Award presented by President Bill Clinton
PHILADELPHIA, Sept. 13 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair received the National Constitution Center's 2010 Liberty Medal tonight in recognition of his steadfast commitment to conflict resolution. President Bill Clinton, Chair of the Center, was joined by Center President and CEO David Eisner as he awarded the prestigious medal to former Prime Minister Blair at a public ceremony at 7:00 p.m. at the National Constitution Center on Independence Mall in Historic Philadelphia. Governor Edward G. Rendell, Mayor Michael A. Nutter, and Christiane Amanpour, anchor of ABC News' This Week, also participated in the ceremony. The event was broadcast live on WPVI-TV/6abc and webcast live on www.6abc.com.
As British prime minister, Mr. Blair played a critical role in advancing peace in Northern Ireland. Throughout the grueling negotiation process that preceded the historic Good Friday Accord, he displayed unwavering determination to settle the generations-long conflict. Since leaving government, Mr. Blair has continued to facilitate productive dialogue between diverse groups, as Quartet Representative to the Middle East and through the Africa Governance Initiative and the Tony Blair Faith Foundation.
The Liberty Medal ceremony featured a special video segment with Patrick Bartholomew "Bertie" Ahern, former Taoiseach of Ireland, and Bono, U2 lead singer, activist, and past Liberty Medal recipient, who each expressed deep gratitude for Mr. Blair's role in the Northern Ireland Peace Process. In another video segment, Ernest Bai Koroma, President of the Republic of Sierra Leone, praised Mr. Blair's ongoing work in Africa and his commitment to the continent's growth and development.
National Constitution Center President and CEO David Eisner welcomed the dignitaries to the ceremony and said that this year's award recognizes Mr. Blair's dedication to, and his success in, building understanding among nations and creating lasting solutions in areas of conflict:
"Prime Minister Blair shows throughout his efforts that it's the serious, sustained involvement of citizens that makes the difference between success in a democracy and its dissolution. Without the profound exercise of civic responsibility – and patriotic duty – through dialogue of the people of Northern Ireland and of the United Kingdom, peace could not have happened. Tonight we honor Blair for helping to secure, and extend, the 'Blessings of Liberty' around the world – by summoning so many others to heed the great call of civic engagement."
President Bill Clinton said, "It was a privilege to work with my friend Tony Blair to help end 30 years of sectarian violence and broker a lasting peace in Northern Ireland, to stop the killing in, and mass exodus from, Kosovo, and to develop policies that would improve living conditions for people in both our countries."
"Now, as a private citizen, Tony continues to demonstrate the same leadership, dedication and creativity in promoting economic opportunity in the Middle East and the resolution of conflicts rooted in religion around the world, and is building the capacity of developing nations to govern honestly and effectively. I'm pleased the Constitution Center is awarding him the Liberty Medal in recognition of his work to promote the actions necessary to make peace, reconciliation, and prosperity possible."
Former Prime Minister Tony Blair said, "It is an honor to receive the Liberty Medal. I am deeply indebted to the National Constitution Center for adding my name to such a distinguished list of recipients. Freedom, liberty and justice are the values by which this medal is struck. Freedom, liberty and justice are the values which I try to apply to my work on governance in Africa and on preparing the Palestinians for statehood. They are the values which drive the work of my faith foundation as we try to show that people of different faiths can live together constructively, in peace and harmony."
"It is a particular pleasure to receive this award from my great friend and ally President Clinton," added Blair. "Bill Clinton's friendship, counsel and support were so very vital as we worked towards peace in Northern Ireland. I was proud to stand with President Clinton as we fought to end the genocide in Kosovo. And I am just as proud to receive this award from him. I accept it, not as recognition of what has already been achieved, but as a sign that we share an ambition and determination to achieve so much more in the future."
To begin the ceremony, Governor Edward G. Rendell said, "In places where others had long ago given up hope, Tony Blair has created the realistic hope of a better future. He has sought to bring peace to troubled regions by extending the reach of freedom and democracy, and by helping people understand, and even embrace, what makes them different."
Mayor Michael A. Nutter added, "It is the core values of a free society that we celebrate with the Liberty Medal presentation – values exemplified in the work of this year's honoree, Tony Blair, as he helps build pathways to freedom, and to calm a troubled world."
Tony Blair served as prime minister of the United Kingdom from 1997 through 2007, the longest service of any Labour Party prime minister, based on leading his party to an unprecedented three consecutive general election victories. Blair's role in the Northern Ireland Peace Process has been widely recognized as one of his greatest achievements while in office. On April 10, 1998, the Good Friday Accord brought an end to sectarian violence in Northern Ireland, after a decade-long negotiation. Blair's success in navigating the contentious negotiation process places him firmly among the world's most effective modern statesmen. By extending his hand to Irish leaders in the spirit of unity and refusing to abandon discussions – despite repeated and often violent setbacks – Blair opened the door to liberty and peace in a region long plagued by turmoil.
In 2007, at the end of his term as prime minister, Blair was named Quartet Representative to the Middle East, representing the United States, the United Nations, Russia, and the European Union. In this role, Blair works with the Palestinian Authority, the Government of Israel, and the international community to prepare the Palestinians for statehood.
