NEW HAVEN, Connecticut (AFP) — Former prime minister Tony Blair has gone back to school, launching his new role as a lecturer on religion at top US university Yale.
Blair, who converted to Catholicism after leaving office in 2007 and talked increasingly openly of his Christian faith while prime minister, delivered the first of five lectures on Friday at the prestigious college in the state of Connecticut.
An enthusiastic audience of more than 2,000 students later thronged the ornate Woolsey Hall to hear a talk by Blair, who was in office from 1997 to 2007.
Blair is to give five lectures to a class of 25 students between now and the end of the year, then repeat the schedule for two more years, Yale spokesmen told AFP.
The course he is co-teaching as Yale's Howland Distinguished Fellow is linked to the work of the Tony Blair Faith Foundation, which seeks to work for peace between religions in an age of globalization.
In addition to paying Blair a "nominal fee," Yale is donating 200,000 dollars (138,000 euros, 109,000 pounds) to the foundation, university spokeswoman Helaine Klasky said.
Since quitting politics Blair has landed a range of lucrative part-time work, including consultancies for investment bank JPMorgan and Swiss insurer Zurich. He is reported to earn hundreds of thousands of dollars (euros, pounds) for speaking appearances.
Blair is also a special envoy of the Mideast Quartet, the group of big powers attempting to coordinate a peace process between Israel and the Palestinians.
The appointment to the Mideast post raised eyebrows among critics of Blair's role as US President George W. Bush's chief ally in launching the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
However, Yale president Richard Levin has praised Blair for showing "outstanding leadership" in using religion to solve international problems.
The lectures Blair is delivering will last only 1-1/2 hours and he is not going to be involved in seminars, Klasky said.
However Blair is getting a little taste of life on the campus where his eldest son Euan graduated this year: the former premier will sometimes spend a night in the picturesque college town of New Haven.
"This time he slept here last night, but he is leaving later this evening," Klasky said.
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