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The Daily Tar Heel

UNC Honors Chilean President

After receiving the honorary doctor of laws degree, Lagos spoke to the students and faculty gathered in the Morehead Building banquet hall about the importance of security in the world after the tragedies of Sept. 11.

Lagos said the terrorist attacks were the second time he has seen democracy challenged on the Sept. 11 date.

On Sept. 11, 1973, General Augusto Pinochet overthrew Chile's democratic government, after which Lagos chose to live in exile in the United States.

During that time, he spent three years at UNC as a visiting professor in the Department of Latin American Studies.

Lagos returned to his homeland in 1978 to help restore democracy and the kind of security that he said the world needs after Sept. 11. "We are not only fighting terrorism, we are fighting in favor of a new world," he said. "We must improve security in every sense of the word."

Lagos said the entire world needs security, including the "more than 50 percent of mankind" that is living in cruel conditions. Those people need security against the cruelty of starvation, among other things, he said.

The role of university students is to think about how to solve these problems, Lagos said. "I strongly believe it is up to us to be able to change the world."

Lagos said his country is fully behind the United States and its coalition against terrorism. "We feel deeply sorry about the loss of life," he said. "Your pain is our pain, your resolve to fight terrorism is our resolve to fight terrorism."

Lagos also reflected on his days in Chapel Hill, which he said helped him greatly during his life in politics. "What I learned here, what I was able to think here, the discussion I was able to have here, has (influenced) my decisions for the better," he said.

Earlier Friday afternoon, Lagos met with more than 100 students and faculty, many from the Latin American Studies department, for a question-and-answer session in the Commons Room of the Graham Memorial Building.

During the session, Lagos joked about his affiliation with Duke University, where he received a doctorate in economics in 1966. "I have a tremendously difficult time going to a basketball game," he said.

After returning to Chile in 1978, Lagos became a leading advocate for the recreation of democracy.

In 1986, Lagos was jailed for his opposition to Pinochet.

He was inaugurated as the president of Chile in March 2000 and has maintained a close relationship with UNC while he serves as president.

Student Body Vice President Rudy Kleysteuber, who is a Chilean citizen, said he was touched by the president's appearance at UNC.

"Ricardo Lagos is an amazing man," Kleysteuber said. "But what is truly touching to me is that not only is he an inspirational leader in Chile, but he is part of the Carolina family."

The University Editor can be reached at udesk@unc.edu.

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