April 29, 2010
Transcript: 2010 Atlantic Council Awards Dinner
JOE SCARBOROUGH: Good evening and welcome to the Atlantic Council’s annual awards dinner. Mika and I are, of course, proud members of the council and we’re pleased to see leaders from the political and business and military communities here in the room. Now, because of the support of you leaders, even those of you who don’t follow queues very well, who lack diplomacy – (laughter) – you just don’t know when to be quiet. Is Richard Holbrooke here?
MIKA BRZEZINSKI: Yes. (Laughter.)
MR. SCARBOROUGH: The Atlantic Council continues to be a key player in international events.
MS. BRZEZINSKI: You’re all used to being in charge. Isn’t that impressive? Leaders like National Security Advisor Jim Jones; the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Adm. Mullen; CIA Chief Leon Panetta and Secretary of Energy Steven Chu – the Atlantic Council thanks you for your service and for being here tonight.
We welcome distinguished guests from Capitol Hill and over a dozen members of the Senate and the House here tonight. And from Europe we welcome foreign ministers Radek Sikorski and Carl Bildt and the president of the European parliament, Jerzy Buzek, as well as the Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili. Please rise right now, so everyone can be quiet and applaud you. (Applause.)
MR. SCARBOROUGH: We’re also pleased to welcome the chief executives of Airbus, WPP, Lockheed, Thomson-Reuters and 35 other chief executives of global companies. Among you in the audience are prominent personalities from over 50 countries, including 40 ambassadors to the United States and countless members of the United States, European and other governments.
MS. BRZEZINKSI: Aside from our honoree, President Bill Clinton, we have seven former heads of state here this evening. Please all of you stand. We have Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz of Pakistan. (Applause.) President José María Aznar of Spain. (Applause.) Prime Minister Carl Bildt of Sweden. (Applause.) Prime Minister Han Duck-soo of the Republic of Korea. (Applause.) Prime Minister Jerzy Buzek of Poland. (Applause.) Prime Minister Lado Gurgenidze, Georgia. And President Alexander Kwasniewski of Poland. (Applause.)
The international crowd that we have here tonight is a tribute to the enormous respect our honorees enjoy globally. Tonight we honor five individuals with a long tradition of service and commitment to the trans-Atlantic community: President Bill Clinton for his distinguished international leadership. (Applause.) Josef Ackermann of Deutsche Bank for distinguished business leadership. (Applause.) Gen. Stéphane Abrial of the French Air Force and James Mattis of the U.S. Marine Corps for distinguished military leadership. And Bono for humanitarian leadership. Thank you all for being here tonight to help us honor them.
MR. SCARBOROUGH: It’s now our honor and privilege to introduce to you Atlantic Council Chairman Sen. Chuck Hagel. He of course is a man who wears such a multitude of hats that his Georgetown office was actually recently expanded to hang them all. His more recent appointments include being named co-chairman of the president’s intelligence advisory board. Also, he’s a member of the secretary of defense’s policy board and the secretary of energy’s Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future. Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Atlantic Council Chairman Sen. Chuck Hagel.
Senator, thank you so much, my man. Good luck with this audience.
CHUCK HAGEL: Thank you. This is a tough group. Tough group. Thank you, Joe, Mika. Chairmen have very few responsibilities – and for you tonight, you’re fortunate – that is to first welcome you on behalf of the Atlantic Council and to thank you. Also to thank Mika, Joe, MSNBC and all who have contributed so much to this evening. And to of course our co-chairs, our sponsors for this evening and our board members who have been so faithful and loyal in strengthening the Atlantic Council.
Tonight we do celebrate the Atlantic community and we recognize leaders who have helped bring the world together and build a better world for all mankind.
Before we turn to this evening’s event honoring our honorees and celebrating the trans-Atlantic alliance, I would like to ask for your attention – because we think it is appropriate that we tonight, before we open our gala, express our sympathy and our deep condolences to the people of Poland and extend to them our prayers and our thoughts over the loss of their president, his wife and so many of Poland’s most respected and prominent leaders.
As you already know, a number of Poland’s leaders are here with us tonight. And part of what we celebrate tonight is the Polish integration into NATO and the trans-Atlantic alliance. Ladies and gentlemen, may I present to you the foreign minister of Poland Radek Sikorski. Foreign Minister Sikorski. (Applause.)
RADEK SIKORSKI: Ladies and gentlemen, I imagine that if the president of the United States were going to honor the victims of 9/11 on around (ph) anniversary, he would take with him the first lady and some very important people. Well, our president two weeks ago took the first lady and the chief of the general staff, chief of the armed services, chairman of the national bank, chairman of the victims families committee and many other people to Smolensk in Russia to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Katyn Forest massacre in which 20,000 Polish POWs were slaughtered by Stalin’s NKVD 70 years ago.
As you know, they never made it to the ceremony. They died in a horrible air crash and you can see how poignant and how tragic this is for us. Poland is still in a state of shock and mourning, but we are fortunate and very grateful to have had so many expressions of sympathy and solidarity from all over the world. Also grateful for the empathetic and efficient response of the Russian authorities.
And the one silver lining in the whole situation is that the Polish state has worked efficiently. The constitution has stood the test. The transfer of power happened smoothly. Polish economy is still growing. We organized 96 funerals – I knew almost all of those people – in a matter of hours and days.
And this all happened because Poland is now a firm member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, of the European Union, of the community of democracies. We are rooted in these institutions thanks to the foresight, the courage and decisions made by people who are here. So let me just say that because we’ll have lost leaders, we should celebrate the leaders that we have tonight all the more. Thank you.
MS. BRZEZINKSI: Thank you very much for those beautiful words, Radek. Actually my family and I – my brothers are here tonight – felt a deep personal loss with Poland’s recent tragedy and I assure you that tonight we’re all Poles and we grieve together with your people.
It’s now my honor to turn the podium to Fred Kempe, a close friend of Poland who covered the rise of Solidarity as a young journalist. Many of you already knew him from his long successful years at the Wall Street Journal, where he is the author of three books. He is a prize-winning correspondent, columnist and editor and associate publisher of the Wall Street Journal-Europe.
MR. SCARBOROUGH: In the past three years, as president and CEO of the Atlantic Council, he’s presided over a period of enormous growth and accomplishment and we know that there are many exciting years ahead for Fred and the Atlantic Council. Ladies and gentlemen, please give him a warm welcome –
MS. BRZEZINKSI: To a friend of Morning Joe.
MR. SCARBOROUGH: To a friend of Morning Joe, actually – Fred Kempe. (Applause.)
MS. BRZEZINKSI: A graceful entrance. Please give your applause to Fred Kempe. That was beautiful. (Laughter.)
FREDERICK KEMPE: I practiced that with Steve Martin. (Laughter.) Thank you, Mika and Joe.
I just want to say something very briefly to Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski, an old friend and a great leader. Poland changed my life as a young journalist because I saw what courageous people could do in adverse conditions to not only change their own fates but change the fate of their country, of Europe and of the world. Thank you to all Poles anywhere, in this audience especially and Foreign Minister Sikorski, thank you. (Applause.)
It has been a remarkable year and for that I want to thank our talented and committed directors, members and staff who are sitting among you. They are motivated by a mission and that mission is renewing the Atlantic community to address global challenges and then working with our global partners to get the job done in the most difficult issues.
As you can see by the caliber of the attendance of the awardees tonight, this mission is as relevant today as it has ever been given the daunting challenges we face: from global financial reform – you’ll hear from Deutsche Bank Chief Executive Joe Ackermann – stabilizing Afghanistan, from climate-related issues to preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. We’re working those issues and many more.
The Euro-Atlantic community makes up the largest economic space on Earth, the largest area of cross-foreign direct investment and the largest community of common values, market-based economies, individual rights and rule of law. So now I’m – we know the U.S. and Europe can’t solve the world’s problems, but it’s our conviction that the solution to almost all of them has U.S.-European agreement as their precondition.
I’m not going to talk about our work; you can read about that in the program. But what it is traditional at this awards program – and I hope you will pay attention to this part – is that we thank those individuals responsible for the most ambitious of our new initiatives. I ask you to hold your applause until I have had a chance to thank them all for their service.
First, we officially launched the Michael S. Ansari Africa Center this month with an inaugural speech by the acting president of Nigeria, Goodluck Jonathan, on anti-corruption and good governance. This would not be possible were it not for Atlantic Council board director Michael Ansari, founder, chairman and CEO of M.I.C. Industries. He’s an extraordinary human being who is the founder of this important initiative.
We also expanded the work of our new Eurasia Energy Center and renamed it the Dinu Patriciu Eurasia Center. Its focus is the crucial stability and prosperity of the Caspian, Black Sea and Central Asian regions. Our second annual Black Sea Energy and Economic Forum will be this fall in Istanbul. This initiative is only possible because of the creative and entrepreneurial Atlantic Council international advisory board member Dinu Patriciu of DP Holding.
