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Mexican inauguration 'great fun'

It was like a fantastic class reunion - only with a squadron of Mexican secret service agents in attendance. Mark Nelson of Duluth made it to the Friday inaugural address for the new Mexican President Felipe Calderon, "and on a scale of one to 10...

It was like a fantastic class reunion - only with a squadron of Mexican secret service agents in attendance.

Mark Nelson of Duluth made it to the Friday inaugural address for the new Mexican President Felipe Calderon, "and on a scale of one to 10, the experience was a 20," Nelson said.

Most Americans watched as Calderon's inauguration day erupted with protests in the streets of Mexico City and even inside the legislative chambers. Calderon was declared the winner by a razor-thin margin over Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who has since declared himself the legitimate president of Mexico. Obrador's supporters have protested Calderon's victory for weeks.

But Nelson, the Indian child welfare social services supervisor for St. Louis County and a former classmate of Calderon's from the Kennedy School of Government, got to hang out with the new president for about two hours on Saturday at an informal reception in Los Pinos, the equivalent of the White House.

Nelson and 26 others from the class of 200 that had been invited to attend the inauguration didn't think they would get a chance to meet Calderon again, Nelson said. Most people were out sightseeing on Saturday when they heard about the reception just for them. They had about 15 minutes to change from shorts and T-shirts into suits and dresses and make it over to Los Pinos, Nelson said.

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After a full day before of meeting heads of state, including former U.S. President George H.W. Bush, Nelson thinks Calderon simply wanted to enjoy some "personal time," Nelson said.

Classmates nibbled refreshments, extended their good wishes and hopes for his presidency and chatted a bit about the election and ensuing protests, Nelson said. In the midst of the reception, security guards handed Calderon a manila folder that held statistical information about the country's reaction to his inaugural address.

The numbers looked good, and Calderon was eager to share them with his classmates. Later they also had a spontaneous tour of Calderon's new office, the equivalent of a visit to the Oval Office. One classmate was so enthralled he shouted "Viva la Mexico!" three times, and the group began chanting "Felipe, Felipe!"

"It was great fun," Nelson said.

Towards the end of the reception Calderon "gave a very gracious speech about his desire to help the people of Mexico, and how he wanted to do his best for them," said Nelson, who was impressed by the impromptu but impressive address. "He was really speaking from his heart."

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