Change is good, Blair declares
By LISA MEYER TRIGG
People in the obscure places of the world are watching America, hoping to get some part of the American life.
Sharing that life with others is the responsibility of those who already have it, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair shared with a DePauw University audience Monday night.
"The lesson of humanity is you can make a change and you can make it better, and you can make a difference in people's lives," Blair said at the close of his lecture in response to a student question about what gets him up in the morning.
He urged his audience to be proud of the accomplishments of America, and to be proud of the lifestyle many have achieved. That is the same stance other nations should also have, and that many aspire to have.
"I don't think we should be ashamed of what we are and what we stand for," Blair said. "At our best, we represent something quite remarkable, which is the trials of human progress."
He held America as an example of a country that started with humble beginnings, but evolved and adapted to the challenges it faced.
"Think about this country and how it's developed over the years and gone through so many changes and emerged to what it is today," Blair said. "And for all its faults and difficulties and what it gets wrong, there are some very good things it does right."
The test for a country is, are people trying to get into it, or out of it. And judging by America's immigration issues, it must be doing something right, Blair said.
Blair said he is motivated by how many lives can be touched in a good way. He calls himself an optimist who will look for the one reason to get something done, rather than at the thousands of reasons for not doing something.
Blair said he has not regretted his decision to stand up with America to fight terrorism following the 9/11 terrorist attacks. While he may not agree with President Bush in political ideology, he said he knows that a show of force demands a forceful response.
There are many disagreements about the nature of the threat facing America and the European Union, he said. While some say the focus should be on Afghanistan or Iraq, not both, others think the problem lies in Iran or Pakistan.
"Here's the problem, it's all of them," Blair said. But the nature of the threat is not our problem, because we did not create it.
"We have to get this thing sorted out in our own minds," he said. "We did not start this battle."
But America and its allies have to stay tough in the fight, and not give up, because if they do, the terrorists will move on to the next place.
"If you want to defeat it," he said, "you've got to defeat, not just the overt threat, but we've got to take on this so-called sense of grievance in parts of the Islamic world."
That grievance is not easy for Westerners to understand. Many people in the world hate the American and European way of life, and they don't want it coming to their countries. That is why they will launch terrorist attacks in America and Europe.
But he warned against backing down from the threat.
"If we show for a minute, weakness in the face of it, we will lose it," Blair said. "And we cannot afford to lose it."
It may seem insane to Westerners that a large number of people can follow Middle Eastern ideologies, he said. But the MidEast is an area in transition. The question is what it will become.
"The world can't wait for us to discover 5-10 years down the line that we missed our chance to shape the 21st century in the right way," Blair said.