And I’m also proud to announce tonight a new initiative – and this has to do with Poland – a new initiative of the Atlantic Council, the Wroclaw Global Forum. Each year, we will bring together in the breathtakingly beautiful city of Wroclaw – a place where my grandfather was born when it was known as Breslau – the leading political and business players from Central and Eastern Europe, from their – and West European neighbors, from North America as well – to take on the crucial issues of that region.
It is my great pleasure tonight to thank the visionary mayor of Wroclaw, Rafal Dutkiewicz, and our equally visionary board member, Maciej Witucki, the CEO of Polish Telecom for being champions of this idea. (Applause.) So before I go on to the last two, please thank Michael Ansari, Dinu Patriciu, Maciej Witucki and Rafal Dutkiewicz. Thank you for these important initiatives, gentlemen. (Applause.)
I want to thank PricewaterhouseCoopers. PWC and the Atlantic Council have formed a strategic partnership with our global business and economic program, through which we’re going to do exciting new projects pertaining to the global economy. I want to thank our new international advisory member Bob Moritz, the chairman and the senior partner of PWC LLP. Thank you very much, Bob. (Applause.)
And finally – and finally, great thanks goes to the chair of our international advisory board, Gen. Brent Scowcroft, and a member of that board and the strategic advisors group co-chair, Tom Enders of Airbus. Through the leadership of Brent Scowcroft and Tom Enders and the co-chairmanship as well of Senator Hagel, we have been able to expand and strengthen our work on NATO, which is where it all started at the Atlantic Council, and international security so that we’re doing cutting edge work at an inflection point that will decide the future of the great alliance for which we all stand.
So I ask you now to provide a rousing round of applause to these individuals and so many more of you in the audience who help our important work. (Applause.)
With that, it as an honor for me to welcome to the stage Gen. Brent Scowcroft, one of the most gifted yet most modest strategic thinkers on the planet. We won’t do long introductions tonight for this purpose, but his service has been an inspiration personally to me and to many others in the audience. If I were to list all of his accomplishments, we would soon be eating dessert, so I will stop here and ask Gen. Brent Scowcroft to take it from here. (Applause.)
LT. GEN. (RET.) BRENT SCOWCROFT: Thank you, Fred. As someone who has been a devotee of the Atlantic Council for decades, I have watched your visionary and dynamic leadership with great pride and satisfaction since you took over. And we all thank you for it. Distinguished guests – (applause). Thank you.
Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, it’s a great pleasure for me to be here with you tonight, again, to celebrate the best of the Atlantic alliance and trans-Atlantic community. And tonight I have the honor of introducing to you a man who, especially to this audience, truly needs no introduction.
Adm. Michael Mullen is the 17th chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and as such is the principal military advisor to the president and the secretary of defense. Prior to assuming the chairmanship, Adm. Mullen was the 28th chief of naval operations. A Los Angeles native and surface warfare officer, Adm. Mullen has commanded all his life: three ships, Cruiser Destroyer Group 2, the George Washington Battle Group, the U.S. 2nd Fleet and NATO Joint Forces Command.
Long friend of the Atlantic Council, Mike was himself a recipient of our 2008 award for distinguished military leadership. And extremely importantly to me, Adm. Mullen has established himself as a judicial voice of wisdom and sagacity here – that those are priceless assets for our country. But I leave the final accolade to last: Adm. Mullen has successfully overcome the hardship of graduating from the wrong military academy. (Laughter.) Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Adm. Michael Mullen. (Applause.)
ADM. MICHAEL MULLEN: I actually consider that a great compliment. (Laughter.) Good evening, and I’m very honored to be here, and it’s special to be introduced by Gen. Brent Scowcroft, a longtime friend and mentor, for whom I have the greatest respect. I also want to thank Chuck Hagel and Fred Kempe for their extraordinary leadership and support, and indeed, everyone here at the Atlantic Council.
I, too, would like to express my thoughts, prayers and condolences for the tragic losses in Poland. Indeed, my counterpart, Gen. Frank Gangor, was a good friend, as was his wife, Lucy, to our family – and a true Atlanticist and a true superb individual in all things NATO. And his leadership will be sorely missed.
It’s also an honor to be able to present this award. As we gather tonight in this fine company and for this fine purpose, I think we should all be mindful of the men and women who gather tonight in other places around the world far more dangerous, far more dangerous. They represent so many different countries, so many different backgrounds and cultures, and yet, they fight essentially for the same thing.
They fight for something larger than themselves – larger, even, than the alliance we serve. They fight for each other and for a better future for their children. And right now especially, they fight for the people of Afghanistan and Iraq. And I’ve said before – (applause) – I’ve said before, and still believe it today, as goes Afghanistan, so goes NATO. If we don’t get it right there, I don’t believe we’re ever going to get it right anywhere.
And by “it,” I mean a modern alliance truly transformed to meet the challenges of the world we’re living in – a world with no single nation-state threat to peace and stability, but rather a vast array of both state and non-state threats, some of them manmade, some of them not; a world that may desire, indeed require, more diplomacy and more dialogue, but one in which, by the very speed at which events unfold before us, still requires and may call first for the precise and principled use of military power; a world in which that power is increasingly seen not as a force for destruction and devastation, though that capability must never erode, but rather as a force for good.
You pick the place – the Balkans, Iraq, Africa, the Mediterranean, Haiti, and yes, Afghanistan – and you’ll find the alliance meeting these challenges in spectacular fashion. I was in Afghanistan just one month ago, where I spent most of my time in the South, in Helmand province. And while there’s still a good bit of work to do, I can tell you our troops there – all of our troops there from every nation – understand and are proud of the difference that they know they are making. They understand the mission better, I think, than we sometimes give them credit for.
And they are willing – perfectly willing – to adapt as needed, take risks as required to implement the basics of counterinsurgency warfare. Nobody understands this need to adapt and to continue to remake the NATO alliance better than the two men I have the privilege of honoring tonight. Gen. Jim Mattis is known throughout the U.S. military, and indeed, the world, as an expert in the very messy business of war, including counterinsurgency warfare. He doesn’t just know it; he lives it; he breathes it. Some people have minds like steel traps; Jim’s is a lint trap. (Laughter.)
And he literally helped write the book on counterinsurgency. Just ask Jim. He’ll tell you. Or don’t ask him and he’ll tell you. (Laughter.) But it’s that energy and that expertise which has made him so valuable to us and to the alliance at such a critical time. He has been exceptional as both the Supreme Allied Commander-Transformation, and the commander of the United States Joint Forces Command, orchestrating an integrated political-military strategic review of the future security landscape, strengthening the ties between the headquarters in Norfolk and Brussels, and accelerating the lessons learned process to create improved interoperability throughout the alliance.
But all that good work was cutting into his PT time, so he transferred the reins of Allied Command Transformation to Gen. Stéphane Abrial in September. And Stéphane has carried on Jim’s efforts. Indeed, he’s advanced them further, working to craft a new strategic concept that maintains the military credibility of the alliance while recognizing the limits of military power. What he hopes for, he once said, is a clear and lasting political foundation on which to build in the years to come – quite a powerful statement about his grasp of the interplay between modern strategy and policy.
But really, there wasn’t a better pick for the job. Stéphane served a tour in the German Luftwaffe back in the ’80s. He had a stint with the Greek air force. He helped liberate Kuwait in 1991, and he’s a graduate of the U.S. Air War College in Montgomery, Alabama. The only leader he hasn’t fought for is Alexander the Great – (laughter) – and that’s because he went out of business a long time ago. (Laughter.)
I’m told Stéphane’s daughter actually calls Alabama home. Now, how is it that the Alabama board of tourism has not contacted her yet? She’s lived in France, Germany, Greece and Virginia, and her message: Come back to Alabama. (Laughter.) But as we all recognize, Stéphane’s post here is truly historic. He’s the first European permanent head of a NATO strategic command, and he brings a unique continental perspective back into the NATO structure.
Indeed, the full membership of France itself has not only strengthened our trans-Atlantic relationships; it has strengthened NATO’s military prowess. We are better when we are complete. By Stéphane’s experience and through his wisdom, Allied Command Transformation is meeting the demand for well-trained, well-led forces in ways we couldn’t have imagined faster, flatter and with more dexterity. And all that speaks to a more relevant alliance, more ready to continue the hard work of transformation yet before us.
Because it isn’t over when Afghanistan is over, and it isn’t only about NATO. We must continue to build relationships and the capacity of our partners across and outside the alliance. We must continue to adapt to the speed of war, admitting and self-correcting when we make mistakes, reinforcing what we learn.
And we must prove willing, as a team, to prepare for what’s next and where’s next. And we’re generally pretty bad at predicting the future, but we’re paid to get ready for it. And that’s what these two great leaders represent. They have provided effective training and coordination for today’s requirements while, at the same time, anticipating the requirements and the challenges of tomorrow.
