The first day I met Tony Blair, almost exactly eight years ago, he was in his second term as Prime Minister and I was just starting out. After our first meeting, a reporter asked if we’d found anything in common, and I jokingly replied that we both used Colgate toothpaste. (Laughter.)
The truth is I did feel a close connection to Tony Blair. As I said after the first meeting, I knew that “when either of us gets in a bind, there will be a friend on the other end of the phone.” My friend was there, indeed, after America was attacked on September the 11th, 2001. And it just wasn’t on the phone line. When I stood in the House Chamber to ask the civilized world to rally to freedom’s cause, there in the gallery was the staunch friend, Prime Minister Tony Blair.
He was there in a moment of trial to affirm the special relationship between the United States and the United Kingdom. And he was there to show America, and all nations, that he understood the stakes in the war on terror. As he said, “just as the terrorist seeks to divide humanity in hate, so we have to unify it around an idea. And that idea is liberty.” Under Tony Blair’s leadership, the might and the moral authority of Great Britain have been applied to the war on terror from the first day. Our nations have worked proudly together to destroy terrorist havens, liberate millions, and help rising democracies to serve the aspirations of their people.
Tony Blair’s entire career is defined by his devotion to democratic values and human dignity. At his very center, this man believes in freedom — freedom from oppression, freedom from hunger, freedom from disease, and freedom from fear and despair. In the House of Commons, as the longest-serving Labour Prime Minister in history, he fought to lift up his nation’s communities and better the lives of all its people. He helped turn generations of violence in Northern Ireland into years of peace. He drew the attention and conscience of the world to the suffering in Africa, and he continues to serve the cause of peace and democracy as the Quartet Envoy to the Middle East.Out of office but still in public life, Tony Blair remains on the world stage as a man of high intelligence and insight — and above all, as a man of faith and idealism and integrity. The former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom will stand tall in history. And today the United States of America proudly honors its gallant friend, Tony Blair.