Posts by April M. Williams

Posts by April M. Williams, speaker, author and coach

About April M. Williams

Traveler | Yogi | Foodie | Travel Blog Writer | Adventurer. Connect with me on Google. Email April.

Wild about Bees: Backyard Hives and More

Honeybee populations are on the decline due to lack of habitat, monoculture, pesticides and a variety of diseases. After learning about the struggles of honeybees and how important they are to our food supply, we installed two honeybee colonies. Watching them and their complex community is fascinating.

Backyard beekeeping

Backyard beekeeping

Honeybee colonies include a queen, a few hundred drones and about 60,000 worker bees. Inside the hive, honeybees transition through a variety of jobs over their 6 week life cycle. Following are their roles by age.

  • Day 1-2: Clean cells, keep brood warm
  • Day 3-5: Feed older larva
  • Day 6-11: feed youngest larva
  • Day 12-17: produce wax, build comb, carry food, clear out dead
  • Day 18-21: guard entrance to hive and honey
  • Day 22-40/45 (until death): collect pollen, nectar, water, pollinate plants
Did you know honey has been harvested for centuries? A honeybee produces 1/12 of a teaspoon of honey over her lifetime. Honey does not go bad. All honey will crystalize and you can liquify it by setting the bottle on a sunny window sill. Honey has been used on wounds as an antiseptic for hundreds of years. Some people claim eating local honey reduces the impact of allergies. This may be due to a gradual exposure to local pollens.
Honeybees pollinate many of the foods we eat including cashews, cauliflower, broccoli, peppers, watermelons, oranges, cucumbers, lemons, limes, carrots, strawberries, apples, avocado, cherries, almonds and blueberries. Without these foods, our produce aisle would be bare.
Life is not easy for honeybees as they are susceptible to many diseases including varroa miles, colony collapse disorder, American Foul Brood and European Foul Brood disease. Beekeepers lose about 40% of their hives each season. Due to these loses, it is hard to make a profit as a beekeeper.
You can help honeybee populations survive by planting flowers which product pollen and nectar, providing shadow water dishes for drinking, and reducing or eliminate pesticide and herbicide use.
To get started in beekeeping, you will need bees, protective clothing, hives and a smoker. McHenry County honeybee supplies are available from Sue at Harvard Egg and Feed and Warren at Spencer Apiary Supplies.
Plants that provide food and nectar for pollinators are beneficial to our environment whether or not you keep honeybees. They not only provide food and habitat for honeybees and other pollinators, they are drought resistant, low maintenance and do not need fertilizers. The Wildflower Preservation and Propagation Committee has native plant yard plans and recommended vendors and offers a mentoring program. Northern Kane County Wild Ones also has a wealth of resources.
New and experienced beekeepers can benefit from joining the Northern Illinois Beekeepers Association with meetings most months in Woodstock, Illinois.

I Tackled GITAP 2016

I set out to tackle GITAP 2016. And survived. Not only did I survive the annual GITAP, I had a great time throughout the ride. The six day GITAP ride is a fundraiser for Ride Illinois, a bicycling advocacy group. Four weeks ago, 10 miles was a long cycle ride for me. My perspective changed very quickly. My training miles were less than ideal as the the ride date approached. About 4 weeks before the start, I heard about the Schaumburg Bicycle Club. I enjoyed a couple of 20 mile rides with the club led by Lynn. On one of these rides, Roger, a more experienced cyclist recommended I get a rearview mirror which proved to be valuable safety measure.
A 25 mile ride on my own and the 51 mile Udder ride rounded out my training for the month before the GITAP. Besides Roger, Wayne, Karen and Lynn were also helpful and shared their best tips for a successful ride. With their support and lots of pedaling, I biked the entire GITAP 2016 route.
Total miles ridden: 290.78.
I achieved my goal for this week to complete GITAP 2016 route without SAG (support and gear.) SAG volunteers monitor the route to pick up bikes and cyclists unable to complete their ride that day.