Under the weight of the work we do every day, most of us keep our heads down and our gaze fixed. These two men are ever looking up and out. For their many contributions to international security in their long service to France and to the United States, for their extraordinary leadership at a critical time in our history, the Atlantic Council of the United States presents its award for distinguished military leadership to Gen. Stéphane Abrial and Gen. James Mattis. (Applause, music.)
GEN. STÉPHANE ABRIAL: Well, thank you very much, Adm. Mullen, my friend Mike for your very kind words. It is a great honor for me to be introduced by a leader of such a distinction. I can testify to how much weight your words carry within the alliance, where you are a resolute voice for reform. Your intellectual contribution to the (adaptation ?) of our militaries runs deep. Indeed, your idea of a thousand-ship navy linking naval forces, commercial shippers and other stakeholders into a partnership is an inspiring illustration of a networking of capabilities that is at the heart of my own vision for NATO’s transformation.
I receive this award with deep gratitude to the Atlantic Council, which has been so generous in its support to Allied Command Transformation. Being less than one year into my job, I am tempted to paraphrase an American president’s recent Nobel Prize speech and say that I suspect I am probably being honored for what people hope I will do – (laughter) – rather than for what I have already accomplished. (Applause.)
But I wouldn’t want to flatter myself by the comparison and reinforce any possible misconception that the French hold themselves in unreasonably high esteem. (Laughter, applause.) I don’t know – I really don’t know where one could have gotten such an idea. (Laughter.) But I sometimes think that some of my fellow generals – and here, I’m thinking of Napoleon or de Gaulle – (laughter) – may have a lot to answer for. (Laughter.)
As thrilled as I am to accept this award personally – and being associated tonight with Bono will certainly boost my coolness factor with my kids – (applause) – I am aware that this is equally intended to acknowledge my country’s full reintegration into the alliance’s military structures. I believe – (applause) – thank you.
I believe we should celebrate France’s historic step, but the reception we received is also worthy of celebration, with a special mention for the warmth with which I was welcomed in Norfolk. There, my predecessor, great friend and fellow honoree Gen. Jim Mattis truly went above and beyond to make our change of command a seamless success. I owe him a lot and I know we all do. Thank you, Jim. (Applause.)
I accept this award tonight as a solemn trust. By honoring Jim Mattis and myself together, you recognize our shared determination to pursue the necessary transformation of our military forces that contribute to making our democracies safe. Our young men and women serving in harm’s way in Afghanistan and elsewhere deserve no less.
Every day, their commitment reminds us that transformation begins and ends with operations. They are the reason Allied Command Transformation tries for excellence in everything we do in support of Gen. McChrystal, from the training we provide to our real-time answers to challenges, such as the scourge of improvised explosive devices.
But everyday, our deployed service men and women also live or die with the consequences of choices made years ago. The decisions in procurement, doctrine and training that make our forces what they are today. This must remind us of the amount and quality of attention demanded to build the capabilities our nations will need tomorrow.
For 61 years, NATO has been more than a mere defensive line. It has above all been a sustained force for unity between the civil and military leaders, the troops, industries and the peoples of freedom-loving nations on both sides of the Atlantic. And today, we have a U.S. supreme commander in Europe and a European supreme commander in the U.S. as a new and powerful symbol of our trans-Atlantic link. This new situation is just one of many signs that it is not business as usual in NATO.
Of course, there are real and constant challenges to be met and overcome. I recently found the following analysis in a learned journal. I quote, “For several years, various prognoses have been made as to how soon NATO or its subordinate agencies would fly apart from the centrifugal forces of divergent self-interest.” Full disclosure, that article was published in 1959. (Laughter.) It seems everyone for six decades was accompanied by dire predictions of the demise of the alliance.
But half a century later, NATO is not only standing; France is all the way back, no one has left, our numbers have almost doubled and we have more nations knocking at our door. The alliance is also demonstrating a new energy and determination to reform to eliminate duplication and bureaucratic delay and to restore agility.
In embarking on a transparent and inclusive review of its strategic concept, NATO has displayed self confidence and boldness in bringing out issues swept under the rug for too long. Allied Command Transformation is animated by that same spirit. And I personally draw great strength from the support of my great friend Jim Mattis and so many in this room and beyond.
Our nations and the world at large need a strong and forward-looking NATO. And I know that together, we will do what it takes to remain – to borrow, I’m sorry, one last time, the phrase used by your president in Oslo – an alliance that “continues to be indispensable.” Thank you. (Applause.)
GEN. JAMES MATTIS: Well, ladies and gentlemen, you can understand why this is a hard act to follow. Stéphane Abrial is certainly one of the most magnificent comrades-in-arms with whom I’ve ever served. And I can tell you right now, it only brings confidence to the U.S. forces as we once again relate to Allied Command Transformation, now under a European commander.
Ladies and gentlemen, this award means more to me, much more because I share it with a magnificent comrade-in-arms, because representing, as he must, France’s full reintegration into the NATO military structure can only send a very clear message to those who oppose us. We are all heartened by President Sarkozy’s bold decision to fully reintegrate.
Going back to 1966, I found it interesting – (applause) – thank you. I found it interesting, ladies and gentlemen, I went back to 1966 and read President Johnson’s note to President de Gaulle urging France not to leave the military command structure. But President Johnson went on to say that if France felt that it must leave, and I quote, “as our old friend and ally, France’s place will await her whenever she decides to resume her leading role,” end quote. How often – how often do any of us get to participate in any event in international affairs that is as universally applauded as France returning to her leading role in our military alliance? (Applause.)
Stéphane and I share Norfolk for both our headquarters and I assure you that he and his wife Michaela are seen as the finest French imports to Virginia since Generals Lafayette and Rochambeau combined – (laughter) – to bring support to Gen. George Washington while the French fleet lay off the Virginia capes – (laughter) – at a place called Yorktown. (Applause.)
But of course, tonight, ladies and gentlemen, calls for candor among friends, so I must confess to you that when Gen. Abrial arrived at my headquarters to relieve me as the supreme commander, only “don’t ask, don’t tell” kept me from hugging and kissing him. (Laughter, applause.)
For we all knew – for we all knew that France was sending an unmistakable message to the world that we democracies would stand together, reassuring like-minded nations that the values of the enlightenment would be protected, tempering the designs of those who bear us ill will. Such is the message of a reinvigorated, reinforced alliance, buttressed once again by France’s national statement of resolve demonstrated in this historic step.
Peace is not a passive virtue. Even as we celebrate tonight the continued existence of our experiments that you and I call democracy, our young men and women endure danger and discomfort, our alliance leading more than 40 nations in the defining fight of the decade against an enemy practicing medieval and even primitive values, practicing tyranny dressed in false religious garb.
We didn’t choose this fight; rather, it was forced on us. Those who attacked us on 9/11; those who attacked London on 7/7; attacked Madrid; Beslan, Russia; Mumbai; Bali and scores more – they thought that by hurting us they could scare us. They did not realize that the descendants of Verdun and Normandy are not made of cotton candy. (Applause.)
Thus, we can see France’s timely and full reintegration into the military and command structure for the political message it sends to those who believe in the murder of innocents. What blunter statement could demonstrate our democracies’ awesome determination to defend ourselves and our values than France’s reintegration?
It’s been said that the easiest thing to achieve in international relations is a misunderstanding. Tonight, you honor Gen. Abrial and me, but in our time together, he and I have rapidly become close friends, so I am confident in saying that no misunderstanding is possible. On a military level, he and I are committed to carrying forward a clear message with no misunderstanding of what our alliance stands for: the military excellence that gives the strongest possible credence to our political leaders.
And even our intellectually deficient enemies will get the message that you recognize tonight with this award. And I thank you, the Atlantic Council, for this recognition and I know that you will all keep our troops overseas in your thoughts and prayers and I thank you very much, ladies and gentlemen. (Applause.)
MR. SCARBOROUGH: Congratulations to our generals. And I told Gen. Abrial he could do a stand-up routine in Georgetown anytime. (Laughter.) Very funny man. Now, ladies and gentlemen, we’re going to give you a brief break for dinner and when we come back, we have the next round of awards, including awards to Bono and President Clinton. We shall return. (Applause.)
JOE SCARBOROUGH: Ladies and gentlemen, we’re going to continue our awards presentations. Now we’re going to bring up Sen. Chuck Hagel. Senator? (Applause.)
CHUCK HAGEL: Thank you. Thank you, and good evening again. Ladies and gentlemen, it was early in John F. Kennedy’s presidency when he came to Frankfurt, West Germany. President Kennedy spoke about the interdependence of nations. And a young Swiss boy was listening carefully. That boy, from a small town in Switzerland, who was struck by Kennedy’s call for global thinking and global solutions to global problems, was to become one of the world’s most influential and respected leaders of business and finance.
That boy was Dr. Josef Ackermann, now chairman of the management board and the group executive committee of Deutsche Bank. The Atlantic Council honors him tonight for his many contributions, insightful leadership and commitment to a vital and strong trans-Atlantic alliance.
