I had the privilege of co-hosting several hundred clients and colleagues in San Francisco back in 2010. Colliers International was lead sponsor and host of an event on behalf of the Tony Blair Faith Foundation, established by the former prime minister of the U.K. in 2008 to foster dialogue and understanding between people worldwide, regardless of cultural and religious differences.
The centerpiece of the evening was meeting Tony Blair himself, and later seeing him interviewed by Emmy-winning broadcast journalist Charlie Rose. It was evident from their immediate rapport that this is one of a series of conversations the two have had since Blair stepped down from government in 2007 to begin a new career as statesman and thinker—not just for the United Kingdom, but for the world as a whole.
That his ongoing work has shifted in part from politics to religion reflects what he views as a changing and increasingly globalized world. The 20th century’s defining conflicts were over political ideology; whereas those of the next century will arise from differences of religious and cultural ideology.
Blair is still a political figure, of course, given his continued involvement in the Middle East peace process, emerging governments in Africa, and climate change. But the compelling moments in the discussion transcended both politics and religion, and pointed to something greater that unifies us all: basic human values.
“The one thing that in our part of the world we need to understand is that when we talk about ‘Western values,’ like freedom and democracy, the rule of law, and a belief in basic social justice…these aren’t Western values. They’re values of the human spirit, and they’re the values that people anywhere choose, when they’re given the choice.”
Occasions like this are an opportunity to evaluate one’s own leadership, regardless of your profession. Being around Mr. Blair and engaging with him personally, you can really see how naturally he brings people together. He’s candid without being exclusionary, intelligent without being elitist, warm without being artificial. It’s inspiring how he has continued to grow and learn in his second career, free from the limitations of political office. Despite having achieved the highest political office in his country, and retaining it for a decade, he continues to add to his accomplishments and build on his experience. It is clear that Mr. Blair has demonstrated an enterprising spirit, and having him as a focal point of a gathering of Colliers International clients created an evening that was well received by all.