Former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, David Cameron, visited DePauw University on Thursday afternoon.
Cameron’s speech, titled “Historic Events of 2016 and Where We go From Here” was a part of the Timothy and Sharon Ubben Lecture series. Cameron’s lecture marked the 30th anniversary of the series and Cameron is now the sixth United Kingdom Prime Minister to speak at DePauw.
“We need to be more like us, the real us,” Cameron said. “You, the next generation, must make sure we continue to live by them (national values).”
Cameron started his speech by saying he was excited to be at DePauw, applauding the University for winning the Monon Bell. He also noted that because snow was in the forecast and the DePauw tradition is to complete a boulder run on the first snowfall, he wasn't unpleased to be leaving campus directly after his address.
After his opening remarks, Cameron quickly began addressing larger issues. He said it is easy to become depressed with the current state of the world, but he is not worried. “I stand here tonight as a great optimist,” Cameron said, and repeated, throughout his hour on the stage.
Cameron discussed the United Kingdom’s decision to leave the European Union, the current political climate around Europe and the United States, Britain and America’s relationship, and what he believes world leaders need to work on to help those in need.
Cameron said Brexit and the election of Donald Trump are both partially caused by sections of people in society being left behind by the economy and feeling that there is too much change taking place too quickly. His focus looking forward is to fight global poverty through aid trade, along with ending ISIL, both militarily and politically.
Cameron said it is time to look at the nation’s core values of freedom and liberty and to be true to them in order to bring our countries together. “The values of democracy, freedom and market economics are far stronger than any of the problems we face in 2016,” Cameron said.
Cameron’s speech was followed by a question and answer session by DePauw University student media leaders. Samuel Caravana from The DePauw, Megan Wagner from WGRE and Tom Kryspin from D3TV took turns asking Cameron questions submitted by students, faculty, staff, alumni and members of the Greencastle community.
Owen said the questions were reviewed by Cameron’s staff before the event to prepare Cameron, but other than that the student journalists had the freedom to ask Cameron whatever they wanted.
The questions revolved around the future of the European Union, the similarities between the election of Donald Trump and how Brexit will impact the United Kingdom.
“The rise of populism cost me my job,” Cameron said.
He said that in both the United States and the United Kingdom, these political changes towards populist movements are caused in part by people who feel they have been left behind economically and that change is happening in their countries too quickly. “We have to listen to what these people want,” Cameron said.
Cameron said during the question and answer section that his decision to step down as prime minister was motivated by the ideas of credibility and passion.
“I could have approached the referendum in a different way,” Cameron said referring to the July referendum on whether to leave the EU. “I thought there was a strong argument for staying.”
The former prime minister said after the referendum, he lacked the credibility to lead his nation and the passion to make lead the exit. Instead, he said it was better to let someone who did support leaving the EU, like current Prime Minister Theresa May, lead the United Kingdom.
When asked about what he plans to do now that he is no longer prime minister, Cameron said he is currently writing a book about his time in politics, and will be working with the National Citizen Service, an organization similar to the Peace Corps. Cameron also said he is interested in Dementia and Alzheimer's research.
He concluded his time by stating that the United States and Great Britain are still two of the greatest countries in the world and that we should be proud of how far we have come and what we will do.
Ted and Rose Marie Hengesbach came from South Bend to see Cameron speak and to visit their granddaughter, junior Erika Killion.
“I was very interested to see what he had to say about Brexit because I do think there is a real connection between the travesty that has happened here in the United States,” Mr. Hengesbach said.
Sophomore Kiara Goodwine went to a student forum with Cameron before his 4:30 p.m. lecture. The student forum was comprised of 30 students including student media, political science and history majors, along with Prindle Institute of Ethics Interns.
“I’ve heard about how down to earth and genuine he is just as a prime minister,” Goodwine said. “He talked about how he kind of was more informal than his predecessors, and I thought that was really true.”
DePauw Student Body President, senior Claire Halffield said she thought it was exciting that DePauw was the first American university to have the opportunity to host Cameron since his resignation, but thought the questions that were asked to Cameron could have been more broad.
“It would have been nice to have a more varied set of questions for him to talk about,” Halffield said. “Just because his (political) career ended with Brexit doesn’t mean that that’s the only thing he should have been able to talk about.”