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Blair: Western allies should stand firm against extremists

Blair: Western allies should stand firm against extremists
By KEVIN BOWDEN
Staff Reporter
Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair proved Monday night he has a strong Christian faith, a great sense of humor and a firm grasp on world affairs.
In a speech before more than 2,000 people who turned out for Union University’s 14th annual Scholarship Banquet, Blair delivered an eloquent and very direct call for Western allies to stand firm against the rise of extremist movements around the world.
It was Blair’s first time in Jackson and his first visit to Tennessee. He used his banquet address to remind those in attendance that the people in his homeland and in America should stand up for what they believe in.
Blair served as the British prime minister from 1997 until 2007, was the leader of England’s Labor Party for 13 years and was a member of Parliament for more than 20 years. Blair has remained active in world affairs in recent years and Monday night he spoke about changes taking place around the globe.
“The pace of change driven by technology is immense,” Blair said as he opened his speech.
His comment was made in reference to China, which he said is investing heavily in its infrastructure. He said China will build 70 new international airports over the next decade and even more smaller airports.
Blair’s speech was dominated by his observations of changes taking place around the world and the challenges that are facing Christian nations such as England and America.
He posed a question that he said he is frequently asked, “Are we in decline?” Blair then firmly and resolutely answered the question, “No, we are not in decline.”
Blair explained there exists a “temporary absence of self-belief and self-confidence” among western nations. He expressed the need for both nations on either side of the Atlantic Ocean to rediscover those qualities. Blair said he believes what makes the two countries strong is their sense of basic beliefs and values and their sense of equality.
Blair went on to say America needs to recapture its spirit of determination and optimism.
The speech he gave was a smooth blend of his personal views of politics, economics and the state of world affairs. Woven in to his remarks were definite signs of his Christian faith.
He said faith should be based on social compassion, respect for others and kindness.
Blair advocated the need for governments to invest in quality education for their children. He said access to a quality education unlocks the future and makes a society more powerful and more successful.
Blair took a firm stand against those in the Middle East who have perverted their religion and have become extremists. He said there needs to be more done than simply implementing security measures, that governments need to “tackle the root of the problem.”
He said what the world needs right now is leadership. Then he added, “actually, the world needs American leadership.”
He encouraged those in the audience to “be strong in what you believe” and said, “We shouldn’t give up on ourselves.”
Blair said he is inspired by America’s indefinable, essential spirit of optimism, hope and belief.
Monday night’s banquet raised more than $500,000 that will be used for student scholarships at the Jackson university. Attendance at the program, more than 2,000 people, was one of the largest turnouts in the 14 year history of the scholarship banquet program, according to a university official.
The banquet has brought to Jackson some of the world’s top leaders over the years and Blair was the third British prime minister to be the guest speaker, following Margaret Thatcher and John Major.
Also during the evening’s ceremonies, Union University president David Dockery recognized Bill and Carol Latimer of Union City for their foundation’s generous $10 million commitment toward the university’s new $18 million library.
Staff Reporter Kevin Bowden may be contacted by email at kmbowden @ucmessenger.com.
Published in The Messenger 10.4.11

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