new industries.
That’s one of the reasons I acted to lift the shadow of deportation from DREAMers—young people brought to the United States as children. And that’s why I’m working with our Congress to pass common sense immigration reform. Reform that continues to strengthen border security and strengthen legal immigration, so citizens don’t have to wait years to bring their family to the United States. Reform that holds everyone accountable— so immigrants get on the right side of the law and so immigrants are not exploited and abused. Most of all, reform that gives millions of undocumented individuals a pathway to earn their citizenship. And I’m optimistic that—after years of trying—we’re finally going to get this done.
Obviously, we seek to work with the Mexican government on all issues related to a well-regulated border. But I also believe that the long-term solution to the challenge of illegal immigration—so we’re not dealing with this, decade after decade—is a growing, prosperous Mexico that creates more jobs and opportunity right here.
I agree with the Mexican student who said, “I feel like we can reach the same level as anyone in the world.” And so I firmly believe…juntos, podemos lograr más. Together, we can achieve more. So with the remainder of my time today, I want to focus on five areas where we can do more.
First, let’s do more to expand the trade and commerce that creates good jobs for our people. We already buy more of your exports than any other country. We sell more of our exports to Mexico than we do to Brazil, Russia, India and China—combined. Mexican companies are investing more in the United States, and we’re the.t foreign investor in Mexico—because we believe in Mexico, and we want to be a partner in your success.
Guided by the new economic dialogue that President Peña Nieto and I announced yesterday, let’s do more to unlock the true potential of our relationship. Let’s keep investing in our roads, bridges and border crossings so we can trade faster and cheaper. Let’s help our smaller businesses, which employ most of our workers, access new markets—the big markets right across the border. Let’s empower our young entrepreneurs as they create the startups that can transform how we live. And let’s realize the Trans-Pacific Partnership, this year, so our two nations can compete and win in the fast-growing markets of the Asia Pacific.
Second, let’s not just sell more things to each other, let’s build more things together. With many of our companies operating in both our countries, parts are now being shipped back and forth across the border as they’re assembled. So every day, U.S. and Mexican workers are building things together—cars, aircraft, computers, satellites.
I believe this is only the beginning. Given the skills of our workers, it makes even more sense for companies from around the world to set up shop in our countries. As Mexico reforms, we’ll be able to do even more business together. And the more that our companies collaborate, the more competitive they’ll be and the more products we’ll sell to the world.
Third, as we secure our economic future, let’s secure our energy future, including the clean energy we need to combat climate change. Our nations are blessed with boundless natural beauty—from our coastlines and farmlands to your tropical forests. And just as the science of climate change is undeniable, so is the fact that our economies must become greener.
In the United States, we’ve made historic commitments to clean and renewable energy, and reduced our emissions of harmful carbon pollution. Here in Mexico, you’re a leader in cutting carbon emissions and in helping developing countries do the same. Together, let’s keep building new clean energy partnerships by harnessing wind and solar and the good jobs that come with them. Let’s keep investing in green buildings and smart grid technologies so we’re making our planet cleaner and safer for future generations.
Fourth—and this is part of staying competitive, too—let’s do more together in education so our young people have the knowledge and skills to succeed. Here in Mexico you’ve made important progress—with more children staying in school longer, and record numbers of students like you getting a university education.
Just imagine how much the students of our two countries could do together and learn from each other. That’s why President Peña Nieto and I announced a new partnership in higher education—to encourage more collaboration between our universities and students. We’re going to focus on science, technology, engineering and math. It’s part of my broader initiative called 100,000 Strong in the Americas. We want 100,000 students from the United States studying in Latin America, including Mexico. And we want 100,000 Latin American students—including Mexicans like you—to come study in the United States.
Finally, to help energize your careers and spark the industries of the future, let’s truly invest in innovation, research and development. Here in Mexico, you’re now a global leader in graduating engineers and technicians. One of Mexico’s leading scientists, Rafael Navarro-González, is helping analyze data from the rover on Mars.
Together, let’s remember that every dollar and every peso that we invest in research and development returns so much more to our economies—more jobs, more opportunity. So let’s forge new partnerships in areas like aerospace, IT, nanotechnology, biotechnology and robotics. Let’s answer the hope of a young woman—a student at the National Polytechnic Institute—who spoke for many in your generation, so eager to make your mark. She said, “give us jobs as creators.” Give us jobs as creators.
Mexico, I know there are those—in this country and beyond—who are skeptical of your progress; who doubt your capacity to make the most of this moment. They say the headwinds you face are just too stiff. They say Mexico has been here before, eyes fixed on a bright horizon, on the verge of great possibility, only to be blown off course.
It is true that nothing is inevitable. Progress and success is never guaranteed. The future you dream of, the Mexico you imagine—it must be earned. And no one else can do it for you. It can only be earned by you. You are the future. As Nervo wrote in “La Raza de Bronce”—tu eres el sueño. You are the dream.
For just as it was patriots, young and old, who answered the call when Father Miguel Hidalgo rang that church bell two centuries ago, you—your lives, in a free Mexico—are the dream they imagined. And now it falls to you to keep alive those virtues for which so many generations of Mexicans struggled.
You are the dream—the generation that can stand up for justice and human rights and human dignity, here at home and around the world.
You are the creators, the builders, the climbers, the strivers who can deliver progress and prosperity that will lift up the Mexican people for generations to come.
You are the men and women who will push this nation upward as Mexico assumes its rightful place in the world, as you proudly sing: “in heaven your eternal destiny was written by the finger of God.”
You are the dream. This is your moment. And as you reach for the future you know is possible, always remember that your greatest partner—the nation rooting for your success more than anyone else—is your closest neighbor and strongest friend, the United States of America.
Viva México! Viva los Estados Unidos! Que Dios los bendiga!