The Right Honorable Tony Blair, Commencement Speaker

Excerpts from 2012 Commencement Address by Former Prime Minister Tony Blair

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"Mr. President, ladies and gentlemen and distinguished guests, it’s a wonderful pleasure and privilege to be here at Colby College.  Great speech, Sam. Are you a member of the woodsmen’s club? If not, you should be, because if you add ax-throwing to your abilities, you going to have a great career in politics." ...
 
"I’m going to give you my seven lessons in life, seven things that I have learnt. You can take it or leave it as you wish. The first of these is very directly related to you because you have now been in this great institution of learning. The first lesson is: to live is to learn. Never stop learning. Carry on, and have the humility always to know that you can learn more. ... Successful people are not defined by a restless search for fame or fortune, but by an insatiable desire to be better and an infinite curiosity as to how. They are perpetual voyagers on the journey of self-improvement. And, actually, Sam is right. Don’t be afraid to fail. We all do. Be afraid of not trying. That’s a lot worse." ...
 
"Lesson number two: be of an open mind. I think that is as important today as distinctions of left versus right. The distinction I see the world over is between the open-minded and the closed-minded. My advice is to be open to those of different faiths, cultures, races, and nations. These things are the boundaries of division in history, but the open mind crosses them." ...

Blair "Lesson number three: giving is as good as getting. There is no greater honor than to serve others and nothing that gives greater satisfaction. ...  Compassion is as important as ambition. So don’t just choose a career, choose a cause. There are many to choose from." ...

"Lesson number four that I have learned: friendship matters and nothing matters more than family. Nurture them, care for them, love them. Because it is in the family that you learn one of the most important lessons of life: that it is not all about you." ...

"Lesson number five: be a leader not a follower, a lion heart not a faint heart, and above all else be a doer and not a critic. Human progress has never been shaped by commentators, complainers, or cynics. Progress is forged by the courage of the change-maker. And courage is not the absence of fear, it is the overcoming of fear, and the leaders that I have met, all of them have always had their doubts and anxieties, periods of acute lack of confidence, worry." ...

"Lesson number six: the world is connected as never before. Make use of it. ... It’s a fascinating and energizing and exciting world out there, and it’s a time to explore it—a world that offers so many adventures and possibilities. So my advice is take advantage of them. See the world, see its possibilities." ...

"Lesson number seven: that this is a time of challenge, an era of unique unpredictability, that it's also an age of unprecedented opportunity." ...

Blair-perspective"Have confidence, because we’re not an empire based on interests but a way of life based on values. And those values—democracy, liberty, the equality of each human being regardless of race, religion, faith, or gender, free enterprise, fair play—these values that define your nation at its best and my nation at its best—they’re not a monument to our past, they are humanity’s best hope for the future, and they are the values that people choose from Asia to Arabia, from Africa to the Americas, anytime they are free to do so. These are the values that inspired the early educators here at Colby in 1813 to set up this college because they were appalled at the waste of human ignorance and wanted to found institutions that could give people hope. These values are what brought you here and will send you out from here, so my lesson to you, the graduates of 2012 of Colby College, is be optimistic. With all the challenges you are going to face and all the worries and apprehension, be optimistic. Count your blessings for they are many. Wake up every morning with a sense of purpose and a thankful heart, because the world is before you. It’s waiting for you. It is open to you if you are open to it. You have one life, so make the most of it. And, by the way, have some fun along the way."