The state of the globalization center

Just over two months ago, Strobe Talbott ’68 announced that he would leave his post as director of the newly founded Yale Center for the Study of Globalization. Talbott’s departure left a gaping void at the center — over which he had almost sole control — and dealt a major blow to Yale President Richard Levin’s much publicized aspiration to make the University a greater force on the international stage.

Given the newness of the center, there was serious doubt about whether it would continue — a question that depended above all else on whether Yale would be able to find a director of Talbott’s stature. For weeks, the University revealed little about the future of the center or its search for a new director.

Last week, however, the News learned that Levin has offered the directorship to former Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo GRD ’81, who also received an honorary degree from Yale last May. Zedillo and Levin have declined to speak publicly about the offer, which Zedillo is apparently still considering, but the former president and his family were in New Haven touring the University and speaking with faculty much of this week.

Zedillo is an ideal choice for the position, and if he accepts it the center will immediately regain the tremendous potential it seemed to lose when Talbott announced his departure.

Like Talbott, Zedillo could have the chance to mold the center according to whatever vision he wants. Zedillo is highly qualified to do serious work on a number of topics, and he brings the rare trio of academic excellence, recognizable political accomplishment and ties to the University. His background is primarily in economics — he has a doctorate and a master’s degree from Yale, worked for the Bank of Mexico, and served as secretary of programming and budget before his election to Mexico’s highest office in 1994. And as president, he fought to open trade and fight corruption, considerably bettering relations between the United States and Mexico in the process.

But Zedillo’s greatest diplomatic accomplishment may have come not on the world stage, but rather at his own country’s ballot boxes. Throughout his administration he worked to improve democracy in Mexico, and in 2000 he oversaw what has largely been called the fairest election in Mexican history — even though it led to the end of his Institutional Revolutionary Party’s 71-year monopoly on power.

Getting Zedillo to come to Yale would be a tremendous boost for the globalization center, and we sincerely hope the challenge of restarting the project is attractive enough to bring him to New Haven.

But even if Zedillo decides not to take the job, the University’s decision to pursue such a strong candidate this quickly after Talbott’s departure demonstrates a very encouraging commitment to both the center and Yale’s larger global mission.

Yale’s actions have confirmed that the ideas and potential behind the globalization center reach far beyond the man who directs it. Nevertheless, choosing a skilled leader is essential to giving the project the prestige it deserves.

Yale picked the right man in Zedillo.

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