Fairfield honors ex-President Aristide


Former Haitian President Jean Bertrand Aristide was honored by Fairfield University during a lecture on campus on Oct. 7. The Rev. Aloysius P. Kelley, S.J., university president, presented President Aristide with the Bellarmine Medal, the university's highest honor. "President Aristide understood well the Haitian proverb that states, 'What the eye doesn't see, doesn't move the heart.' Through fidelity to his own vision, Aristide opened eyes, and moved hearts - the hearts of his people, to hope," said Father Kelley.

During the lecture, President Aristide said Haiti must invest in the education of its people to rebuild after a history of corrupt and oppressive government. There have been 34 government coups in Haiti's 200-year history. He said a campaign is now underway in Haiti, which is now the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere and one of the 20 poorest in the world, to reduce its 85 percent illiteracy rate. He described the country like a piece of broken glass and said the Haitian government, its people and volunteers such as Fairfield University students would make it whole again. "The challenges are enormous," said President Aristide. "Our country is almost like starting from zero."

Aristide was elected president of Haiti in 1990 with 67 percent of the vote in a U.N.-monitored election. He was ousted in a 1991 military coup and spent 1,111 days in exile in Washington, D.C. In 1994, he returned to Haiti with the backing of the U.S. military and served the remaining 14 months of his five-year presidential term.

Fairfield University has sent students, faculty and administrators to Haiti in a Mission Volunteer Program since 1991 and President Aristide invited more to visit and work with his people.

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Media Contact: Nancy Habetz, (203) 254-4000, ext. 2647, nhabetz@fairfield.edu

Posted on October 1, 1996