Former British Prime Minister David Cameron visited Elon University Thursday afternoon, urging a sold-out crowd of 1,500 people to thoughtfully consider their democratic values and prevent the United States from going off course.
Cameron, a Conservative Party leader who resigned as prime minister last year after the United Kingdom’s decision to leave the European Union, said he has growing concerns about populism, radical ideas and isolationist attitudes.
He frequently referred to U.S. President Donald Trump in his speech.
“Last year, Britain voted in a historic referendum to leave the European Union, and then here in the United States, as usual, you had to do something even bigger, even bolder, even more striking, by electing Donald Trump as your 45th president,” Cameron said.
Cameron spoke about how the United States could heal internal wounds. He said people should acknowledge the sources of unease with globalization, reward proper values in politics and have leaders with clear thinking to address challenges that lie ahead.
Cameron said dramatic changes in business and rapidly growing international trade have left many Americans without a stable future.
“Too many people ... have been left out economically,” he said.
Wealthy people have reaped the benefits of globalization, while the gap between the middle and lower class has widened, Cameron said. He suggested countries increase the minimum wage, eliminate income taxes on poorer people and invest more money into programs training people for the jobs of the future.
Those suffering from economic hardship should not give in to isolationist instincts, he said. Cameron criticized what he said was Trump’s distant approach to U.S. involvement in global affairs. He specifically called out Trump’s decision to withdraw the United States from the Paris Agreement on climate change and Trump’s verbal attacks on NATO, the military alliance between several North American and European countries.
“We won’t make America great again by making Eastern Europe weak again,” Cameron said.
But Cameron also said he recognizes that the United States should receive more help from its NATO allies.
“Your president is absolutely right that the U.S. has borne too much of the burden for too long,” he said. “As prime minister, Britain always made the 2 percent of GDP spending target for defense, unlike all the other major European powers.
“It is time they stepped up to the plate and relieve some of the burden from U.S. taxpayers.”
Though NATO could be improved to better support the United States financially, Cameron said, it is important to maintain unity among NATO allies.
“Just because something isn’t perfect doesn’t mean you should ditch it,” he said.
Throughout his speech, Cameron returned to a theme of unity. He blamed the news media and voters for rewarding divisive politics. He said being in the middle of the political spectrum is the most difficult place to be since politics seldom rewards compromise and tough decisions.
“In politics, the right needs to celebrate how wonderful a meritocratic, multiracial society can be. The left needs to get behind more secure immigration control,” he said. “Frankly, we all need to give up divisive, and ultimately, destructive identity politics. We’ll never build strong societies if we keep emphasizing differences.”