Jose Edwards, Class of 2006
Catherine B. Reynolds Foundation Fellow,
Chilean Congressman, Araucania Region, District 51
Three years after attending the Academy of Achievement, I was elected to Congress, represent Chile’s only minority-majority district. Gaining the hearts of the Mapuche people has proved to be one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.
For many years, the Mapuche people have not enjoyed equality of access to education, justice, or public benefits. As a result, they make up one of the neediest groups of our society. As a Congressman, I have worked with Mapuche communities and the Chilean government to design public policies that help resolve their challenges in a culturally sensitive way. I have spent a great part of my time addressing issues such as the lack of access to clean water, rural public transportation and economic development.
In Congress, I sit on the Foreign Affairs Committee and chair the Economic Committee. Working in tandem with the executive branch, we have passed legislation that enables Chileans to start a company in a single day, reduced the maximum interest rate that banks and financial institutions are allowed to charge borrowers, and created a new consumer protection division for defending the rights of financial service customers. We are now discussing a bill to protect personal data, and to regulate the relationship between airlines and their passengers. On the Foreign Affairs Committee, I have devoted much of my energy to the Alianza del Pácifico. The member states of this alliance—México, Perú, Colombia and Chile—are achieving a degree of integration that is unprecedented among Latin American countries.
Events in life resemble a chain: one action, thought or deed leads to the next. Volunteer work helped me become a social entrepreneur, co-founding Un Techo para Chile (UTPCh). My years in UTPCh, building emergency shelters, led me to Harvard and the Reynolds Fellowship. Failing to capture the hearts of Harvard’s diverse student body led me to lose an election at the Kennedy School of Government, but gave me valuable insight into the nature of diversity. This experience, together with learning from living examples of success in gatherings such as the International Achievement Summit, were key to winning election in Chile´s most diverse district.