Over the years, as Joe Ackermann developed himself personally and professionally and added value to the institutions he worked for, he never forgot the essence of President Kennedy’s speech, from his six-week road trip around the U.S. after he graduated from St. Gallen College, to his many assignments and heightened responsibilities during his career, he remained true to his unwavering believe in the entrepreneurial spirit and the possibilities it brought to all people.
He often noted America’s entrepreneurial spirit, and how it defined a new nation and how it affected the world. It was not surprising that Deutsche Bank had the first listing on the New York Stock Exchange after September 11, 2001. Joe Ackermann wanted to show that the world continued to have confidence in America and America’s leadership.
However, Joe Ackermann’s singing debut – (laughter) – his singing debut with Pavarotti at the Met in New York a couple of weeks after 9/11 did very little to enhance America’s role in the world. (Laughter.) It did very little to enhance Joe’s artistic capabilities. Now, it is generally acknowledged that he still needs more lessons – actually, many more lessons – but he’s making a valiant effort toward an acceptable state of operatic eloquence.
His experience in the Swiss army gave him a rigorous focus on performance and discipline. He already knew about hard work and ethics and values from his mother and father. But putting them all together for an important purpose was what really drove him. As was noted in a recent feature story on Joe in Der Spiegel, he saved a note that his father had written to him when he was 10 years old.
That special note helped guide Joe into manhood, and it instructed him on what was most important in life. Joe also learned, growing up and from observing and working with successful people, that business relationships had to be anchored by more than just the art of business, more than just the transaction or the deal. Trust, confidence, decency and honesty – those were the lines of credit. Those were the currencies for both life and business.
And with all the responsible global leadership positions he has held and continues to hold, he’s always been just Joe. He’s been just Joe to everyone he every worked with, and everywhere he went. He is a modest, but yet successful man who knows that one’s life is fulfilled by helping others. Joe’s wife, Pirkko, who is with us tonight, and daughter Catherine (sp), who lives and works in Germany, have been the guiding lights of his life.
No one is successful without family and without friends. Joe understood that at an early age, and has lived a life that has always put his family first. For his passionate support of a vibrant trans-Atlantic partnership and his willingness to invest himself personally and professionally in this effort, we recognize him tonight. Joe Ackermann, global banker, leader, opera star – (laughter) – and great citizen of the world, the Atlantic Council is proud to honor you with its 2010 Distinguished Business Leadership Award. Ladies and gentlemen, Dr. Josef Ackermann. (Applause, music.)
JOSEF ACKERMANN: Thank you, Chuck, and I don’t just mean thank you for those words of introduction. I mean thank you for being a friend, an advisor, a supporter of Deutsche Bank and to me personally. I – we have benefited greatly from your wisdom and guidance. It is a pleasure for me to tell you here in this exceptional gathering how much we appreciate that and also let me thank the Atlantic Council for having the courage to give an award to a banker in these days. (Laughter, applause.)
Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, Chuck Hagel is right. My first experiences of America were some of the most important, formative moments of my young life. As a young European, I got off that plane and for the first time experienced the United States at the start of that six weeks’ road trip. I was truly overwhelmed by what I saw: the dimensions, diversity, the many different cultures, the entrepreneurial dynamism and the energy. My first impression of America has stayed with me all my life.
And as Chuck told you, shortly before I came to America, a young American president came to Europe. I don’t need to tell you what he said in Berlin. His words inspired millions and speaking in Frankfurt, Deutsche Bank’s home city, John F. Kennedy said, and I quote, “We live in an age of interdependence, an age of internationalism as well as nationalism. Today, we have no exclusively German problems or American problems or even European problems. There are world problems and our two countries are very closely bound together.”
I was inspired by his commitment to cooperation, working together across boundaries towards a common goal. He seemed to be saying, ask what you can do for your country, but also what your country can do for the world. The result of that cooperation was the greatest spirit of peace and prosperity that modern Europe has ever known.
In my work at Deutsche Bank, I have tried to apply these lessons. We built a truly multicultural organization. We have 150 nationalities on our staff, and our staff and senior management here in the United States are all Americans. We fostered an entrepreneurial culture, but we had no choice. We were newcomers in many countries and businesses. Innovation was our best and only friend.
We also encouraged and rewarded meritocracy. So many times in my career I’ve seen how diverse teams – and I include here gladly gender diversity – working toward a common goal are more successful teams. I remember very well after September 11th when we lost many, many seats and we had to work everywhere in the country around the East Coast and West Coast and those who really took leadership in these critical moments very often were female colleagues.
For me, this was not just professional, it was personal. I am, as you heard, a Swiss man with a Finnish wife. (Laughter.) She’s here tonight so I’ll be careful what I say. But so often in our life together, we have done things – and this was after several years of discussions – not the Swiss way, not the Finnish way – (laughter) – but a new way – (laughter) – namely, our way, and so many times the result has been something different, something new and something better.
But ladies and gentlemen, the Atlantic partnership, so successful for so long, has just been severely tested. We have been through the worst financial and economic crisis since the Second World War. Here in America, over 8 million jobs have been lost and over 7 million homes are in foreclosure. Trust in the banking industry – my industry – has been deeply undermined. All around the world, and notably here in the United States, governments and regulators are working to reshape the financial system. We stand at the crossroads.
Decisions we’ll take now will be critical for economic recovery and will influence the world economy for the next generation. Let me quickly offer you my perspective on what we must get right. Firstly, it’s essential to start with a dispassionate view of the banking industry. We have heard many passionate views recently. But there are two sides to this coin and we need to look at both sides.
Without question, structural weaknesses existed. Mistakes were made. Rewards grew out of proportion to the risks that were being taken. Some financial instruments were so complex that the risks they posed were not properly understood. We underestimated the interconnectedness of the banking system. Problems at a few institutions created problems for many. And some in the industry lost sight of their role as servants of the greater good of society.
But on the other hand, the banking system as a whole has facilitated a period of prosperity and economic growth that was unparalleled in recent history. Capital flowed across the world faster and more freely than ever. Financial innovation allowed business leaders to realize their aspirations, widen their horizons and protect themselves from risk. Most of this activity was totally unrelated to the instruments that triggered the crisis.
Ladies and gentlemen, as we shape the post-crisis era, we stand in front of huge opportunities and huge risks and we need to be clear about both. The opportunities are considerable. Out of this crisis, we can create a banking system that is safer, more resilient and more transparent for all who need it: a banking system that is better capitalized, less leveraged and better run.
We can harmonize financial regulation and supervision across the world. A global and consistent set of rules would be a huge step forward. We can address the issue of contagion, protecting other banks from problems at specific institutions and protecting citizens from the risks of the banking system. Let us grab these opportunities.
But ladies and gentlemen, let us also recognize the risks. Last week, President Obama talked about Wall Street and Main Street and he made a critical point: We stand or fall together. The banking industry and the wider economy are closely – very closely linked. The banking system must be allowed to provide the capital which is the lifeblood of economic activity and the greatest risk of all is that we stifle the economy by stifling the banking system. I see several specific dangers here.
First, the danger of generalist or sweeping restrictions to tackle specific, very often localized problems. The banking crisis was triggered by some specific instruments. These must be dealt with. But other activities which are essential for businesses and private citizens are vitally important, above all as the economy recovers. The complexity of the issues and of the financial instruments we seek to regulate is enormous. The risk of unintended consequences is very high. A properly informed – and I would like to add dispassionate – dialogue between private and public sector is the only way forward.
A second danger: the loss of a global level playing field. Economic activity has never been as globalized as it is now. John F. Kennedy was right. We live in an age of interdependence. Banks must be allowed to serve the interests and aspirations of our clients right across the globe.
Third, the greatest danger of all: We undermine our global competitiveness. The people of the Atlantic alliance enjoyed six decades of stability and prosperity. But today, the trend from a bipolar to a multipolar world is irreversible. It will not wait for us. Globalization presents challenges and opportunities. We can embrace it with confidence but to do that, we must enable and liberate the dynamism of our economies. You can’t do with out a fully empowered financial system.
Let me conclude. Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, I am still, unfortunately only in my heart, the young European who got off a plane and fell in love with this multicultural, meritocratic, dynamic, great nation; who was inspired by an American president calling for cooperation across different nations for the good of all.
We have been tested. We must reform. But as we reform, let us protect and serve the economic interests of our citizens and our credibility as leaders in an increasingly complex world. The founding principles of the Atlantic alliance can still be our guide now perhaps more than ever. Thank you. (Applause.)
MR. SCARBOROUGH: This next award’s exciting.
MIKA BRZEZINSKI: It’s very exciting.
MR. SCARBOROUGH: I’ve got to say, I’ve been a U2 fan since – well, god, since before you were born.
MS. BRZEZINSKI: Yeah, funny. That’s cute. That’s sweet. It’s not true, though.
MR. SCARBOROUGH: Buying “War,” when – it was like ’87. But anyway, we have a very special guest to come up and introduce our very special honoree. Mika, who is it?
