Former President of Colombia Gaviria

October 6, 2008

What: Former Colombian President César Gaviria will lecture on "New Directions: The Future of US-Latin American Relations," as part of the Gerber Lecture Series presented by Pacific's School of International Studies.

When: 6 p.m. Oct. 6

Where: Faye Spanos Concert Hall on the Stockton campus of University of the Pacific.

Cost: Free and open to the public.


Former Colombian President César Gaviria will lecture on "New Directions: The Future of US-Latin American Relations," as part of the Gerber Lecture Series presented by Pacific's School of International Studies.

During his four-year term, Gaviria strengthened democracy, promoted peace and integrated former rebels into civilian life. Gaviria, who also served as secretary general of the Organization of American States, is a staunch defender of human rights and a government reformer.

He made headlines in the United States when he cracked down on one of the world's most powerful drug kingpins - Pablo Escobar. When it was learned that Escobar continued to operate his drug operation while in prison, Gaviria ordered Escobar to be transferred to another prison where he would be more isolated. Escobar escaped in 1992 and later was killed that year in a shootout with police.

After he left office in 1994, Gaviria was elected Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS) and re-elected for a second term in 1999. During his tenure, the OAS intensified efforts to improve hemispheric security and combat terrorism, drugs and corruption. In 2005, he returned to Colombia and rejoined Colombian politics. He also is an active member of "Club Madrid," an organization composed of former world leaders, including former U.S. President Bill Clinton. That organization concentrates on initiatives and movements to promote democracy.

Gaviria's appearance is part of the launch of the Inter-American Program, which will focus on Latin-American and Hispanic cultural competence and preparation for study and work in the Spanish-speaking world. The lecture also is part of a week-long series of events in honor of the opening and naming of the new Don and Karen DeRosa University Center on Pacific's Stockton campus.

"Latin America has continued to be an extremely important yet often ignored partner in our hemisphere," said Margee Ensign, dean of the School of International Studies. "It has played a significant role in our ongoing debates about immigration, trade, the environment and security, yet neither U.S. presidential candidate has issued a stance or plan on how to deal with Latin America. César Gaviria's speech will explore those issues and remind us why we, as a nation, need to turn our attention to our neighbors to the south."
Ensign hopes Gaviria's message will help highlight Pacific's new Inter-American program along with its long history in fostering greater understanding among peoples and governments of the Americas. From 1962-82 Pacific's Covell College offered a unique and innovative Inter-American liberal arts curriculum in Spanish. Students came from Latin America and the United States and courses were taught by a prestigious faculty from both regions. That program captured the attention of President John F. Kennedy who wrote Pacific to praise the program and earned a front page story in the Wall Street Journal.
With President Gaviria's visit to campus, Pacific will once again inaugurate a new Inter-American program at Pacific. Just like the original Elbert Covell College, "The new Inter-American Program will stress Latin-American issues, cross cultural competency and Spanish-language skills," Ensign said.

The new program is a joint effort between the School of International Studies and several academic units. Students in the program live in Casa Covell, a bilingual, multi-cultural residence hall on the Stockton Campus, and will be awarded a certificate recognizing the development of professional competence in bilingual and cross-cultural understanding, which certifies they are prepared to work in a Spanish-speaking environment in either the U.S. or a Spanish-speaking region. It is also hoped that students, both from the U.S. and from the Latin American region, will become leaders who will promote better relations between the United States and Latin America, Ensign said.

The Gerber Lecture Series began in 2001 with a generous endowment from David and Laraine Gerber. The series has presented many prominent international figures such as Rwanda President Paul Kagame, Bishop Desmond Tutu, United Nations Climate Change Envoy Gro Brundtland, Nobel Peace Prize winner Shirin Abadi and many others.