When my wife pointed out that Lord Patten was coming to town to promote his new book Cousins & Strangers, it was time to part with $125 for an annual household membership to the World Affairs Council who were hosting Lord Patten. After all this was the man who had held, not one, but three of the toughest political jobs over the past decade. First, he had been the last Governor of Hong Kong presiding over the handover of a liberal state to a communist government. Second, he oversaw the reconstruction of the Irish Police Force following the entry of the IRA/Sinn Fein into the political process. Third, he was European Commissioner for Foreign Affairs during a time of membership expansion and sharp disagreement, both internally and externally, over the invasion of Iraq.
But it wasn't just his wealth of experience that attracted us, but his chosen subject matter too. He was speaking on the history and future of the transatlantic relationship between America, Britain and Europe. His central thesis is that America and Europe has greatly benefited from the world order America created after WW2 through a rules based approach and a believe in markets and democracy enacted through vehicles such as the Marshall Plan, IMF and United Nations, and that for both to prosper in the future they both need to return to this balance and work as partners not as competitors. As an optimist he hopes that the current administration's unilateral tendencies are a mere blip, and that America will return to their previous role of gracious leadership.
Lord Patten's wit and eloquence made the 90 minutes fly by. One piece of rhetorical magic sticks in the mind when he juxtaposed the mighty political impact made by Pope John Paul II in helping to bring down communism, with the feeble social impact made by Pope John Paul II as the fertility rates in all the predominantly Catholic countries were on the decline, for dramatic impact.
I look forward to downloading the podcast and reading the book.