Tuesday, March 11, 2014
WATERVILLE -- Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair on Sunday called on Colby College's Class of 2012 to resolve injustices and change the world through international cooperation.
Former Prime Minister of Britain Tony Blair shakes hands with a Colby College graduate after Blairr gave the commencerment address on Sunday. College President William Adams is left of Blair.
Staff photo by David Leaming
Lisa Savage, left, and others hold signs protesting Colby College commencement speaker former Prime Minister of Britain Tony Blair who gave the commencement address on Sunday. Police asked Savage to leave and one protester was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct.
In his address on the private liberal arts college campus in Waterville, Blair challenged the 465 Colby graduates to help the disadvantaged in their own country and abroad.
A small group of war protesters briefly disrupted Blair's speech, with police removing three protesters who began shouting from campus. They arrested a Bangor man. A few other people with anti-war signs stood silently and stayed for the duration of Blair's address, which didn't acknowledge the protesters.
He told graduates they should pursue "noble causes," such as saving the millions of people in Africa who continue to die from preventable diseases.
"Compassion is as important as ambition. So don't just choose a career, choose a cause. There are many to choose from. ... The noble causes--believe me they're there amongst all the drudgery and self obsession of human existence--find them and save a bit of yourselves for them. It's worth it," Blair said.
He also touched on inequities in the United States, saying there are people who haven't been given the same opportunities as the Colby graduates.
Those who are given the tools to be leaders have a responsibility to address these wrongs, Blair told graduates. He said "sick people who don't get health care" are one example of the people whose lives graduates should strive to better.
To achieve these goals, graduates must never stop learning and always remain humble, Blair said. He added the tip is something he learned during his decade as prime minister that ended in 2007, having been longest-serving leader of Britian's Labour Party.
Blair recalled meeting President Nelson Mandela during the height of the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa, saying the encounter taught him the importance of humility.
Blair described Mandela as a modest man despite his stature. He told graduates to aspire to this approach, adding, "the greatest people I've met in life are humble."
Blair drew frequent laughs from the crowd by sharing the embarrassing moments that he says also helped remind him of this important lesson.
He recalled tripping over a carpet during the ceremony of kissing hands, where the incoming prime minister meets the queen at Buckingham Palace. Instead of gently brushing the queen's ring, he "enveloped the queen's hand," Blair told the Colby crowd.
Blair may have benefited, however, from the humorous tone set by the previous speaker who warmed up the audience sitting beneath a clear blue sky on the Miller Library lawn.
Samuel C. Deeran, the Colby Class of 2012 speaker, opened his address by welcoming his fellow graduates to the "Comedy Central roast of Tony Blair."
Deeran, of Falmouth, said that it must have been a mistake that he was opening for a prime minister. And he joked that he wanted some of the same perks, saying he deserved a private jet, a fluffer-nutter sandwich and "a personal play date with George W. Bush."
Deeran went onto say he didn't appreciate the value of a Colby education until he dropped out his junior year. He moved to Los Angeles to make it as a standup comic and quickly learned the harsh lessons of the real world.
He told his fellow graduates they shouldn't listen to the people saying the poor economy will defeat this generation. Instead of fearing the real world, they should find ways to adapt the system to their own dreams, he said.
"The question to you the Class of 2012 is what will you do to make it real," he said.
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Colby College senior class speaker Samuel Deeran thanks commencement speaker and former Prime Minister of Britain Tony Blair in Waterville on Sunday.
Staff photo by David Leaming