In 2008, he established the Tony Blair Faith Foundation, which promotes respect and understanding among the world's religions to show how faith is a powerful force for good in the modern world. By encouraging better understanding of other people's beliefs, particularly among young people, the foundation aims to mediate and prevent conflict through increased recognition of shared values. This international organization's efforts include programs that engage secondary school students of different faiths in learning directly from and about each other, as well as partnerships with leading universities to engage the higher education sector in a deeper understanding of the interrelationship between faith and globalization. The foundation also leads a multi-faith social action program that mobilizes people of faith to work together on issues of health and global poverty, in order to help achieve the U.N.'s Millennium Development Goals.
Blair also spearheads the Africa Governance Initiative, which works in Rwanda, Sierra Leone, and Liberia, equipping visionary African leaders to deliver on their reform agendas, while tackling poverty and attracting sustainable investment.
In addition, he leads the Breaking the Climate Deadlock initiative. As the first major head of government to bring climate change to the top of the international political agenda at the 2005 G8 summit, Blair now works with world leaders to build consensus on a new comprehensive international climate policy framework.
The Liberty Medal was established in 1988 to commemorate the bicentennial of the U.S. Constitution. Given annually, the medal honors men and women of courage and conviction who strive to secure the blessings of liberty to people around the globe. The Liberty Medal was first administered by the National Constitution Center in 2006, when Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton were honored for their bipartisan humanitarian efforts on behalf of the victims of the tsunami in Southeast Asia and the hurricanes on the Gulf Coast. Other past Liberty Medal recipients include Nelson Mandela, Shimon Peres, Kofi Annan, Sandra Day O'Connor, and Bono. Last year's Liberty Medal was awarded to filmmaker and humanitarian Steven Spielberg for his artistic and personal commitment to the preservation of human rights. The Medal has also been awarded to organizations, including Doctors Without Borders and CNN International. Six recipients of the Medal have subsequently won the Nobel Peace Prize.
Ira Lubert of Independence Capital Partners sponsored the Liberty Medal Award in 2010, as he has for the past two years. Citizens Bank was the presenting sponsor for the President's Reception prior to the Liberty Medal ceremony. The City of Philadelphia and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania also supported the Liberty Medal. Christopher Bruner, Managing Partner of Ernst & Young; Steven M. Galbraith, Partner of Maverick Capital; and William R. Sasso, Chairman of Stradley Ronon, served as co-chairs of the 2010 Liberty Medal, leading the committee in charge of generating support for the event.
Action News Anchorman Jim Gardner hosted the live broadcast of the Liberty Medal ceremony on 6abc. The ceremony was also streamed live to a global audience on www.6abc.com. The National Constitution Center liveblogged the event at www.constitutioncenter.org/libertymedal and provided additional commentary on the alpha version of its new blog platform, blog.constitutioncenter.org.
The National Constitution Center, located at 525 Arch St. on Philadelphia's Independence Mall, is an independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to increasing public understanding of the U.S. Constitution and the ideas and values it represents. The Center serves as a museum, an education center, and a forum for debate on constitutional issues. The museum dramatically tells the story of the Constitution from Revolutionary times to the present through more than 100 interactive, multimedia exhibits, film, photographs, text, sculpture and artifacts, and features a powerful, award-winning theatrical performance, "Freedom Rising." The Center also houses the Annenberg Center for Education and Outreach, which serves as the hub for national constitutional education. Also, as a nonpartisan forum for constitutional discourse, the Center presents – without endorsement – programs that contain diverse viewpoints on a broad range of issues. For more information, call 215.409.6700 or visit www.constitutioncenter.org.
EDITOR'S NOTE: A complete list of Liberty Medal winners follows.
Past Recipients of the Liberty Medal
Mikhail Gorbachev, former Soviet leader
Bono and DATA (joint prize)
George H.W. Bush and William J. Clinton, former U.S. Presidents (joint prize)
Viktor Yushchenko, President of Ukraine
Hamid Karzai, President of Afghanistan
Sandra Day O'Connor, Associate Justice, U.S. Supreme Court
Colin Powell, U.S. Secretary of State
Kofi Annan, United Nations Secretary-General*
Dr. James Watson and Dr. Francis Crick, co-discoverers of the structure of DNA (joint prize)
Kim Dae Jung, President of South Korea*
Senator George J. Mitchell, Irish peace negotiator
King Hussein I of Jordan and Shimon Peres, former Prime Minister of Israel (joint prize)
Sadako Ogata, United Nations High Commissioner of Refugees
Vaclav Havel, President of the Czech Republic
F.W. de Klerk, President of South Africa*, and Nelson Mandela, President of the African National Congress* (joint prize)
Thurgood Marshall, former Associate Justice, U.S. Supreme Court
Oscar Arias, President of Costa Rica, and Medecins sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders)* (joint prize)
Jimmy Carter, former U.S. President*
Lech Walesa, founder of Solidarity, Poland
* Liberty Medal recipients who subsequently won the Nobel Peace Prize
SOURCE National Constitution Center