Cameron charms Rapid City audience
David Cameron charmed a sellout crowd at Rushmore Plaza Civic Center as he closed his 51st birthday celebration Monday.
Earlier in the afternoon, the former British prime minister indulged a birthday wish by horseback riding through the Black Hills, an anecdote that warmed roughly 1,800 people gathered to hear his opinions on everything from national health care to free trade.
The British sentiment of everything in moderation pervaded his responses on controversial topics that ranged from Russian President Vladimir Putin to Brexit — the United Kingdom’s ongoing exit from the European Union.
Quotations will not be part of this account. Note taking is not allowed during sessions of the John T. Vucurevich Foundation’s annual speaker series, and an attempt to recreate Cameron’s elegant diction from memory seems decidedly ill-mannered.
Cameron was proud of his country and accomplishments, gracious to his American hosts and unapologetic for such things as his administration’s part in removing Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi — an action that resulted in a deadly power vacuum.
Cameron created moments of applause for liberals, conservatives and moderates.
For liberals, it was on his support for universal health care. For conservatives, it was on his recognition of imperfections in the British system when it comes to reducing cancer mortality. For moderates, it was his unending willingness to reach across the aisle — as he did with the Liberal Democrats party to create a coalition government in 2010.
Cameron spoke against many of the isolationist positions of President Donald Trump. He spoke in support of free trade, participation in the United Nations and taking action against global warming, but he also supported Trump’s demand for other nations to contribute more to NATO — the North Atlantic Treaty Organization formed after World War II to contain the Soviet Union.
“Donald Trump is absolutely right on that,” Cameron said.
OK, some note taking occurred.
Former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher once grabbed his arm, Cameron said, to tell him that liberty under the government was the one essential characteristic of a true democracy. When government cannot do what it wants against an individual even though that government has the support of a majority, he said, that is liberty. That is what makes England and America great, he said.
Cameron served as prime minister for six years and led the British Conservative Party for 11 years. Britain’s Conservative Party is more liberal than its American counterpart. Cameron’s administration introduced large-scale changes to welfare, immigration policy, education, and health care. It privatized the Royal Mail and other state assets, but it also legalized same-sex marriage.
Brexit — the vote to leave the European Union — will be Cameron’s legacy.
The referendum was held June 23, 2016, and the British electorate voted by 52 percent to 48 percent to leave the European Union. Cameron, who had opposed the split but who had called the election to fulfill a campaign promise, announced hours after the vote that he would resign. The referendum split the country, for which Cameron 's been roundly criticized.
In a farewell speech outside 10 Downing Street, Cameron explained that on account of his own advocacy on behalf of remaining in the EU, he did not think it would be right for him to be the captain that steers Great Britain to its next destination.
Since stepping down, Cameron has been active in spreading awareness of Alzheimer’s disease. The Guardian reported Monday that he has taken a job with the electronic payments firm First Data Corp. and will work two or three days a month for the global financial transactions company.
He is also understood to have signed a deal worth a reported $1 million for his memoirs, which are due to be published next year.