Rhodes Scholar

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One of this year’s 32 Americans chosen to be a Rhodes Scholar lives here in Arizona. The award is widely considered to be one of the world’s most prestigious scholarships. We’ll talk to award recipient Oscar De Los Santos.

JOSE CARDENAS: ONE OF THIS YEAR'S 32 AMERICANS CHOSEN TO BE A RHODES SCHOLAR LIVES HERE IN ARIZONA. OSCAR DE LOS SANTOS WAS THE ONLY LATINO TO BE SELECTED FOR THIS AWARD. THIS IS AN ELITE GROUP THAT OVER THE LAST CENTURY HAS INCLUDED FORMER PRESIDENTS AND LEADERS IN GLOBAL AFFAIRS, ARTS, AND BUSINESS. THE AWARD IS WIDELY CONSIDERED TO BE ONE OF THE WORLD'S MOST PRESTIGIOUS SCHOLARSHIPS. HERE NOW IS 2017 RHODES SCHOLAR RECIPIENT, OSCAR DE LOS SANTOS. OSCAR, CONGRATULATIONS AND THANKS FOR JOINING US ON "HORIZONTE." WE MENTION YOU WERE THE ONLY LATINO SELECTED THIS YEAR. THERE WERE NOT ANY SELECTED LAST YEAR AND LATINOS RECEIVING THESE AWARDS, THE LACK OF, CONCERNS YOU.

OSCAR DE LOS SANTOS: ABSOLUTELY I WAS THRILLED TO RECEIVE THE AWARD BUT THERE WAS A THORN ON MY SIDE AND THAT IS POWERFUL INSTITUTIONS LIKE RHODES SCHOLAR AND OTHERS CONTINUE TO MARGINALIZE THE PEOPLE OF COLOR AND LATINOS IN PARTICULAR WE SEE IT IN THE COMMUNITY, CONGRESS, IN BUSINESS, AND FAR TOO MANY PLACES. IT IS DEEPLY TROUBLING AND CONCERNING FOR ME.

JOSE CARDENAS: BEFORE WE GET INTO THE BACKGROUND AND PROCESS YOU WERE SELECTED. TELL US ABOUT THE RHODES SCHOLARSHIP ITSELF. WHAT'S THE MAIN ELEMENT, HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE IT?

OSCAR DE LOS SANTOS: IT WAS STARTED A HUNDRED PLUS YEARS AGO BY CECIL RHODES WHO WAS A COLONIZER OF AFRICA TO PUT IT FRANKLY WHO DOES NOT HAVE A GOOD MORAL RECORD. HE WAS A KNOWN RACIST. THE IDEA OF THE SCHOLARSHIP WAS TO TAKE AMERICANS, PRIMARILY NOW PEOPLE FROM AROUND THE WORLD, TO ENGLAND TO LEARN AND BECOME MORAL LEADERS IN THE WORLD. SO, YOU APPLY AND IF YOU ARE SELECTED YOUR STUDY AT OXFORD UNIVERSITY IS FULLY FUNDED.

JOSE CARDENAS: THAT IS FOR TWO YEARS?

OSCAR DE LOS SANTOS: YES, I WILL BE THERE FOR TWO YEARS WITH A MASTER OF THEOLOGY AND PUBLIC POLICY.

JOSE CARDENAS: AND WHY THOSE TOPICS? YOU CHOOSE WHAT YOU STUDY RIGHT?

OSCAR DE LOS SANTOS: YES AND I CHOSE THOSE TWO BECAUSE I WANT TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE IN THIS WORLD. AND I THINK ONE OF THE BEST WAYS TO DO THAT FOR ME IS THROUGH PUBLIC POLICY. I THINK THE ISSUES THAT I AM CONCERNED WITH; EDUCATION, MASS DEPORTATION, MASS INCARCERATION, POVERTY AND HUNGER ARE ISSUES THAT REQUIRE PUBLIC POLICY SOLUTIONS AND REQUIRE US TO KNOW THE FACTS AND DATA BUT BEFORE THAT REQUIRE US TO HAVE THE POLITICAL WILL AND THE MORAL COURAGE TO TACKLE THEM. I THINK THAT IS SOMETHING WE ARE ABSOLUTELY MISSING. WE ARE MISSING WHAT DOCTORS CALLED THE FIERCE URGENCY OF NOW.

JOSE CARDENAS: SOME OF THOSE PASSIONS COME FROM YOUR BACKGROUND. YOUR PARENTS CAME FROM MEXICO AND AT THE TIME DIDN'T HAVE PROPER DOCUMENTATION BUT NOW THEY ARE CITIZENS. HOW MUCH DID THAT IMPACT YOU?

OSCAR DE LOS SANTOS: ITS IMPACTED ME ABSOLUTELY. I AM THE SON OF IMMIGRANTS WHO CAME TO THIS COUNTRY AS YOU SAID, UNDOCUMENTED FROM MEXICO AND I AM AN ANTI HUNGER ADVOCATE, I AM A FORMER TEACHER AND ALL OF THESE THINGS HAVE SHAPED ME.

JOSE CARDENAS: YOU WORKED ON THE OBAMA ELECTION CAMPAIGN?

OSCAR DE LOS SANTOS: ABSOLUTELY. ALL OF THESE EXPERIENCES SHAPED BE BECAUSE THEY COME FROM A PLACE OF IN A SENSE MARGINALIZATION SO I FEEL A DEEP RESPONSIBILITY TO DO ALL I CAN FOR MARGINALIZED PEOPLE.

JOSE CARDENAS: WHAT ARE YOU EXPECTING TO DO AFTER YOUR SCHOLARSHIP?

OSCAR DE LOS SANTOS: THAT IS A GOOD QUESTION AND NOT SOMETHING THAT IS A HUNDRED PERCENT CLEAR BUT WITH THE INCOMING PRESIDENT I SUSPECT THERE IS GOING TO BE A LOT OF WORK TO DO.

JOSE CARDENAS: COMING BACK TO ARIZONA?

OSCAR DE LOS SANTOS: CERTAINLY.

JOSE CARDENAS: WE LOOK FORWARD TO HAVING THE OPPORTUNITY TO INTERVIEW YOU AGAIN AT THAT TIME. KEEP US IN MIND. CONGRATULATIONS AND BEST OF LUCK.

OSCAR DE LOS SANTOS: THANK YOU. I REALLY APPRECIATE IT.

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