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Brazilian president announces chair in Brazilian studies
STANFORD -- Brazilian President Fernando Henrique Cardoso announced the endowment of a chair in Brazilian studies to a standing room only audience at Stanford's Dinkelspiel Auditorium on Monday, March 11.
The chair, which will allow Stanford to bring a distinguished scholar of Brazil to campus each year, is funded by a $1 million gift from the New York branch of Safra National Bank of Brazil. It has been in the planning stages since Brazilian officials came here in the summer of 1994 to watch the Brazilian soccer team play in World Cup competition. Stanford's connections to Brazil go back to its second president, John Casper Branner, and include the most extensive U.S. research library collection on Brazil.
Cardoso, 64, who was a visiting professor of political science here in 1977 when Brazil was run by a military dictatorship, used his brief visit to the campus to "praise the art of politics" and defend elected politicians at a time when, he said, the public seems to hold them in low regard. He delivered the university's distinguished Robert G. Wesson Lecture during a two-day visit to the Bay Area, before heading to Japan. The lecture fund provides the Institute for International Studies with support for an annual public address by a prominent scholar or practicing professional in the field of international relations.
New problems for democracy
Today's politicians face a greater demand for accountability than their predecessors because of the breakdown of integrated political parties or lasting coalitions, Cardoso said during his lecture.
Voters, he said, no longer can be neatly defined as holding views on the right or the left, and so demand more accountability from politicians than they did when political ideology was a more unifying force.
Successful politicians also must work harder today to build a consensus and to "create space" for grassroots groups that are not formally represented by political parties, said the veteran senator who was elected president last year.
Saying he was "proud to be a politician," the man who has forged two political parties in the past spoke of modern political leadership as approximating Octavio Paz's definition of history - "a daily invention, a continual creation; a hypothesis, a risky game, a wager against the unforeseeable. Not a science, but rather knowledge, not a technical skill, but rather an art."
Restoration of democracy in Brazil, Cardoso said, has been "nothing but a first step, one that is necessary, but in and of itself insufficient if we are to correct the serious social imbalances of our society."
The problems, he said, are not confined to Brazil. "Representative democracy has shown a need for renewal in every country where it has been adopted," he said. "Democratic systems face problems such as the citizenry's growing lack of interest in politics, low voter turnout during elections and, even more seriously, a growing degree of hostility on the part of voters with regard to politicians."
National legislatures, he said, "are the natural locus for the continual consensus-building which is the requirement if we are to move forward while simultaneously safeguarding the values most dear to our sense of nationality, the values without which no nation can recognize itself."
Cardoso must negotiate with 18 political parties in an effort to broaden consensus in Brazil. "Furthermore, it is essential that the public realm be enlarged so as to increasingly encompass those who are voiceless today," he said. While the church and other institutions have played this role in the past, he said, it is no longer enough. An effective leader "has to symbolize something beyond what is being debated at the time by normal political organizations."
The pace of government action, he said, is unfairly characterized as "gridlock and inefficiency, whereas the truth is that the congress's schedule is overloaded with highly complex issues."
Politicians are struggling with the reality that countries have become more diverse economically and politically, he said, and can no longer divide their constituents into two main classes - the bourgeoisie and the proletariat.
"Individuals and groups are no longer defined by the roles they play in social relations of production, but primarily by their regional, racial, cultural or religious identities," he said. As a result, politicians are held accountable to more groups with more narrow social demands.
"In sum, we are experiencing the fragmentation of society into groups or ghettos. This has led to a simplification in a way, since only the market or mass culture is left to unite citizens in forging a national identity. Both the values that formed the glue that held national societies together and the values that guided the relations within them are fading away."
Cardoso said improving the political system requires attention to the role of the media, but that "representative democracy depends on solid and strong institutions, whose pace is of necessity slower than the flow of information."
"I acknowledge the important role played by the press in fighting authoritarianism in Latin America," he said, "but the press needs to move beyond an 'adversarial' attitude to play a constructive role as well."
As Cardoso left Dinkelspiel Auditorium, a protester with a bullhorn criticized his support for building highways in the Amazon rainforest.
University's Brazilian connections
In his introduction of Cardoso, President Gerhard Casper said that Stanford's connection with Brazil began before the university was founded in 1891. John Casper Branner, who became Stanford's first professor of geology and its second president, was a Cornell University student in 1874 when he met Emperor Dom Pedro II in Brazil. Together they founded the Geological Commission of the Brazilian Empire. Branner stayed in Brazil until 1880 and returned five times.
During the Spanish-American War, Branner briefly was detained on suspicion of being a spy for the U.S. government. Later, apologetic Brazilian authorities decreed to him the right to stop any train any time he wished to investigate plants or geology. (When Casper teasingly suggested that Cardoso grant him the same privilege, Cardoso reminded him that he was a president, not an emperor.)
Branner established the basis for Stanford's library collection on Brazil, Casper said. Major research libraries in the United States hold a combined 32,600 volumes on Brazil, and Stanford's collection is 60 percent of the total.
Cardoso and his wife, Ruth, were jointly awarded the Tinker Visiting Professorship in Latin American Studies in 1992, but they were unable to accept when he was named foreign minister of Brazil.
The new chair in Brazilian studies will be connected to the Center for Latin American Studies, within the Institute for International Studies. Under the direction of political science Professor Terry Karl, the center recently expanded its teaching and research on Brazil to include a faculty/graduate student working group that was launched by José Serra, Brazil's minister of planning and budget, during a visit in 1995. A Brazilian Writer in Residence Program also has been established, along with new courses, and the Graduate School of Business recently added a study trip to Brazil.
The new chair will be named for Joaquim Nabuco, an 18th-century Brazilian crusader against slavery who became the Brazilian republic's first ambassador to the United States, where he was a staunch supporter of Pan-Americanism.
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