This presentation by Eduardo J. Padrón
, President of Miami Dade College, was given
at the international conference "Reimagining Democratic Societies" that took place in Oslo, Norway 27-29 June, 2011.
President Padrón is widely recognized as one of the top educational
leaders in the world and is often invited to participate in educational
policy forums in the United States and abroad. In 1993, President Bill
Clinton recognized him as one of America’s foremost educators. President
George W. Bush nominated him to the National Institute for Literacy
More recently, he represented the U.S. at UNESCO’s World
Conference on Higher Education at the invitation of the Obama
administration and President Obama appointed him Chairman of the White
House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanic Americans.
During his career he has been selected to serve on posts of national
prominence by five American presidents.
The international conference Reimagining Democratic Socities: A New Era of Personal and Social Responsibilities?
was organized by the Council of Europe; the US Steering Committee of the International Consortium for Higher Education, Civic Responsibility and Democracy; the University of Oslo and the European Wergeland Centre.
It was part of the cooperation between different partners
committed to promoting democracy, human rights and the rule of law as
well as social cohesion and intercultural dialogue, and their belief in
the key role of education in furthering these goals.
higher education leaders and representatives of public authorities from
the United States and Europe with some participants also from other
parts of the world as well as from NGOs took part in this conference.
From Padrón's speech:
Our conference agenda centers on what is, perhaps, the most fundamental of topics for people across the globe, the importance of crafting and sustaining democratic societies. It is an enormous challenge for we are living in a time with little precedent, both in its great potential and for its uncertainty. Our human ingenuity has given rise to a new dimension of global communication, one that is reshaping the world of knowledge and learning. And in the very same moment, our human foibles, our ignorance is on display. Our differences and our diversity, the very raw material of democracy, prove too often divisive, and our sense of common purpose so frail as to disappear.But I choose to side with the great potential of this new time. I am hopeful - and that is the effect of spending a lifetime in an extraordinary learning environment. I have seen more than my share of transformation, and at this critical time in our history, I am more convinced than ever that education – authentic learning that nourishes mind and spirit – is the saving grace of this era. And more to the point, it offers the energy to revitalize our democratic roots. Study after study has confirmed that higher education, clearly the prime variable in advancing economic standing, is also the principal factor in civic participation and community building. Having said that, however, I fear it will take more than casting a ballot to re-energize our democratic traditions.Download the speech