Tony Blair, former Prime Minister of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, was the speaker at the fourth Ateneo MVP Center Leadership Forum yesterday and I was privileged to be among the 1,200 people invited to the talk. I had a great seat too: not orchestra center because the first few rows were reserved for important people and the rest of it was immediately filled up, but the first row of the left side which turned out to be right in front of Mr. Blair's podium! His topic was "The Leader as Nation Builder in a Time of Globalization." The topic was specially chosen by the Ateneo de Manila University for its 150th anniversary whose theme, The Ateneo Way, comprises excellence, spirituality and nation-building.
I'm not going to say anything about the lecture itself because I've already seen three articles written about it and will just point you to them. The articles of John Nery, a journalist and columnist at the Philippine Daily Inquirer, are "Blair: The battle is about Islam" and "Her Britannic Majesty’s loyal texter." The article of Rick Olivares, an alumnus who writes regularly for the Ateneo de Manila website, is "Tony Blair: An ordinary human being in an extraordinary situation." And the article of Joaquin Alonzo Narciso, a young high school student, is "Servant-Leaders as Nation Builders." After the lecture, Mr. Blair was presented with several gifts which hold great meaning to the university: a replica of the statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus carved by Philippine national hero Jose Rizal while he was a student in the Ateneo; a set of books collecting the essays and homilies of Fr. Horacio de la Costa, a historian and the first Filipino superior of the Jesuits in the Philippines; and, probably a first for the university during a formal occasion, an Ateneo de Manila jacket.