Tony Blair entered the Wexner Party Barn on the evening of Nov. 21 to a crowd of well-dressed, politically active adults attending the New Albany Community Foundation's A Remarkable Evening fundraiser.
He had just flown in from New York City, where he spoke to the United Nations.
As Mr. Blair scanned the room, he probably observed two large tables filled with 15 awestruck New Albany High School students, one of whom was me.
He took the stage following speeches and awards given to significant philanthropists in our community and was introduced by one of our hosts, Mrs. Abigail Wexner.
Mr. Blair walked up to the podium, paused a bit as the crowd waited to hear his political wisdom and cracked a joke about Victoria's Secret models. With that, he began an hour of funny, intelligent and interesting oration and conversation.
In the first 10 minutes, Mr. Blair addressed his current position and career choices. He smiled as he shared that since he didn't like to play golf and he was no longer prime minister of Britain, his hobby was working toward peace in the Middle East.
One recent project involved working with Israel and Palestine. Mr. Blair addressed the importance of continued international involvement and outlined his beliefs, saying that Palestine needs to be built as a separate country from the ground up.
Mr. Blair's take on his experiences as prime minister resonated with many of the students. Politics often seem complicated, difficult and fickle. He acknowledged that he has made mistakes, and that moral gray areas exist.
His advice to students, who would like to one day influence the world through the political system was to learn something other than government. He said students should learn about the world, about business, medicine or farming.
He said there are many opportunities in life, and one must first understand the world before making decisions that it. He said lack of understanding is one of the roots of hatred.
It seems fitting that a leader who believes in facilitating understanding was the guest speaker at the New Albany Community Foundation fundraiser. Mr. Blair may be increasing understanding through programs like his Faith Foundation, which encourages religious compassion and common goals, while the New Albany Community Foundation helps to increase understanding through supporting our school, library and educational programs.
Maybe one of the 15 students who attended the fundraiser will go on to become a world leader; maybe some of us will support our community charity. But all 15 of us have come out of this event with the motivation to make the world different.
Tony Blair left New Albany having molded the lives of at least 15 New Albany students. It was truly a remarkable evening.