By Bronson Peshlakai
CLEVELAND – Business leaders, Cuyahoga Community College officials and some students were among a throng of people to hear the much-sought after keynote speaker for the Tri-C Foundation’s Presidential Scholarship Luncheon October 5.
Former Prime Minister Tony Blair spoke to a packed crowd at Cleveland’s Renaissance Hotel and helped raise more than a million dollars to help students pay for college.
Blair spoke eloquently stressing that education needs to be on the centerpiece of social policy, and that it must be available to all levels of a community, regardless of socioeconomic status.
“The number one priority is to get moving and to get jobs created,” Blair said. “It is not an issue of ideology but efficacy is what works. What we find in the United Kingdom, and what you acknowledge here, is you have got to adapt to a new world and a sense of a new economy.”
Blair said Americans need to phase out thinking on the spectrum of left- or right-wing politics, and to start thinking either with an open-mind or closed-mind thought process.
“We need to adapt to a new world,” Blair said. “You have to be open-minded about global change or be closed and hunker down and be afraid,” he said.
The former prime minister enamored the full attention of the audience with his lilting British accent, his flair for embellishing with anecdotes, and stories of his political and personal life.
“He talked about his family, and he talked about his personal life growing up, and then he paralleled it with the growth of the economy and the need for education – it put things to light that really hit home with me,” said Marlie Hooper, a member of the student government who attended the event. “He was so easy-going, that we felt that he was sitting at our own table, instead of up at a podium.”
Blair recalled that his father worked hard to put him through a good college, and urged business leaders to invest in the Cleveland community, and to support the students who need money to attend college. WKYC News anchor Kim Wheeler emceed the event and said Blair sent agood message to Tri-C and the community.
“It was a great mix of seriousness and fun; he was also very humorous at points, but I think that the message about how important education was really key.” Wheeler said. “People who are elite do have educations, but it can’t just be the elite, it has to be everyone. I think that it is such an important message for Tri-C, and for our community.”
At the time of print for this story, the Tri-C Foundation was still finalizing how much money was raised that will fund student scholarships, but preliminary figures point to over $1 million was raised.
Blair joins former keynote speakers such as Oprah Winfrey, Tom Brokaw, Condoleezza Rice and Maya Angelou, as the headliner to raise money for student scholarships.
For more information on applying for a Tri-C Foundation Scholarship, visit www.tri-c.edu/foundation.