Day 1 – Coal City to Oglesby 

Distance 55.28 miles. Cities on our route: Morris, Seneca, Marseilles, Ottawa, Utica, North Utica
I picked up my registration packet, loaded my luggage on the truck then set off on my bike early in the morning. Today would be the longest bike ride I ever rode. Headwinds were a challenge for the first 13 miles. Just as I approached the Illinois and Michigan Canal Trail, I met up with another GITAP rider Kent. We rode together for most of the next six days. The I & M Canal trail is mostly packed limestone with the rest a combination of grass, packed dirt, loose gravel and a few spots of sand. The best parts of the trail were shade, shelter from the wind and no auto traffic. About the 26 mile mark we ran into Wayne and Chris and rode with them the rest of the day. We stopped in Ottawa for lunch. Our ride took us up to the locks across from Starved Rock. The last 5 miles were hilly compared to the relatively flat road the rest of the day. Dinner at the Lehigh Park campground with entertainment by the Henry Torpedo Boys and the nightly meeting about the next day’s ride.
GITAP 2016 Riders

The average GITAP 2016 cyclist is 64 years old

DAY 2. Oglesby to Washington. 
 
Distance  64.56 miles. Cities on our route: Lostant, Tonica, Wenona, Toluca, Roanoke
Again, today would be the longest bike ride I ever rode. It was also our longest day of GITAP. Mostly country roads, lots of corn and soybeans with a steady rise in elevation, rolling hills with a few bigger hills. Temps were 95, high humidity and 11 MPH headwinds. I realized about 1/2 way through the day I was not drinking enough water. SAG brought in many riders today. We were warmly greeted by Washington Mayor Gary Manier and Assistant Superintendent of Washington Community High School Joe Sander who emphasized their appreciation for the outpouring of support after the town was hit by a EF4 tornado. The folks at Russell Fitness helped me replace my broken gloves.
DAY 3 Washington to Bloomington/Normal
Distance 53.50 miles. Cities on our route: Milton, Morton, Mackinaw, Danvers
My ride felt much harder today and I noticed I felt thirsty starting out. Temps in the mid 90’s really drained me. Loved the rainbow of painted bikes along the in Milton and the entire town of Mackinaw came out to welcome us at the top of the Mackinaw River valley. They were a site for sore eyes with rest rooms, water, fresh fruit, cookies and a warm welcome.
bicycle art along the trail in Milton, IL

Bicycle art along the trail in Milton, IL

 

Day 4 Bloomington/Normal rest day
Distance  24.39 miles.
Another 95° day with high humidity. At breakfast I ran into Normal with a fellow rider for geocaching and lunch. Heading up the Constitution Trail, we cached our way into town then met Kent for lunch at Flattop Grill. On our way back we pick up a few more geocaches. Amazing how short a 24 mile ride seemed.
Day 5 Bloomington normal to Pontiac
Distance  45.52 miles. Cities on our route: Lexington, Chenoa,
Today’s ride mostly north and east. Strong headwinds from the north at 14 MPH plus gusts. Cycling in farmland, the wind is relentless. With partly cloudy skies temps remained in the 80’s. After the ride I heading into town to see the The Pontiac Museum. Their Pontiac auto memorabilia includes cars and a large collection of hood ornaments. We stopped at the Route 66 Museum and saw the VW bus owned by artist Route 66 evangelist Bob Waldmire. Did you know actor Bobby Troup penned “Get Your Kicks on Route 66” while driving along the route to Los Angeles? Part of our ride today took us on the pavement of the original Route 66. The Gilded Arts Museum displayed tools and explained the techniques on this art. We learned an ounce of gold was more than enough to cover the museum floor with gild. The city of Pontiac hung out a huge welcome sign and Pontiac Mayor Bob Russell of greeted individually as we waited in line for dinner presenting each of us with a with a small gift. We caught the Vermillion Players opening night of “Legally  Blonde” musical with the entire cast aged 16-25. Great job.
Pontiac Mayor Bob Russell of greeted individually as we waited in line for dinner presenting each of us with a with a small gift.

Pontiac Mayor Bob Russell of greeted individually as we waited in line for dinner presenting each of us with a with a small gift.

