Addressing an audience of over 500 people on the evening of Sunday 7th July, Gordon Brown delivered the 17th Annual Isaiah Berlin Lecture.
Brown, who was Prime Minister from 2007 to 2010 and the longest-serving Chancellor in modern history, delivered a lecture entitled “Challenges of a fast-changing global society.” He is now United Nations Special Envoy for Global Education and holds a number of other positions on global education.
In the lecture, Gordon Brown said: “It’s a real privilege to be invited here this evening to be asked to give this very prestigious lecture in front of such a distinguished audience in such a sacred place which is so much part of the history of the Jewish community and the history of this country in honour of one of the great public intellectuals who was so close to this synagogue.”
Addressing the Jewish community, he went on to say: “The Labour party owes you an unqualified apology. And that is only the starting point in repairing the trust that has been broken.”
In the lecture, he spoke about three features of globalisation – economic discontent, cultural pessimism and anti-politics sentiment. He differentiated between generous patriotism and narrow nationalism. Drawing on Sir Isaiah Berlin’s thinking, he referred to the great liberal value of empathy, understand the other person’s point of view.
Closing the lecture, Gordon Brown said: “Whatever the difficulties, the dangers, the risks and whatever problems we are going through, let’s not forget that it is only because we have forgotten about the evils that brought the need for cooperation, that people have thought that cooperation is not the better way forward.
I urge you all to think that we have got to put the case for cooperation through education, not just in dealing with anti-Semitism and not just in dealing with the problems we now face in Britain but in dealing with these great global problems, to create a more empathetic community.”
Synagogue Chair Madeleine Abramson said: “We were delighted to welcome Mr Brown to our synagogue and he gave a brilliant lecture. We were grateful for the support he expressed for our own community, and also the intellectual rigour with which he approached the subject matter. It was a special occasion for the synagogue and the wider community.”
Lecture organiser Zaki Cooper said: “Mr Brown made us all think deeply about the big issues facing us today. He particularly spoke about the value of empathy, which of course is important in all human relationships and inter-faith. We were delighted to welcome a number of leaders from other faiths our beautiful synagogue, as well as several other distinguished guests.”