On January 25, 2017, a special guest came onboard Peace Boat while it was docked in the port of Montevideo, Uruguay. Known to many as "the world's most humble president" - due to his simple lifestyle and his donation of 90 per cent of his presidential salary to charity - Jose "Pepe" Mujica, the former President of Uruguay, made a special visit to the Ocean Dream to deliver a speech to Peace Boat participants.
During the nineteen seventies and eighties, Mr Mujica fought with the Tupamaros guerillas against the military dictatorship in Uruguay, and was imprisoned for a total of 13 years as a result of his dissent. He was finally freed under an amnesty law when constitutional democracy was restored in Uruguay in 1985, and went on to create the Movement of Popular Participation (MPP) party with other Tupamaros and left-wing organizations. After serving as a senator and then as Minister of Livestock, Agriculture and Fisheries, Mr Mujica became President of Uruguay in 2010 and served in that capacity until 2015.
During his presidency, Mr Mujica made several valuable contributions to the protection of human rights in Uruguay. In 2012, Uruguay became one of the first countries in South America to legalize abortion, and in 2013 same-sex marriage was legalized. During his speech on Peace Boat, Mr Mujica commented that although Uruguay is a small nation with a population of only 3.5 million, it is one of the most equitable countries on the South American continent.
He implored his audience to take a stand in the struggle for equality, and to push for an end to all wars and nuclear weapons. Mr Mujica also urged participants to break the capitalist cycle of overwork and over-consumption in order to have time for the most important things in life - being with family and friends and doing what one loves. "This is something one can never buy in a supermarket: the time to live one's life", he exclaimed emphatically. "When you buy things with money, you are paying with the time you used to earn that money."
Mr Mujica's appeal for us to live sustainably and in harmony with the world and each other echoed the 17 Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations which were displayed on colourful banners on the ship's deck to mark the occasion. Sano Yoko, a Japanese Peace Boat participant, identified strongly with Mr Mujica's message: "Before I came on Peace Boat I was working very long hours, but this didn't make me feel satisfied or happy. Although my job gave me enough money, I would rather have free time to look after myself and enjoy my life." As Mr Mujica departed the port in his old Volkswagen Beetle - the car which has become symbolic of his modesty and humility - participants were left with a renewed determination to live life to its fullest.