Day 6 Pontiac to Coal City
Distance for 47.53 miles.  Cities on our route:  Odell, Dwight, Gardner
Today’s ride took us back in time along many miles of Historic Route 66, the Mother Road. Our first rest stop was the restored Standard Oil Gas Station in Odell. The rest of the day was not as hot, mid 80s and flat. Another day of corn fields and soybeans for miles on end with a few wind turbines thrown in for variety. While the mileage was not as high as other days, my energy level was beginning to wear. Our route took us along various sections of Route 66 including the Dixon Information Center housed in an restored gas station. The volunteers were out in force with cold water, fruit and granola bars for us. A welcome site!
Dwight, IL info center

Built in 1933, Ambler’s Texaco Station is not the Dwight, IL info center which welcomed us with cold water, fruit and granola bars!

I was glad to pull into the parking lot, collect my bags and head home. My first GITAP was a success and a ton of fun. I met friendly people and enjoyed my week in small town America. Ride on!

Nicholas Conservatory and Gardens Rockford

Nicholas Conservatory and Gardens on the Rock River in Rockford boasts 11,00o square feet of tropical plants to enjoy. Massive palm trees soar several stories into the air within the glass enclosed building. Nestled among ponds and waterfalls, the greenery to give soothing background sounds. There are plenty of places to sit and take in the sights, allowing your body and mind to relax as you your senses take in everything around you. Whimsical sculptures appear dotted along the winding pathways. Plants stream down from the ceiling, along the walls, from pots and decorative picture frames.

We timed our visit for the butterfly exhibit where dazzling splashes of color flitted about the room and allowed for up close examination. Caterpillars and chrysalis hung in the first room as the prepared to emerge. Adult butterflies dried their wings in preparation for their move to the main exhibit area. It was interesting to note each type of caterpillar created a unique chrysalis.

Before we entered the main exhibit, we took off our coats to prevent hitchhikers from leaving with us. We entered through a set of double doors to prevent escapees. Once inside, we were handed sponge swabs doused in Gatorade to attract the insects. Every color of the rainbow was represented in the flying collection. The butterflies perched on greenery or screens allowing visiting to get an up close and personal look at each insect.

Butterflies up close

Butterflies up close

Outside the conservatory, walk through the colorful gardens near the front entrance, along the side and rear of the building filled with seasonal plantings. A lagoon with two fountains adds to the fun. Statues are perched in various locations along the paths. Bring your lunch and take in the sights from the patio area outside or indoors.

IMG_7506

The conservatory gift shop offers moderately priced wind chimes, note cards, jewelry and other remembrances of your trip. Toni’s Cafe of Winnebago serves soups, sandwiches and desserts.

A variety of classes from photography to yoga are available. Managed by the Rockford Park District, Nicholas Conservatory is open every day except Monday. Entrance fees are reasonable, even more so when you visit on Tropical Tuesdays when entrance fees are only $3.00.

After your visit, stroll along the Rock River. There is a paved path popular with walkers and bicyclists. We even found a unique group of statues comprised of rocks, of course, along the Rock River.

Waikiki Hula on the Kuhio Beach Hula Mound

Watching graceful hula dancers is one of my favorite activities during visits to Honolulu on the island of Oahu, Hawaii. Many nights during the week you can watch a hula show for free at Kuhio Beach Hula Mound on Waikiki Beach. Located just east of the famous Duke Kahanamoku statue, you won’t miss the crowds filling in just before show time. The Hawaiian hula is a living record of the island’s history and legends of the Hawaiian people. The dancers’ movements, music and chanting combine to tell the stories of their forefathers.

The show starts after the tiki torch lighting which adds to the festive atmosphere. The outdoor shows feature local hula dancers ranging from novice keiki (children) to aunties (adults). I like to go to the show multiple nights to watch different halau (dance groups) perform. Each group has its own repertoire of songs, costumes and instruments.

