When most teachers introduce themselves, they talk about previous teaching positions or real-world experience. Franco Parisi has a lot of the latter. The finance professor ran for President of Chile in 2014 and came in third place. We spoke with Parisi about his experience in politics and why he came back to teaching.
Are you originally from Chile? If so, what part?
I’m from Santiago, Chile. Chile is in the south part of South America in the Pacific Coast. It is a long, skinny country with 17 million people, with 5 million living in Santiago and the rest in different cities.
How often do you travel back home?
I travel back home every two months. But I don’t miss any class.
What year did you run for president?
The year 2014. I came in third. I ran as an independent, with no political party and no money. That is different from here. In Chile, companies can finance campaigns but they do it not so aggressively as here. In order to have a more clean campaign, I did not ask for money from companies because I felt that the problem with Chile cannot be solved if you owed favors to company.
How did your campaign run? What was your slogan?
My slogan was the Power of the People. I ran because I wanted to inform the people and educate them to help them.
How did you gain support from voters?
I started a Facebook page. It started out with one like.
Is the Chile presidential election similar to the U.S. presidential election? What is different?
We have primaries also, but since I was an independent I did not gave to go to a primary. In Chile, you have two big political parties; one is a group of political parties where more for the right and the other more for the left. They are really powerful, they have a lot of connections with companies and it is a really difficult club to get in. With power, all of the big and important jobs for the government are made by the political party and not for the person. Also, here in the U.S. it is really expensive campaign. In Chile, we also spend a lot of money but we are a poor country so it is impossible to compare with the biggest country in the world.
How did you end up from being runner-up for the presidency in Chile to a professor at UA?
Because I’m a professor all my life. I was a professor in Chile. I was an instructor at the University of Chile, then I get a scholarship to get my doctorate degree at the University of Georgia. I got my doctorate degree in 1996 and then I was coming back and forth to the United States teaching at different universities, then I was associate dean and dean in Chile. Then there was the election and I decided to run for president, but all the time I was an instructor. I’m happy to be an instructor.
What is your student’s reaction when you tell them you ran for president?
Some of them didn’t believe me. This may be funny for them.
If you had won, how do you think things would be different?
If I were president right now in Chile, all of the good positions in government would be for good people, not for repaying political favors. That is the problem in Chile right now. The big problem is a big community crisis because of the situation with the son of the president so everybody is really disappointed because they feel like they can’t trust the president. Even though I’m not there, I’m still in the mind of the people. I came in fourth in a poll for who the people want as the next president of Chile.
Before running for president, did you ever hold any political office?
No, I did not. It was a one-time thing running for president. I was a professor before running for president, I have always been a professor.
Would you ever run for any political office in the United States?
No, I am just happy to be an instructor.