MS. BRZEZINSKI: Well, I’ll give you a few hints. He’s spent his life serving the country he loves. Please welcome Navy pilot, war hero, prisoner of war, congressman, four-term senator, presidential candidate, champion of campaign finance reform, maverick Republican – (laughter) – enemy of pork-barrel, aisle-crossing legislator, ladies and gentlemen, United States Sen. John McCain. (Applause.)
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ): Thank you, Mika. Thank you. Thank you, Mika, for those generous words. And I’m honored, tonight, and thank – first, I’d like to thank the Atlantic Council for inviting me to join you. I have the distinct privilege of introducing one such man tonight, the recipient of this year’s Distinguished Humanitarian Leadership Award, Bono. And since he is a distinguished son of Ireland, I’ve found over the years that the only ethnic jokes that can be told in politics are Irish jokes. (Laughter.)
So there’s a bar in Boston, one guy down at either end. Finally, one guy gets up, sits down next to the other guy and he says, where are you from? He says, I’m from Ireland. He says, really? He says, yeah. He says, well, let me buy you a drink. He says, no, let me buy you a drink – buying each other drinks back and forth. He says, where are you from in Ireland? He says, I’m from county Cork. He says, really? So am I! What a coincidence! And they’re buying each other drinks back and forth.
Finally, he said, where did you go to high school? He says, I went to St. Mary’s. He said you couldn’t have. He says, I went to St. Mary’s. Well, they’re buying each other drinks back and forth. A guy walks into the bar, sees all the commotion down at the end of the bar and says, what’s going on down there? The bartender said, oh, it’s just the O’Reilly twins getting drunk again. (Laughter.)
I have more. (Laughter.) You know, I’ve long believed – one more. (Laughter.) I ask your sympathy for the families of the state of Arizona, because Barry Goldwater from Arizona ran for president of the United States. And Morris Udall from Arizona ran for president of the United States. And Bruce Babbitt from Arizona ran for president of the United States. And I, from Arizona, ran for president of the United States. Arizona may be the only state in America where mothers don’t tell their children that someday, they can grow up and be president of the United States. (Laughter, applause.)
I’ve long believed that the truest measure of a person’s character is found in their devotion to a just cause that is greater than their own interests. Few people in the world today exemplify this attribute more than Bono. He is a living legend of modern music. And you know, that alone would be enough for most people.
But for Bono, fame and notoriety are put into the service of what, for him, has been the cause of a lifetime – the global campaign to support the weakest among us in securing for themselves the most basic demands of human dignity, food and water, a clean environment, basic health, opportunity, the protection of human rights, peace.
Bono’s humanitarian leadership is as hard-headed as it is big-hearted. He doesn’t begrudge governments and businesses their power. He seeks to change their thinking and influence their actions. There is a deep knowledge behind his passion. Bono actually reads those IMF reports. (Laughter.) And this only furthers his nonpartisan approach to his work. Bono has worked equally well with liberal U.N. civil servants and with conservative American politicians, like Jesse Helms and George W. Bush. That’s more than I could have said for myself, on occasion. (Laughter.)
Central to Bono’s activism is the ONE Campaign, which he co-founded. My wife, Cindy, has traveled with ONE as part of its advocacy work. And I still remember how many young people in ONE t-shirts showed up to our events during the presidential campaign. I only wish there had been more of them. (Laughter.)
Now, I’m sure Bono will say that none of this is about him – that the real heroes are on the front lines of global development – those dreamers and optimists who endure long separation from friends and family in remote corners of the world, often living in conditions that are difficult to bear, all because they believe passionately that suffering and injustice are not permanent tragedies of human existence, but conditions that people of conscience can help to alleviate.
I imagine Bono believes this, but the fact is, few people have done more than Bono to elevate the global cause of human development, to demand more of both governments and businesses alike, and to multiply those doing good in our world. In short, Bono and his allies have achieved nothing less than the transformation of global human development in the minds of leaders and citizens around the world from a mostly humanitarian pursuit to a strategic priority that is inextricably linked to international community.
This is a mighty achievement, indeed. Bono’s work is about justice. It’s about empowerment. It’s about the inherent dignity of all human beings, and the moral responsibilities we have to them as such. We honor that. And I am pleased to present Bono with the Atlantic Council’s distinguished humanitarian leadership award. Before I present this award, please turn your attention to our short video about Bono’s life and his work. (Applause.)
(Begin video clip.)
MR. : Bono: a force in music and social justice for more than 20 years, spurred to action by the anti-apartheid movement, the Ethiopian famine and the AIDS crisis. Bono has become a leader in the fight against extreme poverty. Through his music with his mates in U2 and his lobbying efforts, Bono has gained the attention and respect of world leaders. Through his passion and commitment, he’s also inspired a new generation of activists.
Bono has co-founded two organizations: ONE and RED. In just four years, RED has generated $150 million from the corporate sector to fight AIDS in Africa. With 2 million members, ONE urges leaders in G-8 nations to work in partnership with Africans to expand access to education and medicine, and to increase economic opportunity by promoting trade, investment and good governance. Bono’s been uniquely successful in bringing together unlikely allies in the fight against extreme poverty – left and right, students and CEOs, civilian and military leaders.
MR. : I believe it is critical to sustain and adequate, sustainable level of investment in the instruments of national security, be it defense, diplomacy or development.
MS. : Effective diplomacy and development will allow you to save millions of lives, empower women, advance our national security interests and demonstrate to billions of people that the United States cares.
MR. : Just as those of us who have traveled to Africa with Bono have come back from the trip as newly converted advocates for the cause, troops in uniform today are also becoming advocates for development, having seen on the ground the difference smart assistance can make.
MR. : In Afghanistan, I saw firsthand how humanitarian aid can secure our own national security. Because of organizations like ONE and with Bono’s leadership, he has provided a voice to so many around the world to support the effort to provide humanitarian assistance to areas that desperately need it.
(End video clip.)
MR. SCARBOROUGH: Ladies and gentlemen, Bono! (Applause, music.)
BONO: This really isn’t the Grammys, is it? No, no. (Laughter.) Wow. Yeah, thanks, John. Thank you so much for that. I’ve just found John’s notes. He left out the bit about really tall? (Laughter.) No, thank you for your generous introduction. And more importantly, thank you for giving us the time of day, and more than that, when you were running for president.
You might not think of John McCain as an activist for the world’s poor but he is, and Cindy too. I think he mentioned all the ONE Campaigners that used to turn up on the road when he was running for president – I think it was 17 – (laughter) – times he – (chuckles) – 17 times when he brought them up on stage and put on the ONE wristband.
And I met one of these volunteers and he said, I gave the wristband to John McCain and he wore it. I said, that’s great. He said, yeah, he called me a jerk. (Laughter.) I said, what did you do to him? And he said, no, no. He said, for John McCain, “jerk” is a term of endearment. (Laughter.) So I just thought – (chuckles) – I love you, thank you. (Laughter.)
So the other thing that was really important is, in the campaign, neither candidate – any of the candidates – ever played politics on this issue of human development and the poor. And that was a great thing for us to see, that they just – there just – that was the one thing they could all agree on. Now, I look at John McCain, a former military guy. I look out at this audience; a lot of military, past and present, a lot of brass, spit and polished. And I wonder who let the peacenik in? (Laughter.) I mean, you know, you must be wondering.
And I want to answer the question with a question of my own: Who are all the other peaceniks that are in this room and the ones with the stars and bars on their formalwear? You. Because I’m talking to you, military men and women, as well as the politicians who’ve been out there making our argument for us and making it so powerfully – the idea that America has a stake in the ending of extreme poverty. It’s an extraordinary thing to see.
There’s a lot of you and I want to thank you. These peaceniks, like that cat, Billy Clinton from Arkansas – (laughter) – I mean, here’s an extraordinary guy who’s – not just his work that he’s done with President Bush in Haiti, but negotiating the prices of lifesaving anti-retroviral drugs to fight AIDS and making sure that the prices are down or free. He’s really changed the game for us in the fight against HIV/AIDS.
I first met him when we were working on debt cancellation and he kicked that off and it was followed through by his successor brilliantly. And between those two presidents, I can tell you they really made an enormous difference particularly on the continent of Africa. And I can report to you this evening that as a result of debt cancellation – and I see Cardinal McCarrick here too, another activist for debt cancellation. As a result of debt cancellation, there are an extra 40 million children going to school on the continent of Africa. That’s an extraordinary – (applause) – extraordinary.
And how about that cat, Bob Gates? He’s done a lot of covert work in his time – black ops – but who’d have thought he’d be calling a budget chairman to fight for the 150 Foreign Assistance account? A secretary of defense who hammers Congress for more aid? I mean, are you people on drugs? (Laughter.) It’s like, what is going on?