Hula Kuhio Mound Waikiki

If you are anywhere along the beach, you will know the show is about to begin when you hear the traditional blowing of the conch shell. Sometimes a torch lighter joins them as they make their way along the beach. This alerts vacationers to get their spot so as not to miss the start of the show. Bring a beach chair or pick up an inexpensive beach mat from any of the local quick marts and grab a spot near the mound.

Usually a narrator will introduce the history of Hawaiian culture and language to the group. Before the dancers begin, you will learn about each song’s message and the story it tells.

These dancers may wear traditional hula attire or more modern dress. To make the time-honored hula skirts, the dancers harvest and treat the long flat leaves of the green ti plant. Colorful tropical flowers are fashioned into beautiful, fragrant leis. A variety of nuts grown in the islands are strung together as necklaces.

Dancers share the mound with vocalists who chant and sing the traditional stories. Musicians join in with their mix of modern and traditional instruments to make each tale come alive. The large drums made of gourds or tree trunks have a full sound which carries along the beach.

Weather-permitting, you can catch these hula shows Tues., Thurs. and Sat. at 6:30-7:30 p.m. (6:00-7:00 Nov.-Jan). These hula shows are one of my favorite stops on trips to Waikiki. Check out these shows often to learn more about the people and culture of the Hawaiian island. Aloha…

18th Annual AES Superfest Hamfest Milwaukee Wisconsin

18th Annual AES Superfest Hamfest Milwaukee, Wisconsin was held March 31, 2012. Amateur radio equipment manufactures, Amateur Radio Relay League (ARRL), Military Auxiliary Radio System (MARS),  Emergency Services and Disaster Agency (ESDA), American Red Cross and local ham radio clubs were there with booths and exhibits.

Ham radio operators from Wisconsin and surrounding states attended the one day event. Volunteer examiners (VEs) were on hand with FCC tests for those so to be new hams and hams upgrading their licenses.

The American Red Cross and other disaster preparedness agencies displayed their emergency response equipment including radios.

American Red Cross Disaster Response Vehicle

American Red Cross Disaster Response Vehicle

It was a full house at AES for their annual Superfest!

Red Run Raises Funds to End Child Sex Trafficking

The Red Dress Run started with a couple of women jogging through downtown Algonquin. Their red outfits caught the eyes of passing motorists and let them get the word out: they’re running to save the lives of little girls at risk of sex trafficking.
Local moms Cortina Nystad and Kristen Guerrieri started The Red Run 5K in 2012. Over 500 runners and walkers participated. Registration is now open for the second Red Run 5K Run/Walk, which will be held Aug. 10 at Presidential Park in Algonquin.
“I personally volunteer with both of the local organizations we support,” said Kristen Guerrieri. “I visit Anne’s house monthly and last night was my first outreach with The Dreamcatcher Foundation!  This is pretty dark stuff.”
This year’s USATF-certified race will benefit the Dreamcatcher Foundation, a survivor-founded, survivor-led and focused organization in Chicago. Brenda Myers-Powell, Co-Founder, will be the featured speaker at the event. Additional beneficiaries include the Salvation Army PROMISE (Anne’s House), a local residential program that provides aftercare for victims and Love146, an organization that provides prevention and aftercare solutions internationally. Prizes will be awarded for the top male and female finishers and for the top three finishers in each age category.
After the race join the exclusive post-race breakfast at Port Edward Restaurant ($15 per person), with a percentage of the proceeds benefiting the Red Run.
the red run
To register, visit theredrun.org. Pre-registration is $30 for runners and $25 for walkers. Registration fees increase by $10 on race day. For more information or to learn about sponsorship opportunities, contact Kristen Guerrieri at kristen @ theredrun.org. Concerned citizens can call (888) 373-7888 or text “INFO” or “HELP” to befree (233733).

