5:47PM: Zeenia Framroze here at the Kennedy School’s Forum featuring a public address by The Honorable Dilma Rousseff, President of Brazil. The event looks packed – tickets were lotteried amongst the Harvard community, and it looks like everyone who got a ticket has shown up. I’m here with Sarah Siskind, who will be analyzing the address later today!
6:02PM: We just received headsets – it looks like the address is going to be in Portuguese. Simply titled, “A Public Address,” attendees are unsure of exactly what the President’s comments will entail, but President Rousseff, who took office in January 2011 is known to be an engaging speaker. Rousseff has just taken the stage to resounding applause.
6:07PM: President Rousseff, the first female head state of Brazil, is welcomed to the Forum by Scott M. Black Professor of Political Economy, and Kennedy School Dean, David T. Ellwood and Merilee Grindle, the Director for the David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies. The introduction is almost a little hard to hear given the Q/A in the pressroom.
6:10PM: President Rousseff takes the podium after we were given a brief history of her political life, from her role resisting military persecution to her time Minister of Mines and Energy. Rousseff mentions her past experiences with Harvard, when she came to learn more about electric energy technology in order to revolutionize systems in Brazil.
6:13PM: “The level of society can be assessed by the role that women play in it. To have men and women in perfect positions to work and act – as the President of Harvard and the President of Brazil no less.” An interesting point made by President Rousseff. She and Drew Faust have more in common than their short hair though. In a short time, Rousseff has had a significant impact on Brazilian politics and energy development, given the country’s relatively recent discovery of oil off the coast.
6:17PM: Brazil’s ability to actively work has been substantially improved according to Rousseff, as is exemplified by the tremendous changes in the country’s development and trade in different markets, including the Argentine market, the growth of the middle class, billions of dollars in reserves and a growing sense of ownership of economic and social policies.
6:18PM: Brazil has managed to lift about 4 million Brazilians into the middle class from extreme levels of poverty by creating hundreds of new jobs. But how much has this actually impacted social inequality in the country? The increase of wealth isn’t always a good thing – arguably, this growth in Brazil has been disparate based on urban and rural areas. Brazil is one of the most diverse countries in the world, oddly more unaffected by social and ethnic classifications – one wonders whether the growth of the middle class has altered this dynamic.
6:21PM: Rousseff’s assessment of Brazilian growth and development seems to correlate with the Modernization theory of development (thank you Prof. Levitsky and Government 20). Rousseff is expressing her hope that the influx of wealth and growth of the middle class will help improve social conditions, particularly education.
6:24PM: Rousseff’s priorities (and there are many that Brazil must try to juggle simultaneously): science and technology, research and design, wealth, social policy and educational policy, labor adjustment measures, emerging from the economic stagnation, sanitation. She notes again that the expanse of electrical accessibility has been a major government landmark.
6:26PM: One of the problems that Brazil faces amid its own domestic development, is likely going to be its relationship with the international market. Rousseff asserted that the crisis seems to have lingered in Europe, which will undoubtedly cause problems for Brazilian trade. As countries’ economies suffer and social issues seem to fall on the back-burner, how will Brazil’s democracy respond?
6:30PM: Rousseff notes that Brazil has learnt its democratic lesson from a history of dictatorships. Indeed, she is very much aware of the dangers of totalitarianism, having spent almost three years in a penitentiary in the city of São Paolo. Looking at the United States and Brazil: both are young, multiethnic democracies, with common economic and behavioral features. The Brazilian president makes note of the shared ethnic roots with Africa – an important part of Brazilian pride. She makes note of the Brazilian connection with the BRIC countries: Brazil, Russia, India, China. Though they may not experience broad consensus, in some ways they’ve learned more from their discourse.
6:40PM: Oh, how I wish I could understand Portuguese – Rousseff is a passionate speaker and the press room seems enraptured. Rousseff hopes to improve the quality of university education, but believes that to truly solve this problem, they must have a greater system of pedagogical stimuli from a very young age. All of the efforts made thus far by the government, in the forms of scholarships and funding, are only small steps in a sequential process of improving education. This, of course, is undoubtedly a way to ultimately improve the R&D conditions in the Brazilian education system. Rousseff also notes that one of the most successful endeavors the Brazilian government has endorsed is Science Without Borders. The scientific mobility group allows students to share information, experiences and research with senior researchers both in Brazil and around the world.
6:45PM: As she comes to the end of her remarks, President Rousseff acknowledges Harvard’s own involvement in scientific research. Sustainable development is high on her priority list – what kind of sustainable development do we want in the 21st century?Brazil’s mantra? One can grow economically, one can improve socially, and one can have sustainability. The current state of affairs has expanded social inequalities in the world – Brazil has brought to the fore the symbiotic nature of political and economic affairs.
6:48PM: “Brazil needs Harvard, as one of the world’s largest economies, it’s probably not a bad idea for Harvard to have Brazil.”
6:51PM: Question and Answer Session (we’re repeating the question). Forum Question: What advice would you give to girls around the world, who look to you as a role model? Answer: President Rousseff gives us a humorous anecdote where she talks about how girls can do anything – from being firefighters to Presidents, including President’s at Harvard!
6:55PM: An excellent question for the audience concerning political prisoners in Brazil and the state of international human rights. Specifically, he asks about the complex issue concerning the imprisonment of Judge Afiuni.
7:10PM: Conclusively, President Rousseff’s public address was a success. Her eloquence in answering questions for the audience ranging from the stain of government corruption to being a role model for young women was admirable. The Brazilian approach to the future, that hopes to incorporate benefits for the environment, the sociopolitical system and the economy seems like a well-intentioned policy direction, but ambitious. It will be difficult for the President and her government to juggle these issues while maintaining popularity and sustained growth. However, President Rousseff seems to be a determined woman, keen to tackle every problem this large, diverse country will face. All in all, the Harvard Political Review will have its eye on Brazil – looking forward to RIO2016!