That other well-known hippie, Jim Jones – (laughter) – I mean, Gen. Jones just blew my mind a few years ago. He rang me up at home one weekend in Dublin. My boy, John, little boy, so excited, he says, Daddy, there’s a general on the phone for you. (Laughter.) Does he have a tank? (Laughter.) I said, yes, yes, John, lots of them. (Laughter.) And other stuff. (Laughter.) But Gen. Jones wanted to talk about the work we were doing on the ONE Campaign and he said some very striking things. He said, you know, I’m a Marine, Bono. I said, yes, yes, I know – sir! (Laughter.)
He said, the men and women of the Marine Corps are the most extraordinary people on the planet. And he talked about Omaha Beach; he talked about the courage it takes to lay down your life. And he said, you know, these brave men and women, they don’t mind taking hostile fire for the right reasons. But, he said, they do mind taking hostile fire for the wrong reasons.
I asked the general, what’s the wrong reason? He said, for being American. It kind of sent a shiver down my spine. He said, when people have the wrong idea about us. He sensed that Americans wanted to show the world what they were for as well as what they were against. And he told me that the fight against poverty reminds the world of American values, which in turn helps to make America more secure. He was incredibly knowledgeable about all development stuff and I was really taken aback with him.
Now, why did the general’s words send such a shiver down my spine? If you haven’t noticed, my spine is Irish, and why should I care? Well, because all of us have a stake in this word, “America.” From rock stars in D.C. to street kids in Rio, from Harlem to Haiti, from Cape Town to Cairo, we all have a stake in this word, “America.”
Now, why? That’s because America is not just a country; it’s an idea. Ireland is a great country. I love it. It’s been everything to me. It’s not an idea. This country is an idea and it’s a great idea. So we fight, we argue, we bitch, we protest, we pontificate, we sound off like I am tonight because we know somewhere in our waters that this place is not just a country. It’s an idea, a contagious thought, not just a physical landscape or a people defined by their borders.
And I just wanted to tell you tonight that I really believe in the idea of America and I believe in it because at its core is a three-corded strand as important to me as rhythm, melody and harmony. I’m talking about equality, justice and opportunity for all. That’s a catchy melody you’ve got there. (Applause.) However, with implications.
And the piece we’ve got to review constantly is the idea of justice. You see, I don’t come at the poverty-fighting business from the point of view of charity. I come at it from the point of view of justice. And I know that many of you do, too. And I’m deeply moved to discover that many of you who are here are equally offended by the hemorrhaging of human life around the world, especially when we know that not-too-costly interventions can stop the bleeding.
Now, I know the cost of life is very real in your world in this room. I can’t even imagine. But what I think Gen. Jones, Secretaries Gates and Clinton, Sen. McCain and others are getting at is that somehow these worlds of defense and development are inextricably linked. They’re not the same thing; they’re very different. But they’re linked and we need to see them as part of the same picture. They’re both essential if we really want to build a world that’s more secure, more prosperous and more justice. And it’s more important than ever that we see those connections especially in asymmetrical conflicts.
Winning the peace, we hear, is critical to winning the war. But even better would be not having to go to war in the first place, right? So you don’t have to be a number cruncher or a policy wonk to see that bad governance, economic stability and poverty have something to do with political unrest and even violence. It’s not a coincidence that when civil war breaks out in Sierra Leone, it’s a country with a per capita income of $180 a year. It’s not a coincidence that soaring food prices led to widespread riots, not just in Africa but in many places.
I just spent most of the month of March in sub-Saharan Africa. And I want to tell you, the energy is really extraordinary. People are just bursting to shatter all the stereotypes of doom and gloom. And they will; they really will. And if you don’t take my word for it, you should doorstep the brilliant Mo Ibrahim if you spot him around here – an amazing African man, new leader, I just want to – (applause). He made the trip for me.
But we can’t ignore some of the current realities. You take drought and desertification, caused in part by deforestation across the Sahel in Africa from Somalia to Nigeria. The physical devastation makes poor communities more poor and more vulnerable to extremism. If you ask Baaba Maal, the amazing Senegalese blues man who is going to play for us tonight – I think Baaba is descended from the Fulani tribe, isn’t that right, Baaba? And they roamed the vastness of the Sahel for a thousand years.
Violent extremism does not always play a big role in these conflicts but it’s circling them. Nigeria, an extraordinary, populous country, nearly 130 – 150 million, maybe. It’s the whole of West Africa in many ways; a Muslim and Christian nation, has lived by and large totally stable existence; harmony between the two religions. But in Northern Nigeria, there are signs that, that’s changing, as you’ve probably read about.
Our belief in justice or enlightened self-interest is in agreement here. It’s crucial for all of us that poor and fragile economies succeed. There’s a lot we can do before anyone has to send in the helicopters, or as we were saying, so that we never have to send in the helicopters. And what we should do, we have to do in concert. And that’s why the ONE Campaign being honored tonight at the Atlantic Council is so important to us.
I am not suggesting that we do each other’s jobs – far from it. I’m not suggesting that soldiers start wearing flowers in their hair or carrying stethoscopes or fertilizers in their packs, neither am I saying that peaceniks like me should put on combat helmets, you’ll be very relieved to hear – and that would be very scary, actually.
There’s a bright line that separates what we do from what you do, and that’s okay. But our ultimate goals are the same goals, so let’s not work at cross purposes. While the military helps build, keep the peace by supporting the African standby force peacekeeping efforts, development must be an equal but separate partner. (Applause.)
It’s up to development experts supporting governments and citizens in the development countries to fight poverty and disease, to build institutions for good governance, reward transparency and promote prosperity. Aid can actually be a reforming tool – the new, smart aid. And when I’m talking about the idea of America, that’s what I’m talking about. And it’s an idea that Europeans like me, and Europe generally, can get behind.
When the most powerful nation on earth puts its creativity, its moral purpose, its strategic sensibilities to work, the world shifts, the world shifts. It has before and it will again. And that’s why I’m talking about the idea of America. But no idea that stays the same survives for very long. America is an idea that has to be reborn as it’s being redescribed to the world. Isn’t that what Lincoln said? You have to think anew.
Well, I say to you that the interdependence of development and security really needs to be understood for the safety of your troops, the protection of your national purse and the betterment of lives around the world. It is smarter and cheaper to make friends than to defend yourself against enemies later. (Applause.)
So I’m not a professional here, but I refer to your national security strategy. As I understand it, it’s based on the three D’s: defense, diplomacy and development. The last two D’s get a fraction of the government budget, compared to the first. You knew why I came. (Chuckles.) It’s a fraction! And development gets even less, if Sen. Conrad has his way. So let’s be sure we give the last two D’s enough love.
So you peaceniks in combat fatigues, you’ve got a job to do over the next weeks. And maybe you agree with the combat veterans you saw on the intro tape there who joined us on the ONE Campaign. I’ll tell you, these men and women, they embody the idea like no one else – the idea that power brings responsibility; the idea that people, not their rulers run the show; the idea that all men are created equal; that we are endowed by our creator with certain unalienable rights and that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. These are great lyrics from the American songbook for me. Thank you for this award. (Applause, music.)
ANNA ELIASSON SCHAMIS: Good evening. Good evening. I’m glad I caught the end of that. What an incredible evening this is. I’m Anna Eliasson Schamis. I’m the vice president for development and external relations at the Atlantic Council. I want to thank you all for being here with us tonight and for your support of our global initiative.
As part of this mission, at the Atlantic Council we emphasize the value of the arts in the larger dialogue we promote. It’s therefore my great honor to introduce Bono’s good friend, fellow humanitarian and long-time advocate for Africa, Baaba Maal. (Applause.) A superstar in his native Senegal and abroad, he’s a world-renowned musician and Grammy-nominated artist who will perform in honor of all our extraordinary honorees. Please welcome – (inaudible) – a big warm welcome for Baaba Maal. (Applause.)
BAABA MAAL: Thank you all. The song I’m going to perform today is called Bayu (ph) in my native language, like Bono said, and I dedicate it to all the children in Africa, boys and girls, who have sometime very rough moments in their life because of conflict, wars, diseases.
But today I can say, since I’m facing this very good vibes, I feel really, really optimistic for the whole world but especially for my continent Africa because I know I can count and we can count on most of these people and the Atlantic Council, who can bring education, love and support to the African next generation. Thank you. (Music, applause.)
MR. SCARBOROUGH: That was wonderful. Thank you so much. You know, this year the council is going to be giving its principal award for distinguished international leadership to President Bill Clinton. What we have for you now though is something special.
It’s a greeting from 41 to 42, from the 2009 Atlantic Council international leadership honoree to the 2010 international leadership honoree. Their friendship is a bipartisan inspiration that really has served this country and this world well. Ladies and gentlemen, from Houston, Texas, President George H. W. Bush. (Applause.)
PRESIDENT GEORGE H. W. BUSH: Good evening. I’m delighted that the Atlantic Council will give its highest honor tonight, the Distinguished International Leadership Award, to my friend, President Bill Clinton, the 42nd president of the United States. I’m particularly delighted that the Atlantic Council has allowed me a chance to offer you my own personal congratulations to Bill.