MCG Uplift Foundation Raises Funds for Local Causes

The MCG Uplift Foundation began as Eric Schroeder’s dream. Eric is a young guy who opened Mortgage Capital Group five years ago. As part of his business policy, Eric is committed to giving back to the community. Eric started the non for profit MCG Uplift Foundation to achieve this goal. Click on the image below to see a short 3 minute video where Eric explains in his own words why he started the MCG Uplift Foundation.
Once a quarter, through the MCG Uplift Foundation, Eric allocates funds for causes his employees have choosen.  This summer Eric rented a hot air balloon complete with a pilot. Together, they are working with the chosen causes to use the balloon to raise money for each of the selected organizations. Many of the causes are small and local like the Algonquin Red Dress Run, Animal House Shelter in Huntley, Crystal Lake South Gators Baseball, It’s All About Kids, Home of the Sparrow, A Friend in Deed and more.
MCG Uplift Foundation ballon

Watch for the MCG Uplift Foundation ballon sailing over the Crystal Lake area

This summer, watch for the MCG Uplift Foundation balloon as they sail over the Crystal Lake, Algonquin, Lake in the Hills, Elgin and Richmond areas. The balloon is schedule to fly sunset cruises on these dates, weather permitting.

Tuesday July 2 evening            Crystal Lake, Algonquin, Lake in the Hills
Friday, July 5 evening              Crystal Lake, Algonquin, Lake in the Hills
Saturday, July 6 evening         Crystal Lake, Algonquin, Lake in the Hills
Sunday, July 7 evening            Crystal Lake, Algonquin, Lake in the Hills
Friday, July 12 evening           Lake in the Hills
Saturday, July 13 evening       McHenry
Friday, July 26 evening           Algonquin
Sunday, Sept. 1 evening           Lake in the Hills
The balloon will sail additional dates. Keep watch as they fly over the area a wave hello when you see them. On some of these rides, the balloon will land and lucky spectators will get a chance to go up in a tethered ride in the MCG Uplift Foundation balloon.

Red Run Raises Combats Child Sex Slavery and Exploitation

Runners and walkers in The Red Run Algonquin, Illinois are taking a stand against child slavery and exploitation. I am participating in the The Red Run on August 10, 2013 in support of the Red Dress Foundation, which provides a wonderful service to those in need. The Red Dress Foundation supports the following organizations at the front lines in the fight against human trafficking.

These organizations provide prevention, outreach and after care for those who are victims of sex trafficking and exploitation.

  • The Salvation Army PROMISE (Partnership to Rescue our Minors from Sexual Exploitation.)
  • Love146 a U.S. 501 non-profit international human rights organization that works to abolish child sex trafficking and exploitation through advocacy, prevention, and after care.
  • The Dreamcatcher Foundation an organization fighting to end human trafficking in Chicago.
The Red Run Algonquin

The Red Run Algonquin

The Red Dress Foundation, founded by Cortina Nystad, left, and Kristen Guerrieri, is 501(c)3 non profit organization taking a stand against child sex trafficking. This Daily Herald article tells The Red Run story.

I challenged myself to raise $1000 in much-needed funds to support this worthy cause, and with your help, we can both make a difference! Will you sponsor me by making a tax-deductible donation today? You can give online quickly and easily here:

Sponsor April in The Red Run.

Your gift will make a big difference for those who depend on the support of The Red Dress Foundation. Any amount, large or small, is greatly appreciated. If you would like to walk with me, sign up at The Red Run.

Participants are encouraged to run or walk in a red dress (or anything red) and take a stand against child slavery & exploitation!

The race will be held Saturday August 10th, 2013 in Presidential Park located at 700 Highland Avenue Algonquin, Illinois 60102.

Click to download the Red Run flyers:

Red Run 2013 Flyer BACK

Red Run 2013 flyer FRONT

Roger Adler Musician in The Groundhog Day Movie

Touring musician Roger Adler‘s music studio was not in my plans when I walked into the Lakeside Legacy Arts Park in Crystal Lake. Fortunately for me, that’s how the night went. Roger was the first tenant when he opened his studio at the Lakeside Legacy Center.

Roger Adler is a four-time Emmy nominated composer, producer and performer who makes his home in Woodstock, Illinois. I became aware of Roger and his work when he was Music Director for WTTW’s Wild Chicago television program which aired from 1989 to 2003. Show host Ben Hollis visited off the beaten path places and interviewed quirky folks from the Chicago metro area. Roger wrote the shows catchy Wild Chicago theme song and all music segments during the shows 16 years on the air.

