Saturday, April 13, 2013

Tony Blair: Inspiring Change husband and I had a rare opportunity yesterday. We got to hear former British Prime Minister Tony Blair speak about leadership in a Q and A format. Most audience questions focused on Blair’s experiences as a world leader, and his remarks were candid, witty, and wise. We laughed at his anecdotes about his first day on the job as PM, on his relationships with Presidents Clinton and Bush, and on why he never saw the movie The Queen, for example.

Stressing that an elected leader comes into office at his most popular and least capable and leaves office at his least popular, most competent moment, he revealed that what he longed to say to British citizens during his tenure was, “I’m still learning here.” (Alarmed at how the country might panic at their leader’s admitting this, his public relations people advised against his saying this while in office!) When Blair spoke last night of various world conflicts, he called leaders’ decisions extremely difficult and said as prime minister, he had to just do what he thought was right. It may or may not have been right, but it was what he thought was right after considering facts. What we saw was a very human side of a world leader.

Blair’s remarks both softened and sharpened my expectations of current world leaders. On one hand—hey, they’re only human. On the other hand, an honorable leader must act in the interests of all voters, not just his party base.

Regarding the current North Korean threat, Blair stated that to manage that situation to a place of stability, we need to be diplomatically smart and militarily strong. Also, we need to understand that extremist religions and rogue states present long drawn-out struggles that are not easily solved; and intervention and nonintervention both carry costs. He said very few countries are in a position to shape the world for the better.

Blair believes the key to narrowing the economic chasm is education—not just formal education, but open-mindedness and ability to adapt to change. He said that if business owners have passion, pride, and pleasure, they are more likely to have profit.

Although Tony Blair himself did not mention communitarianism last night, another speaker did attribute this philosophy to Blair. As I understand it, communitarianism is a middle ground between socialism, where the person is dehumanized and the state is personified, and individualism, where the autonomous self reigns. In this middle ground, individuals do not just pursue their own ends but they all contribute to the flourishing of a wider society. An individual’s role is for others; it is in service that one becomes his true self. I would like to further research the communitarianism philosophy, but so far, doesn’t it sound a lot like what God had in mind for us? It also sounds better than either socialism or capitalism.

Good food for thought last night. Thank you, Tony Blair.

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