As most of you know, we’ve become quite close these last few years as we’ve traveled the road of being former presidents together and particularly in our disaster relief effort. I could not have asked for a better partner as we raised money first for the victims of the South Asia tsunami, then Katrina and most recently, Ike. Barbara joked that we were the odd couple and maybe that’s true but for whatever reason, our friendship seems to resonate around the world.
Bill, the Atlantic Council is giving you its Distinguished International Leadership Award because of the legacy of your statesmanship. As your predecessor and a president who witnessed the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of the Cold War, I am in a unique position to assess your legacy. You led the world through the 1990s, helped secure a free, democratic and peaceful Europe, expanded and consolidated the North Atlantic alliance and advocated, very much in line with my own thinking, free trade and economic integration throughout the world.
History will focus on your remarkable actions when the end of Communism, while welcome, presented new and uncertain challenges. The Balkans and Northern Ireland were two trouble spots where your leadership secured the peace. You guided our country and our allies through this potentially dangerous but ultimately prosperous and peaceful period which consolidated a Europe whole and free and a more robust NATO.
After your presidency ended, your commitment to public service became even more intense, with the founding of the Clinton Global Initiative, which literally has helped millions of people around the world and I’m very proud that you and my son, President George W. Bush, have continued the role of leading our country in disaster relief, this time for the victims of the earthquake in Haiti.
I also would like to thank the Atlantic Council, which has contributed so much in its close to 50-year history, and to its chairman, Sen. Chuck Hagel, President Fred Kempe and Chairman of the International Advisory Board, my dear friend Brent Scowcroft. I admire the Atlantic Council for its dynamism, vibrancy and great work, at a time when its mission has never been more important, to renew the Atlantic community and to promote constructive American and allied leadership to tackle our most pressing global challenges.
I especially congratulate you all tonight for the wisdom of recognizing President Clinton on this important evening for all he has contributed to the United States, to the Atlantic community and to the world. Thank you, President Clinton, on behalf of all of us. (Applause.)
MR. SCARBOROUGH: You know, it was a great honor for Mika and I, last year, to introduce President Bush and to talk to him and it’s been a great honor for us tonight to be speaking with President Clinton backstage. Now, that may sound strange coming from one of those harsh right-wing Republicans that came to Washington, D.C., in 1994 specifically to stop Bill Clinton. (Laughter.)
You know, I felt bad. I was telling the president that I felt badly about all the terrible things I said about him on the campaign trail. In fact, I remember telling one of his staff members, you know, I’m a good guy but he drives me crazy. The staff member said, Joe, don’t worry, you guys drive him just as crazy. (Laughter.)
But think about what President Clinton accomplished in the 1990s. Think about all the battles that we had – government shutdowns, fights back and forth – and yet a budget was balanced; we paid down the debt; we passed welfare reform; we had a president that led us in Ireland. The president was just reminding us it was 15 years ago that he had that historic breakthrough in Ireland.
What a remarkable achievement. Bosnia, Kosovo – the list goes on and on and on. When I go out and give speeches across America, I can’t tell you how many Americans, Republicans and Democrats alike, who were grateful for the leadership of Bill Clinton and who miss him. Let’s give the president a hand and move on to our presentation. (Applause.)
MS. BRZEZINSKI: Yes. It was a lovely conversation and fascinating to watch Joe, Bill Clinton and Bono discuss politics backstage. And now it is a great pleasure to invite the United States national security advisor to introduce the Award for Distinguished International Leadership. The former Marine commandant and supreme allied commander Europe, and former chairman of the Atlantic Council now has one of the most important strategic jobs in the world. Ladies and gentlemen, Gen. Jim Jones. Thank you very much for being here. (Applause.)
GEN. JAMES L. JONES: Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. Tempting as it might be, I think I’ve used up my quota of jokes for a week so I’ll pass. (Laughter.) Ladies and gentlemen, good evening and I’m deeply honored to be here tonight to introduce President Bill Clinton, the 42nd president of the United States as the recipient of this year’s Distinguished International Leadership Award.
Before I do that, let me take a moment to thank everyone in this extraordinary crowd of distinguished public servants and leaders of more than 50 countries for being here and for supporting America’s longest and most enduring relationship with our European partners. It is also a particular honor for me, as a member of Georgetown’s class of ’66, to introduce the most well-known member of the class of ’68.
President Clinton has received many awards in his life, but it is a particular honor for me to recognize him for this one because it highlights very specific accomplishments of his that were truly historic in nature, accomplishments that have helped shape the world in which we live today. They also recognize the remarkable continuation of his public service.
In that respect, allow me to list three points of particular relevance. First, he agreed to the enlargement of our NATO alliance and helped extend the space of freedom and prosperity throughout Europe. He drove the process of NATO enlargement to include Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary, bringing strategic stability and security to Central Europe.
He negotiated the Russian withdrawal of troops from Estonia, Latvia and signed the U.S.-Baltic Charter with Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania in 1998. He created the innovative and still functioning Partnership for Peace program to build trust and cooperation among NATO and former Warsaw Pact nations, smoothing their path towards NATO membership.
Second, he reduced the nuclear threat to America and the world, an accomplishment President Obama is working to preserve and build upon. President Clinton worked closely with Russia to assist the transfer of dangerous nuclear weapons from Belarus, Kazakhstan and Ukraine back to Russia and bring those countries into the nonproliferation framework.
He secured the 1994 Agreed Framework with North Korea to cease Pyongyang’s construction and operation of nuclear reactors in exchange for civilian nuclear power assistance and under his watch, the international community agreed to the indefinite extent of the Non-Proliferation Treaty. He worked with major nuclear powers to secure nuclear-free weapons in the regions in Southeast Asia, Africa and the South Pacific.
Third, he ended war and helped secure peace. He ended the civil war in Bosnia-Herzegovina with our NATO allies by using military action and forging the Dayton Accords. He ended the crimes against humanity conducted by Slobodan Milosevic and Gen. Mladic against the ethnic Albanians of Serbia. He played a key role in brokering the Good Friday agreement in Northern Ireland.
He presided over the signature of the landmark Oslo Accords between Israel and the Palestinian Liberation Organization in September of 1993, the first direct negotiations between the two parties and a framework we hope to still build upon. He also selected the 32nd commandant of the Marine Corps – a decision he may regret – for which I am most grateful. (Laughter.)
Ladies and gentlemen, President Clinton continues to serve this nation in many ways, even while out of public office. As a private citizen, President Clinton started the Clinton Foundation, one of the fastest-growing NGOs in the world. He has served as envoy for Indonesia’s tsunami recovery and last year was named United Nation’s special envoy for Haiti to assist its people and government as they built back and implemented their economic vision for the future, building on President Clinton’s longstanding commitment to Haiti while in the White House and his work through the Clinton Global Initiative.
Following this year’s devastating earthquake, President Clinton continued to work alongside the government and the people of Haiti through the Clinton Foundation. In addition, President Obama asked President Clinton and President George W. Bush to raise funds for immediate high-impact relief and long-term recovery efforts. In response, the two established the Clinton-Bush Haiti Fund.
Through the various foundations and initiatives that bear his name, more than $57 billion have been raised for development aid. Two million people living with HIV/AIDS around the world are now receiving the medicines they need to survive. Forty cities around the world are actively working to reduce their carbon footprint and make a significant impact in the fight against global climate change.
If all this isn’t enough to keep him busy, President Clinton made time last November, when he was asked to take on the humanitarian mission of securing the release of two journalists being detained in North Korea. President Clinton did not hesitate for a moment and was, as we all know, very successful in bringing them home to their families and loved ones. I think we can all agree that the world wouldn’t be the same today without President Clinton’s more than 35 years of public service.
Therefore, for his heroic and extraordinary leadership and many contributions for the well-being of his country, for Europe and the world, I am very pleased, along with the Atlantic Council chairman, Chuck Hagel, and the Atlantic Council president, Fred Kempe, to present the Atlantic Council’s Award for Distinguished International Leadership to President William Jefferson Clinton, 42nd president of the United States. (Applause, music.)
PRESIDENT WILLIAM J. CLINTON: Thank you very much. I want to thank – (laughter) – thank you. I want to thank Gen. Jones for that amazing introduction, and once again proving the validity of Clinton’s third law of politics: Always be introduced by someone you have appointed to high office. (Laughter.)
And, I mean, you know, he got his fourth star and then he was the vice chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and sort of the brains of the Pentagon as we always said. I can only imagine what his introductions of President Obama will be like in a few years. (Laughter.) General, I thank you. I thank you for your service.
I’m delighted you’re at the National Security Council and I thank you for the relationship you have with the secretary of state who respects and admires you so much. I want to say thanks to Frederick Kempe and to all the people at the Atlantic Council and especially to Sen. Chuck Hagel, who called me about this some months ago. I know there are many United States senators here: Sen. Reid, Sen. Leahy, Sen. LeMieux.
