Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair visited Greencastle, IN yesterday and I missed the grand event. No, he wasn’t lost, nor was he here to consult with me. He was the guest of DePauw University, and his speaking engagement was open to the public. My original plan was to attend the former PM’s lecture at the Lilly Center’s Neal Fieldhouse, but that plan failed to materialize due to fresh circumstances and cherished responsibilities.
I like Tony Blair. Certainly, I am not a fan of all his positions. He is more liberal than I. What I respect and appreciate about Tony Blair is his leadership by conviction. When he ascended to the Premiership in 1997 the American press made incessant comparisons to then President Clinton. Two young liberals were now leading America and Britain. Blair proved to be the Clinton antithesis; at least I view him as such. That is because Bill Clinton was the prototypical lick your finger and stick it in the air leader. Which ever way the wind was blowing was how Clinton made his decisions.
Not so with Tony Blair.
His willingness to side with President Bush in the War on Terror was not and is not popular. He was skewered by his own people, his own party, fellow Europeans, and every liberal American. Still, he was convinced that his course of action was the right and ethical position, and he led accordingly. I have great respect for men who lead based on convictions, even if I disagree with their convictions. Leaders who cannot take their eyes off the latest survey, opinion polls, of party consensus are not leaders. They are simply office holders.