Baylor Hosts President Bush, Mexican President Fox And Canadian Prime Minister Martin For Historic Meeting

March 23, 2005

by Lori Scott Fogleman

Baylor University welcomed President George W. Bush, Mexican President Vicente Fox and Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin on March 23 for meetings the leaders said provide a framework for the next generation of trilateral relations between the North American countries. The meeting was followed by a working lunch at President Bush's ranch in Crawford, less than 25 minutes away from the Baylor campus.
The leaders of the United States, Mexico and Canada arrived by motorcade at Baylor's Armstrong Browning Library, the location for the meetings on the Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America.

Renowned Library Provides Meeting Site

Baylor President Robert B. Sloan Jr. greeted President Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice at Armstrong Browning, the library world-renowned for its collection of book and manuscript holdings related to Victorian poets, Robert and Elizabeth Barrett Browning. The stately library was chosen by White House staff as the site of the meetings because of its impressive features, such as its bronze doors, stained glass windows, paneled walls, polished floors and antique furniture that reflect the lives and works of the two poets.
Sloan said he spent about 20 minutes discussing various issues with the President and Secretary Rice, during which "President Bush expressed great appreciation for Baylor University."
By Mr. Bush's request, Sloan also welcomed the arrival of both President Fox and Prime Minister Martin. Other members of President Bush's cabinet that attended the meetings included Chief of Staff Andrew H. Card Jr., Secretary of Commerce Carlos M. Gutierrez, Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff, National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley, and Assistant to the President and Deputy Chief of Staff Joseph Hagin.
"It is an honor for Baylor University to host the leaders of the United States, Canada and Mexico," Sloan said. "Here at Baylor, we want to teach our students to serve. Baylor today had the opportunity to serve on behalf of our country and the world, and it is a tremendous privilege for Baylor to host this trilateral meeting."
Mr. Bush remembered "very favorably," Sloan said, the President's Economic Forum, which was hosted by Baylor in August 2002, as well as the visit of Russian President Vladimir Putin, who was a guest at the President's ranch in Crawford in November 2001. For both events, Baylor hosted an array of special guests, including cabinet members, White House and State Department staff, Fortune 500 company CEOs and hundreds of journalists from all over the world, who filed their stories from a media center set up in the McLane Student Life Center.

Table A 'Work of Art'

President Bush, President Fox and Prime Minister Martin held their high-level talks in Armstrong Browning's John Leddy-Jones Research Hall, an exquisite reading room for Browning scholars and students. However, the presidential meeting added an additional work of art to the room - a custom-built, 18-foot round table, with 18 chairs for the leaders, their cabinet members and ministers, and other staff.
"We searched all over the United States for a table, but when we couldn't find one to the president's specifications, we contacted a Waco company, C.M. Trautschold Millwork Co., who also did the cabinet work in Baylor Law School and the woodwork in the Baylor Sciences Building," said Rick Creel, associate vice president for operations and facilities at Baylor.
Creel said Trautschold built the 19-piece, solid wood, stained table in 48 hours, with its center embossed with the meeting's logo design. Baylor carpenters also fashioned a plaque for the table that read, "For the exclusive use of the trilateral meeting." After the meeting, the table will be taken apart, crated and stored.
"But hopefully it will be on display someday here at Baylor," Creel said.

