Tony Blair at Yale: A Former P.M. Reflects

Article excerpt

To the chapters of the life of a onetime prime minister and now freelance diplomat, add one more: Mr. Blair Goes to Yale.

Fresh off his first year as a guest lecturer on faith and globalization at Yale University, former British prime minister Tony Blair got something rarely accorded to most academics: a public forum in which to reflect on what he had learned as a teacher.

At a public address at Yale's Battell Chapel, Blair said he had drawn ten lessons from the seminar he cotaught this semester and expects to repeat during the fall terms of 2009 and 2010.

Among the lessons Blair culled from his teaching: "faith matters," "religious faith is not in decline" and "globalization requires values to succeed."

In a world being "pushed closer together" while religious differences are often used to pull people apart, he said: "If religious faith can, at least, not be a hindrance of coming together, that would be a great thing."

Blair had earlier tested out the lessons on a group of students who had attended a semester-long seminar cotaught by Blair and Miroslav Volf, a Croatian-born Christian theologian and the director of Yale's Center for Faith and Culture (as well as a CENTURY editor at large).

"Globalization shrinks the world and creates a more global community," the former prime minister told the students. As a result, "religious faith and globalization have to find ways to be at peace with each other so that globalization can be more peaceful and run better and more efficiently."

Blair has been a relatively quiet presence at Yale this semester, visiting the New Haven campus only every few weeks. Yet in an end-of-semester flourish, Blair spoke about the importance of faith in the public sphere with a speech December 11, a public question-and-answer session with Yale president Richard Levin and a round of media interviews.

Even so, Blair did not address his 2007 conversion to Catholicism from Anglicanism after he stepped down as prime minister. He did, however, tell reporters that the current debate over the importance and dangers of religion is old hat; he said he had long had similar arguments with his atheist father.

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Indeed, Blair's public stance on the importance of religious faith in the public realm mirrored his acknowledgment, made since he left public life, that his own religious faith was "hugely important" to him during his decade as leader of the British government. …