“Where Do We Go From Here?”

By Ana Gabriela García


At 3:30 in Alumni Gym, eager students exchanged raised eyebrows and whispers as they sat down to hear the right, honorable David Cameron, former PM of the UK, speak at the Fall 2017 Convocation.
After a year of experiencing heightened isolationist sentiment, anti-immigration reform, as well as domestic and foreign terrorism in both the UK and the US, Cameron decided to focus his discourse around the question, “Where do we go from here?”

“Yes, we face immense challenges, but it’s good to look back and see what’s been achieved across the years.”

-David  Cameron

The honorable former PM began his speech addressing the state of flux of post-war certainties, like geopolitical cooperation, free trade markets, and multi-national organizations like the UN, which have helped keep peace for more than 60 years.

With this introduction of a very complex geopolitical question, Cameron sought to derail the “populist myth” that factors such as economic stagnation and domestic terrorism are failing or have already failed our society.

He urged Elon students, staff and the extended community to not abandon the Democratic West’s ideals, nor to abandon the resulting national and international policies of the post-war period. These are the free enterprise system, multinational organizations, increased diversity and reasonable, un-extremist political decision-making.

Even the rise of technological giants, along with their technological innovations, can be attributed to our democratic values and our increased inclination towards globalization.

“All those good things didn’t happen in spite of our values, but because of them”

– David Cameron

The three things we must do to combat populist sentiments that seek to challenge the validity of our western democratic ideals are very clear to Cameron. They are to:

  1. See what lies behind the current unease causing these sentiments
  2. Win all our old post-war arguments (those used during the Cold War and to fight against the iron curtain) yet, again
  3. Use clear thinking

What we need, Cameron argues, is a “cause-correction.” Since we- as a global society- are still betting to see all the benefits of a globalized world and interconnected free trade market.

“The fact is that too many people, even in our (the US and UK) democracies, have been left behind.”

After noting how the UK had left some of its people behind, Cameron tried to level the playing field by implementing policy directed to helping impoverished citizens better their economic and social status. One of the measures he took as PM was implementing a ten dollar minimum wage.

Cameron believes that multi-national corporations are to blame for leaving some people behind. The former PM argus that companies should live by the same values as citizens do. For this reason, while hosting and chairing a G8 summit, he made sure to include tax, trade and transparency to the agenda.

There are also many cultural ways in which people have been left behind in our globalized, democratic western society. One of these is the mass migration of displaced peoples, which has caused increasing anti-immigration and anti-multi cultural sentiment.

“We do know the right answers, we just need the political power to put them into place.”

David Cameron took this time to reflect on the Charlottesville protests and the destructive, divisive, identity politics that have spread across the west. As in many times during his discourse, Cameron referred to US history, recalling how this country was founded in direct opposition to hate, and how the country is losing its stance as the “multi-ethnic, opportunity rich society” it once used to be.

A solution he proposed to this cultural issue was to restore people’s faith in borders. In doing so, people’s faith in immigration would be restored. Security and immigration are not, nor ever will be, separate from each other, he said.

“The United States is still the essential nation. The shinning city upon the hill.”

David Cameron ended his discourse in a rather uplifting way, reminding students to not give up on their leaders, on themselves, on their country or on the democratic west. After all, he said, the United States is still the “city upon a hill,” it still has immense influence in geopolitics, and will, for a very long time.

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