Former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom David Cameron spoke to a Mississippi State University audience Tuesday about foreign policy, including his views on Brexit, NATO, China and the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and why his country’s alliance with the U.S. is imperative to both—and the world at large.
Cameron said the U.S. and U.K. are “as close as two independent countries can be,” citing a close allegiance since their World War II partnership to defeat the Axis powers, continuing through fighting together in Iraq and Afghanistan, and their current mutual support to assist Ukraine in defending its sovereign independence from Russia.
His speech was part of the university’s Global Lecture Series and sponsored by the MSU Student Association. The program included a question-and-answer session moderated by MSU Chief Communications Officer Sid Salter.
Cameron, who described himself as an optimist, said there are many daunting challenges across the world stage.
He said there’s “not a sense that our planet is getting richer, safer and freer, but seeing it wracked by pandemics, by climate catastrophe and by conflict—not a potential New World order, but a return to an Old World disorder,” he said.
“We like to think our democracies are robust, that they may bend and stress, but not break. That they’ve been through worse,” he said, but explained that “full on, modern democracies” have a “much shorter history” and may be “more delicate that we like to think.”
“My argument today is that democracy—full on democracy, if you like—is worth fighting for,” Cameron said.
He said democracy’s ideals are “incredibly valuable,” but “only truly valuable if they belong to everyone in your country.” He said he predicts that democracy will continue to prevail as it did in 1945 and in 1989, “but only if people like you—your generation—fight for it.”
Cameron outlined several points essential for preserving freedom for future generations: international collaboration, especially in the fight against terrorism; support for free trade and a global economy; and the ability to see good in political opponents and reach across the aisles to get work done.
“I led the first coalition government in the U.K. for 70 years. Two parties that loathed each other put aside their differences and worked together in government for the common good. We got things done,” Cameron said.
The British prime minister from 2010-16, Cameron was the U.K.’s youngest premier in two centuries—at age 43—until fall 2022 when 42-year-old Rishi Sunak took the title.
During his tenure as Conservative Party leader, Cameron took the U.K. from economic crisis to the fastest-growing major advanced economy in the world. The transformation included a reduction in the deficit by over two-thirds; establishment of approximately one million businesses; and creation of a record number of jobs which totaled 1,000 extra jobs for every day he was in office.
In foreign policy, Cameron developed an international strategy in the post-Iraq era that addressed the new challenges of the Arab Spring as well as a more aggressive Russia, while ensuring that Britain played its maximum role in the global fight against ISIS. Under his leadership, Britain built a strong alliance with India and became China’s preferred partner in the West. During his six years as head of government, he continually championed Britain’s distinct relationship with the U.S.
In 2016 when the British people voted to leave the European Union, Cameron resigned his position, continuing to advance issues such as support for young people, cutting edge medical research and international development.
His one-day MSU visit also included a meet-and-greet with Shackouls Honors College students and one with university faculty.