Roger had a part in The Groundhog Day movie and plays guitar on the soundtrack. The movie was filmed in Woodstock, Illinois and Roger is a regular at the annual Woodstock Groundhog Days festivities.

April M. Williams and Roger Adler in his Lakeside Legacy Arts Park studio

April M. Williams and Roger Adler in his Lakeside Legacy Arts Park studio

During studio recording sessions for The Groundhog Day movie, Roger and Harold Ramus got to know each other. Roger gave Harold a few impromptu guitar lessons in between takes. In the movie, Roger plays the band director and guitar player. According to Roger, “During the filming of the Groundhog dinner dance scene Harold asked if me if I could put in a guitar solo there. I said sure! Harold then asked if I wanted to be part of the band playing in the movie. Of course I said yes again.” Bill Murray learned to play piano for the movie’s sub plot. Roger had fun getting to know Bill Murray, Chris Elliot and Harold Ramis.

Harold Ramis was the presenter one of the times Roger was nominated for an Emmy award . They worked together again when Harold was a guest on a Wild Chicago segment remembering his days at Second City.

During Roger’s career he has been a freelance composer for documentaries like Nova and Golden Apple Awards for teachers. In addition to playing in bands, Roger writes music for corporations, hosts Apple store presentations on music technology, pens articles for magazines like Premier Guitar and more.

Roger teaches Pro Tools classes at Electric Clown in Chicago. When he was 18 he taught classes in a Mount Prospect music store. For 17 years he gave private lessons for 70 students. That’s over 60 thousand lessons! He currently has a couple of students.

Roger performs with the Ken Arlin Orchestra including gigs at The Bellagio and President Obama’s first inauguration. Roger was the first person to create an album with Garage Band software. He titled his work “The Garage Album” by Roger Adler.

Roger Adler's guitar collection in his Lakeside Legacy Arts Park studio

Roger Adler’s guitar collection in his Lakeside Legacy Arts Park studio

Roger showed me the Gibson Les Paul Custom that he played in the movie Groundhog Day which shows some wear. “I respect guitars” he said. “As you can see this one shows some wear. Roadies have put guitars in stands crooked and it’s fallen flat on its face a few times. So now I have this attitude about guitars that they are more like a saw in a toolbox. Like a carpenter, I reach in for the right tool. Different guitars sound all different ways.” Roger often picks up his daughters pink paisley Telecaster because of the distinct sound. Roger also plays banjo and dobro guitar.

Roger enjoys playing a broad rage of music. His influences include the Allman Brothers, Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin, Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton and stays up to date with current music. His wife Jane “keep him interested in new artists.” Roger wrote music, lyrics and plays most of the instruments for Nick Lynch‘s new album.

To learn more about Roger Adler, including the latest music, albums, songs, music videos and more updates visit his MySpace page.

Tony Blair Keynote Speaker at Judson University 2013 World Leaders Forum

Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair was the keynote speaker at the Judson University 2013 World Leaders Forum. During the program, Mr. Blair answered questions submitted by audience members and shared personal recollections from his long career. He talked passionately about religious freedom, tolerance and embracing diversity as a way of uniting people. Judson University trustee and alum Dr. Nate Adams opened the session with levity mentioning the great lengths the university had taken to plan the wet, cold, damp weather to ensure Mr. Blair felt right at home. Tony Blair lead the British Socialist Labour Party from 1994 – 2007. In 1997, at the age of 42, he was elected Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and served three consecutive terms in this role until 2007.

Judson Theology Professor Dr. Darrell Cosden shared stories of the challenges and rewards his family experienced on extended missionary trips to both Scotland and Russia. Cosden first became aware of Mr. Blair when Cosden arrived in Scotland with his wife and one year old son. He earned his Doctorate at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland. He said, “We shape the community and they shape us. Communities have roles to fill. Society exists for the sake of those in it.” Newly elected Judson University President Dr. Gene C. Crume joked that introducing Mr. Blair was quite a cap to his first week in office.

