US Secretary of Education and Tony Blair Participate in Trans-Atlantic Video Conference

Foundation Update

US Secretary of Education and Tony Blair Participate in Trans-Atlantic Video Conference

16 Nov 2011

US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, along with students from Chantilly High School in Fairfax County, Virginia, yesterday participated in a special trans-Atlantic video conference with former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and students from the United Arab Emirates in Dubai. The American students joined the video conference from the Newseum in Washington, DC.

The students in Washington and Dubai had a lively conversation about wealth and poverty, corruption and justice - discussing what motivates them to take charitable action, and how their faith inspires them to do so. The US students spoke of how some undertake charitable trips to other countries to distribute aid, some through their local churches. The students then discussed how action can be taken from any motivation, but as one Chantilly student put it "whatever inspires us to take action, we should make sure we take action for good and not bad."

The video conference is part of the Tony Blair Faith Foundation's Face to Faith Schools program which brings together students aged 12-17 together worldwide using digital technology. Already active in 17 countries, including the United States, the program promotes peace and cross-cultural understanding by creating opportunities for students of different religions, cultures and beliefs to learn directly with, from and about one other.

Speaking at the video-conference, Secretary Duncan said, "The US is changing rapidly. Young people need to embrace it not be overwhelmed by diversity. There are two paths: tolerance or intolerance and we can look to young people to help lead us to tolerance. Face to Faith is an amazingly inspiring and powerful way to learn, and create more space for this important dialogue."

Charles Haynes, US advisor to Face to Faith and director of the Religious Freedom Project at the Newseum supports the Face to Faith Programme being implemented in US public schools noting it is consistent with the First Amendment. He recently said, "The programne advances First Amendment principles by encouraging student voice, promoting religious freedom, and educating for understanding among students of different faiths, beliefs, cultures and nationalities."

The trans-Atlantic video conference was filled with many positive comments from the students as well as special guests. As Tony Blair Tony Blair said toward the end of their time together, "The key is to educate students to have an open mind toward others. Education needs to open people's minds to see that the diversity of world is a strength." It is through video conferences like this one that Face to Faith helps to equip young people to become genuine global citizens, enriched with mutual understanding.