Watch the Tony Blair videoMichelle Vatalaro ’10 had signed up for the Liberal Democracy and Its Limits course because she thought it sounded interesting.

What she didn’t know at the time was how being in the political science class was going to bring her face to face on Saturday night with Tony Blair, the former prime minister of Britain.

The senior and about 50 other students had the chance to speak with Blair in a quiet campus setting before he spoke to an audience of more than 4,500 people at Sanford Field House.

Vatalaro said she was grateful for the opportunity to sit “literally two feet from a former prime minister of the United Kingdom, ask him a question, and get a real answer.”

That kind of interaction was one of the reasons Blair was invited to campus as part of the Global Leaders Lecture Series.

Tony Blair speaks in Colgate's Sanford Field House

Tony Blair speaks Saturday in Sanford Field House. (Photo by Andy Daddio)

Blair spoke to the Family Weekend audience about the need for a different type of politics to cope with a rapidly changing world that is facing significant challenges involving the economy, security, and climate change.

“This new world requires new leadership, a resurgence of confidence, and a willingness to stand up for what we really believe in.”

Power is shifting to the East, he said, and politicians in the West must rethink a political system based on left vs. right or Liberal vs. Tory and consider whether they are going to be “open or closed” to developing relationships with nations such as China and India.

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Watch the video of one of Colgate’s a cappella groups, The Resolutions, singing three songs as part of the introduction for Tony Blair, including “Where The Streets Have No Name” by Irish band U2. Blair raved over the group’s version of what he said is his favorite song, and promised to have U2’s Bono, a friend of his,  autograph the group’s recording of it.

Tony Blair delivers lecture

See photos from Family Weekend

In his speech and during the earlier session with students, Blair was asked if countries such as America and Britain should be trying to install democracies in other nations.

“Our societies stand for an important way of life,” said Blair. “I don’t want to impose ideas, but I do believe this: The values of freedom, democracy, and rule of law are universal values of the human spirit. When given the chance, people will choose them.”

Blair, who served as Britain’s prime minister from 1997 to 2007, received several standing ovations during his speech.

He also drew big laughs from the audience when describing his first appearance bepfore Queen Elizabeth II after the 2006 movie, The Queen, had come out. The Queen told him that she would not be seeing the movie, and “asked” him if he would. ” ‘No, no, of course I won’t’,” Blair said he replied, adding that he has yet to see it.

Blair’s appearance was the fourth event sponsored by the Global Leaders Lecture Series, which is funded by the Parents and Grandparents’ Fund. Previous speakers were Colin Powell (April 2009), the Dalai Lama (2008), and award-winning authors Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner (2007).

Tony Kwiatkowski P’86, who has come to Colgate to hear Powell and other speakers, also enjoyed Blair. “I respect him for being a neutralizer,” he said. “He’s been good at balancing and airing the world’s problems.”

More Global Leaders Who Have Visited Colgate

Joseph "Joe" Biden Jr. speaks in front of a Colgate backdrop

Joseph "Joe" Biden, Jr.

Former Vice President of the United States, 2017

Joseph "Joe" Biden Jr. speaks in front of a Colgate backdrop
Aretha Franklin on stage during Global Leaders 2016

Aretha Franklin

Queen of Soul, 2016

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Aretha Franklin on stage during Global Leaders 2016
Shimon Peres, former prime minister of Isreal, speaking at Global Leaders 2014

Shimon Peres

Former President and Prime Minister of Israel, 2014

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Shimon Peres, former prime minister of Isreal, speaking at Global Leaders 2014
Hillary Clinton speaking at Global Leaders 2013

Hillary Clinton

Former Secretary of State, 2013

More on her visit 

Hillary Clinton speaking at Global Leaders 2013
Felipe Calderon speaking at Global Leaders 2013

Felipe Calderón

Former President of Mexico, 2013

More on his visit 

Felipe Calderon speaking at Global Leaders 2013
Sir Richard Branson runs through the crowd of students performing a Flash Mob, making a grand entrance to his talk at Colgate University, as part of the Global Leaders Lecture Series 2013.

Sir Richard Branson

Entrepreneur and philanthropist, 2012

More on his visit 

Sir Richard Branson runs through the crowd of students performing a Flash Mob, making a grand entrance to his talk at Colgate University, as part of the Global Leaders Lecture Series 2013.
Bill Clinton speaking during Global Leaders 2010.

Bill Clinton

42nd President of the United States, 2010

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Bill Clinton speaking during Global Leaders 2010.
Garry Kasparov speaking to students during Global Leaders 2010.

Garry Kasparov

Chess champion and political activist, 2010

More on his visit

Garry Kasparov speaking to students during Global Leaders 2010.
Former Prime Minister of Britain, Tony Blair, speaking at Global Leaders 2009.

Tony Blair

Former Prime Minister of Britain, 2009

More on his visit 

Former Prime Minister of Britain, Tony Blair, speaking at Global Leaders 2009.
Former Secretary of State Colin Powell speaking during Global Leaders 2009.

General Colin Powell

Former U.S. Secretary of State, 2009

More on his visit 

Former Secretary of State Colin Powell speaking during Global Leaders 2009.
The Dalai Lama speaking during Global Leaders 2008.

His Holiness - The 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet

Spiritual leader of Tibet, 2008

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The Dalai Lama speaking during Global Leaders 2008.

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