Yeah Samake, a convert to Mormonism, is running for president in Mali, which is 90 percent Muslim.
If elected, he would become the world's first Mormon head of state.
Samake would also lead a developing country that struggles with political corruption and al-Qaida- backed religious extremism.
Samake spoke to a standing- room-only crowd in the Albrecht Auditorium as he recounted his successful run for mayor of Ouelessebougou.
He has a bachelor's degree teaching English as a second language.
Samake was living a comfortable life in the United States when he decided to return to Mali and help his homeland realize its potential.
"America does not need me. My country needed me," Samake said.
"I'm here to tell you, I'm running for president of a country that is not poor," he told the audience. "Mali is poor in leadership."
Mali is rich in natural resources such as gold, uranium and oil, he said.
However, corrupt politicians have traditionally pocketed tax money and not put the money to use in developing the country.
As a result, citizens were reluctant to pay their taxes. Samake vowed as mayor to never misuse public funds. During his tenure, his city built a hospital, solar energy plant and public high school.
Samake also spoke at length about how Mali has a history of religious tolerance and that being a Mormon has not been an issue. That lesson of tolerance is one the United States could learn from, he said.
Samake is also a proponent of African countries not relying on foreign aid.
"We have to rely on ourselves first," he said.
If elected, he said he would work to decentralize power in Mali and give it back to local authorities.
"Leaders are most responsive when they are closer to the people," Samake said.
The talk was sponsored by the Mormon Studies program in the CGU's School of Religion.
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