News Conference

The leaders also held a meeting on the other side of Armstrong Browning, in the library's Treasure Room, a dignified, dark-paneled room that displays some of the library's extraordinary collections of Browning items. At the conclusion of the meetings, President Bush, President Fox and Prime Minister Martin departed the library by motorcade and drove through the Baylor campus to the Bill Daniel Student Center for a news conference in Barfield Drawing Room.
The elegant room was transformed into a working media center, with platforms and seating areas arranged to accommodate more than 120 television and print journalists and photographers, as well as several dignitaries from each country. White House staff members also spent the week searching for the right "look" for the staging and news conference background. In the end, designers covered the room's stylish archways with a mosaic of each country's flags that created a "stained glass" effect behind each leader.
"Baylor's been fantastic," said Scott Sforza, deputy assistant to the president/deputy director of communications. "I have never worked with better people in my life."
Once the news conference began, President Bush, President Fox and Prime Minister Martin appeared under a canopy of Mexican, American and Canadian flags, with Mr. Bush beginning with news conference with some gracious words for Baylor. (Click here for a transcript of today's news conference.).
"It's my honor to welcome two friends to Baylor University," the President said. "First, I want to thank the Baylor University family for providing these facilities for us. Your hospitality is awesome."
"I want to also gratitude for this wonderful reception, for this wonderful facility here at Baylor University, and of course, my gratitude to the authorities here in Waco, the venue of this important event," said President Fox.
"It's a real pleasure to be here in Texas and to stand with President Bush and President Fox as representatives of a strong North America," Prime Minister Martin said. "We represent three sovereign nations that have formed one of the most successful partnerships in the world."
The leaders then announced the establishment of the Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America and took questions from the media on the new accord, as well as the Terri Schiavo case in Florida and Secretary of State Rice's recent visit to Asia. President Bush, President Fox and Prime Minister Martin then exited the student center and traveled to Mr. Bush's Crawford ranch for a working lunch.
(Click here for a Fact Sheet: Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America).
Baylor Student Body President Jeff Leach attended the news conference, although the high level of security surrounding the talks did not allow for much participation for Baylor faculty and students.
"To have our campus as the site for this meeting is both a blessing and a privilege," Leach said. "Our students realize that colleges all over the country don't often have an opportunity to see the presidential motorcade, much less to hold a news conference with three world leaders in our Student Union Building."
"Just by holding this trilateral meeting on the Baylor campus has provided great energy for any discussions on current political affairs," said President Sloan. "It has provided a tremendous academic experience simply by having President Bush, President Fox and Prime Minister Martin at Baylor."
Sloan's comments were echoed by Dr. Joseph McKinney, professor of economics and The Ben H. Williams Professor of International Economics, and Dr. Victor Hinojosa, assistant professor of political science. Both faculty members attended the news conference as resources for reporters on the North American Free Trade Agreement and U.S./Mexico relations.
"Having three heads of state on campus provides a lot to talk about in class," said Hinojosa, who teaches Government and Politics of Mexico (PSC 4304), a survey of Mexican politics in the 20th century. Hinojosa's fluency in Spanish also provided the Baylor alum with several interview opportunities with members of the Mexican media, as well as American journalists.

Baylor Staff Steps Up

An event of this magnitude doesn't just happen overnight. Baylor staff members began meeting with the White House, the Secret Service and delegations from Mexico and Canada only a week ago to prepare for the trilateral meeting.
More than 25 members of Baylor's facilities services staff, under manager Don Bagby, were responsible for taking care of a variety of needs, from providing electrical power and building staging to erecting security tents and moving furniture.
"We installed three generators and ran one-and-a-half miles of power cable," Bagby said. "We built the staging for the media and the stage for leaders, and we even provided services like interior design, with Lois Ferguson getting holding rooms ready for the leaders and their delegations."
Bob Hartland's staff in Internet networks and services installed 110 phone lines, 80 hard network lines and some wireless access for White House staff, each country's delegation and accompanying media in three separate venues - Armstrong Browning Library, Bill Daniel Student Center and Roxy Grove Hall.
"That was a real challenge, but I have some terrific people, such as Stacey Benningfield, (director of telecommunications operations) and his staff, Scott Day (manager of network services) and his group, and Bill Lechner (coordinator of network special projects) and his staff."
The first floor of the student center was quickly turned into a media hub, with the CUB area a filing center for Mexico's press, the BEAR Food Court a temporary editing suite and studio for CNN, and the DEN student lounge a filing center for Canadian press.
"I am extraordinarily proud of the staff in operations and facilities, who dedicated many overtime hours away from their families and even from their spring break to make this meeting a success," Rick Creel said. "Don Bagby, Chris Krause and their teams really stepped up and were instrumental in answering every request of the White House and the Secret Service. One agent said that they had not had this level of cooperation with another other venue, and they were very pleased."