November 22, 2000
Thank you, Antonia (Hernandez, President and
General Counsel of MALDEF) for your leadership and for inviting
me to be here on this wonderful evening. Let me on behalf of 34
million Californians thank MALDEF for the work that it does day
in and day out. MALDEF, I believe, is one of the strongest forces
for justice, opportunity, and basic human rights our nation has
ever seen, so thank you for what you do.
I would like to acknowledge the presence of mi buen amigo, Cruz Bustamante, vice-gobernador; the speaker of the California Assembly, a very good friend, Robert Hertzberg; and also a good friend of mine, the former speaker, Antonio Villaraigosa. There are many other of my colleagues here and I want to thank them all for being here.
Mr. President-elect, it is a great honor to welcome you to California. As you know, the Republic of Mexico and California have a very long shared history, shared traditions, much of our culture we have borrowed from Mexico and we are so thrilled and honored that you would spend this night with us.
I had a chance to ride in from the airport with President-elect Fox and I can tell you this is a decent man, a man of honor, a man of great intellect, a man who will take the Republic of Mexico to the next level to the advantage of all the people he serves and the advantage of all the peoples of the Americas. I'm honored to share this night with you and welcome you to the state of California.
Some of you will recall, when I took office two years ago, the relationships between California and Mexico were not as good as they should have been. Put it that way. And I'm delighted that we have improved on that. I said when I was inaugurated that I was going to do my best to ring down the curtain on wedge issue politics. And within 28 days of taking office, I flew to Mexico City to extend La Mano de Amistad to the President of Mexico, Ernesto Zedillo.
Five months later, President Zedillo extended his hand, came to California for three days, and traveled throughout the state. In my discussions with President-elect Fox, I know we're going to continue this relationship of exchanging visits, exchanging cultural missions, exchanging academic pursuits, joint research projects, and building our economies to a higher level to the benefit of all the peoples we represent. So I am very much looking forward to that.
Let me just say two things about the progress we've made over the last two years. We have worked very hard to improve the environment at the border. We've worked very hard to improve the opportunities for economic investment. And I am proud to say that when I became governor Mexico was our second largest trading partner, but today they are our single largest trading partner.
We have also worked in ways to help our neighboring state Baja California. Our Corporations Department approved a program that had previously not been approved by the state of California. We now have Blue Shield's Access Baja HMO. Which means that many people who live in Baja California, but come across the border to work in the United States can now get health care either in the United States or in Baja California, whichever they prefer. This is a great step forward for the 40 or 50 thousand people that make that commute every day.
We've also established 15 Mexican Trade Centers at community colleges located throughout the state to encourage more activity between small business in California and in Mexico. That is generating opportunities on both sides of the border to our mutual advantage.
And finally, I was very proud last year to sign a bill the legislature sent me, I believe it was unanimous, in which I became the first governor in America to sign a bill setting aside a special holiday for Cesar Chavez. Ours was the first state to do it.
Mr. President-elect, Señor Presidente Electo, I look forward to building on our relationship, to improving opportunities for the people of the great Republic of Mexico as well as the people of the State of California.
I want to invoke the wisdom of Benito Juarez, the founding father of Mexican democracy, who once said, "Respect for the rights of others is peace."
Today, we embrace this new relationship with the President-elect, recognizing that we will not agree on every single issue all the time, but we agree that the people that we represent deserve the very best we can give them. And that our common fate lies in mutual cooperation, exchanging of mutual culture and wisdom, and realization that we can do far more for them than we have done in the past.
To that end, I pledge my very best efforts. President-elect Fox, I welcome you to California with open arms and an open heart - con abrazos y corazones abiertos.
Thank you and God bless you.