On October 11, 2011, Istanbul Bilgi University was proud to welcome former British Prime Minister Tony Blair to its Santral Campus. Bilgi is the fourth member of Laureate International Universities to be honored with a visit from Mr. Blair, following his participation in the 2009 Campus Symposium at BiTS in Iserlohn, Germany, a visit to Universidade Anhembi Morumbi in Sao Paulo, Brazil in October 2010 and a visit to Universidad Europea de Madrid in June 2011. Mr. Blair's visit is especially exciting for the university community as it coincides with the start of the new academic year.
Mr. Blair became the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom at the age of 43 following the 1997 General Election. He was the second youngest person to assume the title of Prime Minister since Lord Liverpool in 1812. Blair won re-election three times before handing his duties to Gordon Brown. After leaving public office in 2007, Mr. Blair has stayed busy serving as envoy to the Middle East for the United Nations and opening the Tony Blair Faith Foundation, which aims to promote respect and understanding about the world's major religions and show how faith is a powerful force for good in the modern world.
Bilgi's rector, Remzi Sanver, introduced Mr. Blair and highlighted the educational, social and cultural contributions Istanbul Bilgi University has made to Istanbul and Turkey. He stressed that Bilgi students need to take advantage of international education opportunities and listen to and learn from leaders who have a say in the international arena, all of which are brought to them through the Laureate International Universities network.
The Right Honourable Tony Blair delivered his speech to a group that included students, alumni and faculty from Istanbul Bilgi University as well as leaders from business, education and government. Tony Blair began his speech by emphasizing the changing role and promising economic potential of Turkey in the world. Mr. Blair underlined the changing dynamics of the world we are living in and continued his speech with the following words: "The world we are living in today is a world where people have been brought much closer together. The major questions is, do people see integration as a threat that makes them anxious, something that would make us lose our unique identities? Or do they see strength in that diversity, something that enriches society? This is today's most significant issue. The 21st century is unlikely to see a fundamental conflict of political ideology in the way the 20th century was dominated by it. But it might well see a clash of religious or cultural ideology. Therefore, the notion of alliance of civilization is of great significance."
After his speech, Mr. Blair answered the questions addressed to him by Istanbul Bilgi University students and alumni. Following the conference, Tony Blair was presented with "The Sükreden Vase". The Sükreden Vase symbolizes Asure Day, that is, 10 Muharram (the tenth day of the first month of the Arabic calendar) on which miracles are believed to take place. The vase was designed to depict the peaceful existence of all peoples.