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On the campaign trail

Max Toledo

Illustration by Viktor Miller Gausa

In the summer of 2018, Maximiliano (Max) Toledo made history — at age 25, he was the youngest person ever to run for office in the state of Tabasco, Mexico, where he was an independent candidate for District 6 of the state Chamber of Deputies. Although he didn’t win, Toledo found the experience inspiring. “It showed me that we can think big and act locally,” he says. Toledo, a contract lawyer who helped found the Rotaract Club of Tabasco Bicentenario in Villahermosa, Mexico, and is now a member of the Rotary Club of Villahermosa, says his experiences in Rotary have been invaluable to building his skills as a leader.

Q: How did you get started in Rotary?

A: I was practically born into Rotary. My aunt and uncle have been in Rotary for many years. My brother, Mike, went to Austria with Rotary Youth Exchange, and I did the same in 2009-10. When I got back home, I joined my brother in a Rotaract club, and we started doing big service projects. Then I co-founded a new Rotaract club. I also went to Germany with the New Generations Service Exchange program, and as part of that program in 2015 I did an internship with the German government. I got to know many Rotarians there.

Q: How did you get started in politics?

A: There were big earthquakes here in Mexico in 2017, and everything started there. We started a campaign to bring help to all the communities that were affected. Because my brother and I had been exchange students, we asked for help from our international friends. We brought tents to people who had lost their homes. When we started doing that, everybody started saying to me, “We want you to run for office.”

Q: What issues did you focus on as a candidate?

A: I was and I am still concerned about public safety. Also, I was seeking more opportunities for young people, and better public places. We wanted government finances to be more transparent. I was asking for improvements to public health care. I was asking that we cut the economic support that the parties receive [from taxpayers] almost in half. The parties have an excessive amount of money. I ran as an independent, without a party. We believe that money could be used for something else.

Q: Will you continue to be involved in politics?

A: Absolutely. I knew when I entered into it that this would be my life. I keep going to the community; I visit people who supported me during the campaign. I’m in a position where I can do something. You realize that people are up for change; they just need an example and the right leadership.

Q: How did your experiences with Rotary influence your campaign?

A: Rotary formed me as a leader. I learned a lot in Rotaract. And through New Generations Service Exchange, I had the opportunity to go abroad and see different ways of doing things. I want to bring some of the good ideas I have seen in other parts of the world to the people here in my own community. For me, it has been life-changing. If young people can achieve the things that we did in the campaign, we can fight for bigger things.

— Nikki Kallio

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