Meet Tony Blair, former British Prime Minister.
Q How is your class going? How are you liking it the second year?
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A The students are very good, really top-notch I would say. I’m finding it really exciting, and because we’re now doing this in different places around the world, what we’re finding is that the course is becoming richer. It’s becoming something really special.
Q Would you say there are skills that are important as both a politician and a professor? Do the roles overlap?
A Yes, absolutely. Of course you have to be able to speak and think on your feet. But what’s really fascinating to me is how in a classroom you’ve got the time and the setting to be able to contemplate and analyze. Politics is very quick-fire and harsh. The academic setting is a little slower.
Q Why did you wait to convert to Roman Catholicism until after the end of your term as Prime Minister?
A I have been going to Mass for many years. I was never hiding the fact that I was a practicing Catholic. But I think it would have been a challenge and added a whole new dimension of controversy and debate.
Q You said when you chose to invade Iraq that you felt a moral obligation to do so. What role do you think morals should play in politics?
A Well, I think that in a way the only form of decision making is what you think is right. That doesn’t necessarily have a religious base, obviously, but I think politics should be based on a belief of what you think is right, and that can give you strength to make difficult decisions.
Q Is there a viable Left in British politics today? And what do you think about your successor, Gordon Brown?
A I hope so: the government. And I’d prefer not to comment. When I left, I said I wouldn’t discuss the current government.
Q During your time as Prime Minister, you moved the Labor Party significantly toward the center. Why?
A Personally, I think you win elections from the center. The Labor Party in its history never won consecutive elections, and now we’ve won three.
Q Are you still in touch with George W. Bush ’68? And have you ever sent him a text message?
A Yes, of course I am, absolutely. And not a text message yet, no. Though I do now live my life on a blackberry.
Q How would you compare the student culture at Oxford during your time there to what you have observed at Yale?
A Well, I don’t know how the two compare, but I will say that I think students at Yale and Oxford now work much harder than we did when I was younger. That seems to be universally true.