UNESCO Ambassador Andres Roemer is ‘Renaissance Man’ for change


At time when Mexico and anything regarding migrant workers of any type or kind are vilified, one man’s vision and dedication has been a champion for the people of Mexico – the “land of the city of the gods” just across our USA boarders in the Pacific Southwest.

His name is Andres Roemer and this past May 6 he was award a special recognition for his contributions to global conversations in science, economics and arts by the Amir D. Aczel Foundation.

Andres Roemer at the Harvard Club San Francisco, May 2019
Photo by Hermann Tribukait 2019

This reporter became acquainted with Roemer when he was Mexican consul general to San Francisco more than five years ago. One of his major accomplishments during his tenure was the organizing and promoting the unique and successful ‘MEX I AM festival.’ Which, as I ponder upon retrospect formed at time when working class people (especially people of color) needed to be recognized as the tech boom was shifting into high gear.

To say that Mexico and it’s major export of working people needed to be recognized is truly and understatement. Like the neighbor-next-door country, we ‘Norte Americanos’ take Mexico too often for granted, Roemer transcends and extends the boarders and barriers of Mexico. Like the people of Mexico, Roemer is complex, multifaceted reflecting the educational and personal background he possesses.

Most people in the U.S. don’t realize how diverse and ‘mixed’ the cultural and social demographic of Mexico is. Much more than that place “across the boarder,” Mexico is just as much a fascinating, diverse and intriguing nation as the USA is. It too was influenced heavily by Europe amid a very strong native indigenous population. And it too had its struggle for independence and freedom.

As some historians and sociologists see it; like it or not, Mexico is a part of America, just as a heart is connected to a greater body, its veins extend into our country. Significant portions of its history is connected to ours. While, some may cast it off as some “foreign” or “alien” country, Mexico is just as much a part of the American West and in some ways more profoundly. Roemer knows and understands this very much.

He is a mixture of many things. Born in Mexico, Roemer is at ease on both coasts of the U.S. – attending both Stanford University and then Harvard. And despite his many travels across the globe, he resides in the San Francisco Bay Area and considers it home. Yet still Roemer for all his prolific accomplishments and accolades as ambassador, writer, scholar and philanthropist, he remains consistent to his Renaissance man vision and mission in life.

For this reason, the Amir D. Aczel Foundation wanted to honor him in its first ever awards ceremony and benefit event. The late Amir D. Aczel, an Israeli-American, was a prolific writer of popular books on science and mathematics, He believed passionately in bringing interesting—and often controversial—ideas to wide global audience.

Speaking on behalf of the foundation, Miriam Aczel said. “My mother, Debra, and I are deeply honored and thrilled to present the first annual Amir D. Aczel Foundation Award to the most deserving candidate, Dr. Roemer. After a difficult selection process, our foundation’s committee chose Dr. Roemer for his tireless work promoting education and important conversations on science, arts, and economics.”

Citing his ongoing work, she continued saying. “Dr. Roemer, UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador for Social Change and the free flow of knowledge loves challenging questions and taking on ‘wicked problems’. In his own words, Roemer says ‘Don’t believe everything you think.’ He exemplifies the definition of a critical thinker and a critical mind. He continues pushing the boundaries of knowledge and understanding on a wide range of subjects in science and social sciences,” said Miriam.

Referring to him as “A true ‘renaissance man’ Miriam noted that Roemer is author of 16 books and two award-winning plays, and numerous prestigious awards including the Elise and Walter A. Haas International Award 2013 of the University of California at Berkeley.

“But not the most important award, said Miriam, the Amir Aczel Prize—until now. For the past 12 years, Dr. Roemer has been dedicated to challenging people of all ages to ask dangerous questions and explore dangerous ideas, bringing groundbreaking thinking and speakers to English and Spanish-speaking audiences across the globe through the ‘la Ciudad de las Ideas’ – (city of ideas) conferences.”

As she pointed out, “these conferences were an immense source of inspiration for Amir Aczel, and many of his books and ideas were born there. We are deeply grateful to Dr. Roemer for all he has done for humanity, education, science and the pursuit of knowledge, and human rights, and we are honored to present him the first annual Aczel Foundation Prize.”

Even with such strong accomplishments and brilliance, Roemer is not without critics and controversy. Because of his refusal to vote as directed by Mexico for a UNESCO resolution on Jerusalem that effectively erased Jewish ties to Jerusalem. Roemer was removed from the consul general position in San Francisco. Interestingly, as Miriam noted, “Mexico later changed its vote.”

Among his main ideas is that of economic analysis of non-market forces; that being goods and services that cannot be directly evaluated within an economy. Basically, it means things like feelings-deep emotions. And, I guess if one were to examine that train of thought further it could imply subconscious longings, ideas, etc.

Ironically, (with our current rift in bipartisan politics) in Roemer’s point of view a democratic vote and system does not guarantee a truly democratic government. It is the “ideasta” that formulates creative and revolutionary ideas about the world.

And, from this reporter’s perspective when looking upon the growing abyss between ‘the haves’ and ‘the have-nots’ and between labor and management, the people of Mexico have supplied a significant source of labor.

the “ideasta” cannot achieve his or her goal, without the cooperation and dedication of a labor force. And, perhaps it can be said without a doubt, Roemer among others knows this too, very well. As the world moves closer to the mid-point of the 21st Century, the ability to coordinate ideas with labor in mind regardless of the uses of artificial intelligence, will be crucial.

Roemer, in accepting the award said, in part: “Winning this award would not have been possible without the inspiration I received from my formal and informal teachers.” Roemer noted the following: Richard Dawkins, Steven Pinker, Eduard Punset, Robert Cooter, Eugene Bardach, Clothaire Rapaille, Ronald Heifetz, Dan Arieli, Ricardo Salinas Pliego, Yossi Vardi, Salim Ismael, and Carmel Shama.

“And, of course, he concluded, the last but not the least, Amir Aczel, to whom I have the greatest respect and admiration and from whom I have learned the love to never stop questioning everything, to challenge myself and act better in each scenario.”

Andrés Roemer at present is UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador for Social Change and the Free Flow of Knowledge. He also is a Senior Research Fellow at Columbia University. Learn more about him through his page on Twitter.