Shalala recognizes Colombian president for leadership

UM President Donna E. Shalala believes in reciprocating honorable gestures.

On Monday, Shalala awarded Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos Calderon with the University of Miami President’s Medal at the Newman Alumni Center.

Two years ago,  Shalala received the Colombian Congressional Medal of Honor at Bogota’s Constitution Hall.

“I said then that the Congressional Medal of Honor will always represent a bond of friendship and mutual respect between the people of Colombia and our great university,” Shalala said in a statement. “I would now like to return the gesture and bestow the University of Miami President’s Medal on President Santos.’’

Santos, who stopped at the university while on his way to meet with President Barack Obama in Washington, D.C., spoke about the status of his country and about the different ways the country is improving its security, economy and infrastructure. He mentioned the positive route Colombia’s violence problem was taking, and said that he is hopeful that all the proper steps are being taken in order to improve the country’s security.

“If you take away that conflict, I think the sky’s the limit for Colombia,” Santos said.

Santos spoke to students, faculty, trustees and community business leaders.

Sophomore Zoe Kafkes attended the event as extra credit for her current immigration debate class.

She mentioned that she enjoyed attending and also likes that UM often hosts events with well-known political leaders.

“I think it’s great that so many prestigious political figures, or even just prestigious figures, visit campus,” she said. “Part of being at UM and getting an education isn’t just what goes on inside the classroom. It is the opportunities that occur outside the classroom. We can learn so much from experiences like these and they help to make us more diverse from our peers at other universities.”