Mr. Blair took the stage with a few introductory remarks on the differences between US and British elections. He noted the British campaign season lasts just four weeks. Voting occurs on Thursday and the next day the winner steps into their new role. It is traditional for staff members to line the hallways and shake hands with the outgoing Prime Minister as they exit the building. It is not unusual to see tears flowing during this emotional moment. The newly elected Prime Minister then walks in the front door, again shaking hands with the staff. Mr Blair admitted this was a stressful situation.

Tony Blair takes the stage at Judson University World Leaders Forum

Tony Blair takes the stage at Judson University World Leaders Forum

Mr. Blair and Dr. Adams relaxed on chairs placed center stage and answered questions submitted by the audience. When asked about the recent death of Margaret Thatcher, Mr. Blair recognized her strong support of the American and UK alliance. He remarked the fall of communism has been the biggest change since Thatcher’s time in office. “It is interesting to reflect on what a bygone challenge that is now. The hardest things for us now are that the challenges are not asymmetrical and not what we usually expect. There is extremism based on religion. It is still important to remain united and for the US and UK, as free nations, to stand and stick together.”

On the situation in North Korea, Mr. Blair warned, “This is going to have the be managed to a place of stability. We need China and American to stick together. It seems so crazy and seems so out of normal. These are the hardest things to deal with and a tough choice either way. These rogue states require us to be strong and staunch.” Mr. Blair mentioned leading the UK’s military action against Sierra Leone and other countries. He stands by his beliefs that it is the responsibility of governments to stand up to extremists. “It is uncertain what will happen if they stay in power and what would happen when they are no longer in power. With a nod to the United States he said, “There are few counties who are able and capable to lead the free world.”

Mr. Blair clearly had no patience for the United Nations intervention. He said, “My old agenda was entirely domestic before Serra Leone. A group of gangsters toppled the democratic government. If we were to wait for the UN we would be waiting for a very long time. I decided to send in British troops. I am currently working with my charity to help Sierra Leoneget on their feet.” He returned to the conflict in Sierra Leone a number of times during the discussion.

Tony Blair and Dr. Nate Adams at 2013 Judson University World Leaders Forum

Tony Blair and Dr. Nate Adams at 2013 Judson University World Leaders Forum

During the evening, Blair talked about the tough choices he had to make including involvement in foreign government and toppling extremist leaders. He noted the hardest part was not getting rid of the dictator but what comes afterward. He believes the world is a better place with Sadam Hussein out of power citing the half million Kurdish people who died during his reign. He showed distain for politicians who pander to their party. The audience gave a round of applause when Mr. Blair declared, “I believe it is an elected official’s responsibility to their country to do what you believe is right.”

Dr. Adams asked Mr. Blair to describe working with Presidents Clinton and Bush during his three terms as Prime Minister. He called Clinton his “political soul mate” and Bush a close political ally who’s countries were pushed together due to war. While there was a serious tone to the evening, the Q&A lead to several humorous stories.

Blair told of a diplomacy lesson Clinton taught him. “When we go to these big international summits, often held in far off islands, the locals like us to wear an item of local clothing. At one of these summits, I returned to my room to find four shirts laid out on the bed. The first was hideous and the rest got progressively worse. I chose the first one and wore it to the event. Bill Clinton however was wearing the worst of the four. I said to Bill, “Why are you wearing that horrible shirt?” Bill said, “When the American people see me they will say, ‘How nice of him to wear a local item.’ When they see you they will just think you have bad taste.”

There were stories of President George W. Bush, keynote speaker at the Judson 2011 World Leaders Forum. At a Camp David press conference, President Bush was asked “Do you share anything with Mr. Blair?” Bush quipped, “Yes, we share the same tooth paste.” President Bush and Mr. Blair worked closely together on foreign affairs, particularly the Afghanistan invasion. “I have a rapport with President Bush. The public is more agreeable while parties are more political. When this happens, things get less civil. Constituencies are one stripe or another. I watch for leaders who stand up to their party base and believe if elected they are there to represent all the people, not just their party.”

