Adaptability key to future success
When former British Prime Minister Tony Blair talks about the "Challenges and Opportunities Facing 21st Century Citizens of the World," he is urging fast action in the face of fast change.
And he warns that those who delay will be left behind.
Blair presented the Timothy and Sharon Ubben Lecture Monday evening at DePauw University's Neal Fieldhouse, and he pointed to a world that is changing more rapidly that Americans might notice, as the nation is struggling in the midst of the mortgage industry crisis and economic woes.
"The world is changing, and it's changing extraordinarily fast," Blair said with a global view.
For instance, in America many students are studying Spanish as this nation feels the effects of an immigration influx from the south. But in Europe, children are learning Chinese and Mandarin. And it's not because of immigration, but because of the economic giant that China is becoming.
Every economy in the world is being changed rapidly, he said, by globalization and technology. New economies are being created, especially in the Far East.
And the way to meet change -- whether it is globalization or climate change or technology -- is together.
"All these changes and the shift if power in the world are not a reason to be scared. It is a reason to be alive. To be awake, to be aware of the challenges we face," Blair said.
His solution to these changes is to have a global coalition to shape the direction of the change.
The real problem is that the political institutions and attitudes needed to overcome the changes are shifting far too slowly.
"What we need to do is bring the global coalition into being to make sure the politics catches up with the economics and the social changes," Blair said. "So instead of being shaped by it, we are able to shape it to the way we want it."
Openness is the key to that change, he stated. Economies need to be open to trade rather than protectionist. Countries need to be active, rather than reactive, with America's current immigration debate as an example.
He also urged being engaged with China and India in a new partnership. He called the rise of China as a global power "a new opportunity, not a threat."
Making sure that America and China share common goals is going to be important to the world economy in the future.
Using power and diplomacy is also as important in fighting global terrorism as is military means, Blair said.
"But, we also need to recognize it is a battle of ideas. That we have to win people's hearts and people's minds as well. In many parts of the Islamic world," Blair said, "our good faith is in doubt."
Taking a long view of the future, to include climate change and global leadership, is important to meeting future challenges, he added.
The unity of America and Europe cannot afford to be divided, he emphasized.
"There are basic values that we share in common," Blair said.
Many others around the world also believe in freedom and democracy, he said, calling them the values of the human experience. But the galvanizing idea behind those values is justice. Being able to stand up for justice is what will persuade others to trust us.
Blair said his hope for Monday's audience was that America's leadership will be able to act quickly to adapt to the changing world.
"We have to show it with vigor and determination and self-confidence and belief," he said. "This is the moment where we have to have the same spirit and determination."