Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Jose Mujica: He led by Example as President of Uruguay

"I see that there are many young people, as a veteran, as an old man, a little advice... Life can give us many pitfalls, many blows, we can fail a thousand times, in life, in love, in the social struggle, but if we seek, we have the strength to get up again and start over. The most beautiful thing of the day is that it dawns. It is always dawning after the night elapsed. Do not forget it, girls and boys. The only losers are those who stop fighting."  (Jose Mujica, former president of Uruguay, quoted in WIkipedia article on Jose Mujico).

Jose Mujico's VW bug, his only possession.
He lives on a chysanthemum farm with his wife

 outside of Montevideo. He was known
 as "the poorest president in the world," 
but he thinks of his life as blessed and rich.  
He gives most of his salary to charities
that help the poor.
The popular Uruguayan leader, once a guerilla fighter against corrupt regimes, made a similar point when he addressed the Rio+20 summit in June 2011. "We've been talking all afternoon about sustainable development. To get the masses out of poverty....But what are we thinking? Do we want the model of development and consumption of the rich countries? I ask you now: what would happen to this planet if Indians would have the same proportion of cars per household as Germans? How much oxygen would we have left?....Does this planet have enough resources so seven or eight billion can have the same level of consumption and waste that today is seen in rich societies? It is this level of hyper-consumption that is harming our planet." (Vladimir Hernandez, BBX Mundo, 15 Nov. 2012)

As president, José Mujica gave up an official state palace to live in his farmhouse, and he donated the vast bulk of his salary to social projects. He flew economy class and drove an old Volkswagen Beetle.  Like Pope Francis, Mujica fought for the poor, the neglected, the environment. He decried excessive consumption  (Jonathan Watts, The Guardian, 13 December 2013).  He still does. 
Under the Constitution in Uruguay a president can only serve for one term.  I don't know who will take his place (a runoff election between two candidates will be held in November 2015), but the people of Uruguay will be fortunate if he is as authentic and compassionate as Mujica.

I wish there were more leaders like him in this sad, mad world where the wealthy rule, extremism runs rampant, and war trumps peace.   I don't think I've ever felt the presence of evil, or the need for leaders like Jose Mujica to give us hope, to lift us from despair, so strongly in my lifetime. 

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