When asked what advice he might offer to President Obama, Mr. Blair was candid on the challenges of leadership. “The greatest problem is there is no training for this job. After a year in government, I would tell people I’m still learning. Once you win reelection, you know what’s going on. Your time is limited and there are certain key things you can and cannot do. You can’t do 100 things but maybe can do four. Now you have confidence, your time is short, and you are thinking “What can I get done to shape my country?”

He remarked about the growing chasm between the wealthy few and the masses. Mr. Blair voiced his explicit opinion noting the changes in the world in since his youth. “In my view, the key is education. For countries and society, we need to adapt throughout our life. (In my neighborhood) when I was growing up everyone was white, Christian and you had one job all your life. Now we have many jobs during our careers. There is a need for education, to adapt and adjust all through your life. In my country, despite reforms, we need to drive down to the root of our society. We have to give our children a good education.”

Tony Blair takes the stage at Judson World Leaders Forum

Tony Blair takes the stage at Judson World Leaders Forum

Of course there was a question about Blair’s relationship with Queen Elizabeth II. When asked about his rumored anti-monarchy stance and if the movie “The Queen” won him over, Mr. Blair shed insight into their partnership. He said, “The movie came out when I was Prime Minister on the day of my weekly audience with the Queen. It is held in a lovely room in Buckingham Palace. The Queen starts out the meeting by saying, ‘I hear there is a film about me and you. I want you to know I shan’t be watching it. Will you?’ I replied ‘No.’ As a loyal royal subject, I haven’t.”

Faith did not play a key role during Mr. Blair’s youth. It was not until his college years in Edinburgh that religion became an integral part of his daily life. Since then, his faith has been a strong element in his world. During the evening he mentioned his faith and travels to the Holy Lands which he called “a fascinating, wonderful place.” Highlighting Isreal, West Bank, Galilee and the Jerusalem Jesus Trail, Mr. Blair talked of relaunching the peace process and developing tourism in the area. He declared there are no security problems in Gaza. On the banks of the River Jordan there are baptismal sites and churches. While the “politics may be terrible, the weather is beautiful and people are great.”

Asked to acknowledge highlights of his three consecutive terms as Prime Minister, he referenced his two proudest moments. The first was the 1998 Good Friday peace agreement between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland signed in Belfast. He mentioned this several achievement times during the night. The second accomplishment was winning the 2012 Olympic bid. He declared, “My most insincere answer at a press conference was when I was asked, ‘Does the fact you beat out theFrench make the victory (Olympic bid) any sweeter?” I answered, ‘Absolutely not.'”

Since leaving Downing Street, Mr. Blair has been active in worldwide efforts to bring people of all cultures and religions together. He worked with the Palestinians to establish statehood and peace in the region. 2008 saw the launch of the Tony Blair Faith Foundation to “show love of Christ. We built the foundation to show people of various religions better relations between them and promote the idea of faith as a force for good. The media reports when faith causes problems. I see examples where it benefits us. It is not complicated. What is really important is to go out and show the world what faith can really do. Important to do it and with pride. The goal of the foundation is to counter extremists in all religions and to use faith as a way to unify people rather than divide through distortion to fan the flames of hatred and extremism. The Tony Blair Faith Foundation is a response to these opportunities and challenges. We educate, inform and develop understanding among the world’s major religious traditions.”

Established in 1913, Judson University isan evangelical Christian college located in Elgin, Illinois next to the Fox River and near Interstate 90. With over 1,200 students and 60 majors from Management and Leadership to Architecture. This is the university’s Golden Centennial Anniversary, commemorating 50 years since the college’s relocation to Elgin in 1963.

Judson’s World Leaders Forum began in 2011 to “ignite a flame of leadership” for attendees. The program is also a fund raiser for the Judson Student Scholarship Fund. Mikhail S. Gorbachev, 1990 Nobel Peace Prize Recipient and Former President of the Soviet Union was the 2012 keynote speaker. In addition to the community event open to the general public, a VIP private reception and networking event was held. For information contact Jessica Bunn, World Leaders Forum Coordinator.

 

 

 

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