I saw Sen. McCain; I hope he’s still here because this is not only the 15th anniversary of the Dayton Accords and the end of the war in Bosnia and the 15th anniversary of the ceasefire in Northern Ireland, which was the beginning of the end of the conflict there. This is the 15th anniversary of America’s long-delayed reconciliation with Vietnam. And it never would have happened if it hadn’t been for John McCain who made it possible. (Applause.) And I just wanted to thank him for that from the bottom of my heart.
And I want to thank you for honoring both Gen. Abrial and Gen. Mattis and I thank them for their service, for NATO’s mission and for its out-of-area commitment in Afghanistan. We began that whole process of defining a 21st century mission for NATO as has been said earlier when I was president. It was continued under President Bush and that policy has been continued under President Obama. And I think that’s the ultimate validation of a policy: if it’s embraced by people of both parties because it’s good for America, good for the world and good for the future.
I would like to thank Dr. Josef Ackermann. And I am glad you gave me that award, but I am personally very grateful to Deutsche Bank. They have been a great partner of mine in much of the work I have done around the world and promoting microfinance and trying to help promote energy efficiency.
And I just want to say one thing and show my bias because the Congress is about to take up the debate on energy, which I consider to be an issue of supreme importance. And one of our Atlantic partners – one of our most important Atlantic partners, Germany, leapfrogged the United States last year to become the number-one consumer of electricity generated from the sun in the entire world, even though the sun shines in Germany on average as much as it does in London. (Laughter, applause.) So to get there, they had to have quite a little subsidy.
Deutsche Bank – not Greenpeace, Deutsche Bank – did a study of the German solar program. And they said, even if you discount for the drag of the subsidy, Germany netted 300,000 new jobs, which by population would be 1.2 million new jobs if we did it and if you take account of the various – our capacity to generate electricity, it would be more like 3 million jobs. (Applause.) And so I thank you, Dr. Ackermann, for that study and for proving that Germany is right. And parenthetically, their unemployment is a lot lower than ours today.
I thank Baaba Maal for singing and I asked him if I could come to Senegal and hear him once. I showed him a picture on the way in of his native land. He said, I remember your whole tour to Senegal in 1998 and I remember you went to a village. And I have just come here – the reason I’m a little late: I came from a memorial service for Dr. Dorothy Height.
And one of the things Dorothy Height did long before it was popular is to involve the African-American community in nongovernmental work beyond our borders. She was teaching people in rural Indian villages decades ago and she was organizing women’s leadership groups in rural African villages. So I brought Baaba Maal a picture of me holding a goat in a Senegalese village with Hillary in 1998. The goat was the newest born thing in the village and I named the goat Bill Clinton. (Laughter.)
Not the first time I have been the goat. (Laughter.) And so I explained to him that I had used this picture – I waved this picture in Shiloh Baptist Church in Washington, D.C., tonight because that was Dorothy Height’s goat. She gave them – the United Council of Negro Women – gave them the money to build the well which saved the village on the edge of the desert and made life possible there in ensuing decades.
And I say that to make a larger point about why we’re here: Why is – I’ve been told at least that President Saakashvili of Georgia is here, that former President Alexander Kwasniewski of Poland is here, a long-time friend – and my friend and former colleague, former prime minister of Spain, José María Aznar and Carl Bildt, who went through the whole thing in the Balkans with me. And I thank you. Former Prime Minister Aziz of Pakistan, Han Duck-soo, former prime minister of South Korea.
For all of you, you’re here tonight because you know that we need to organize ourselves to reflect the reality that our destinies are entwined, no less than they were in the Cold War. I was the first president to serve his entire term after the Cold War. And there were many people who were saying, well, we ought to just reduce our international involvements. America was having a tough economy. And we just – we really don’t need to be doing this.
So for example, let’s just look at what happened in 1995 when I – and the Bosnian conflict had been heavily publicized and I had been trying for two years to get international support to get involved and to stop it. By then we had a quarter of a million dead, 2.5 million refugees. The slaughter in Srebrenica finally triggered what we needed to get the support of our NATO allies and everybody else to go into Bosnia. When we did it, a majority of the American people were still opposed to it. When we went into Kosovo later in my second term, the majority of the American people were opposed to it.
Nineteen ninety-five (1995) was also the 15th anniversary of the Mexican peso crisis. And let us not forget that Canada and Mexico are also Atlantic powers and very important to our future. And I took about five minutes to decide minutes to decide we had to help Mexico, but my younger staffers thought I had literally lost my mind. We had just lost the Congress because guys like Joe Scarborough – (chuckles) – gave such great speeches. (Laughter.)
Joe and Mika and I had a good time backstage. (Laughter.) While you were all being sober and very deliberate, we were gigging each other a little bit. I like Joe Scarborough. I think he’s good; he’s a nice leavening factor on media. And I like her because he’ll be funny and she knows what she’s talking about. (Laughter.) It’s a great – (applause). I will never live this down. He will get even with me one way or the other. (Laughter.)
No, anyway, we were talking about this. We forget about all these things. It’s the 15th anniversary of the Mexican peso crisis, the financial crisis in Mexico. And Bob Rubin told me that, said, you know, Mexico’s got two hours to live and if we don’t give them a loan guarantee, they’re going to go belly-up tomorrow.
And the leadership of the Republican and Democratic parties had previously promised to support me in Congress and Newt Gingrich and Bob Dole – this was one that was a straight-up deal. We didn’t have a political fight. They came and said, we can’t deliver any votes because there had been a poll in the paper that morning which said that by 79 to 18, the American people were against – strongly against my giving financial assistance to Mexico.
And so they came in; we had a little debate. Bob Rubin made the case. Somebody made the arguments against it. I said, this is not close. Give them the loan. And all the younger people there in the room literally thought I should be given immediate psychiatric care. (Laughter.) They said, look, we just lost the Congress. You just got your brains beat out once. Now you’re doing something that 79 percent of the people are against. Are you out of your mind?
I said, okay, let’s don’t do it. Let’s don’t do it. Let’s tell him, sorry. Then a year from now when Mexico is still reeling, when people have been hurt south of Mexico, when we have another million illegal immigrants, when there are more narcotics coming across the border, when every Mexican hates our guts because they think we’re greedy and selfish and uncaring about our neighbors and people ask me what in the daylights are you doing letting this mess develop, my answer is going to be, well, on the day I could have stopped it, there was a poll saying 79 percent of you were against it. And it quieted all the opposition.
I said, look, people hire presidents to win for America and to win for the world and to look around the corners and you’re either right or wrong; you got to live with it. But you can’t worry about what’s popular at the moment you do it because by definition on foreign policy, as opposed to many domestic issues, you actually have more information than most people do. And if you ask anybody to do anything that’s got any inherent risk at a time when everything is not hunky-dory at home, they’ll always be against it.
I say that not to be self-serving, but to point out that one of the things that has held the world together since the end of the Cold War is a generalized understanding that whether we’re fighting or working together – when the Berlin Wall came down and revealed a lot of new conflicts – ugly ethnic conflicts – it also proved that our destinies were more intertwined than ever before. This is the more interdependent age in human history.
These things that were talked about tonight by Gen. Jones are relevant today only because the world needs more of them. He talked about, you know, our efforts to destroy the nuclear missiles and to contain the nuclear materials and getting all the nuclear weapons out of Belarus and Kazakhstan and Ukraine and we just about secured all the loose nukes except about – I think I read 2,000 more have to be done.
This conference that President Obama hosted the other day with the secretary of state and the secretary of defense and the others – this was another step down that journey – a recognition that if there are 2,000 loose nukes in Russia that have not been secured or destroyed, that affects our security. If there are hospitals all over the world that have trace elements of nuclear materials that can be made – that can be weaponized if you can amass enough up.
There are laboratories – university laboratories, government laboratories and others – all over the world where this happens. So I was elated when all these people came to America with all their different political perspectives to talk about what we could do to secure the nuclear stocks of the world – in power plants, in labs, in hospitals and these few weapons that have not been secured.
We live in an interdependent world. It has three huge problems: It is too unequal. It is too unstable. And because of the changes in the climate, it is not sustainable. And so I submit to you that whether you’re honoring someone like my friend Bono who sang in the rain at my library dedication or generals in a joint command for NATO or pushing the Afghan mission or a great banker who also believes that we can change the way we produce and consume energy – every one of them in different ways is involved in affirming our common humanity and reacting to the realities of the time by trying to make the world less unequal or less unstable or less unsustainable.
And that’s why the Atlantic alliance is relevant today. That’s why the Atlantic Council is relevant today. That’s why we should really care about our friends in Greece. It’s a great country. They made a mistake. I remember pleading for help for Argentina when they got in trouble not long after I left office. And one of the members of the second President Bush’s administration who was a very good friend of mine – a man I respected then and I respect now. We had a heck of an argument over this.
He said, why should we help them? They screwed up. I said, yeah, they did. (Chuckles.) I said, do you ever need any help when you didn’t screw up? (Laughter.) I said, last time I checked, that’s when we all need help. (Laughter, applause.) If we went around life perfect, none of us would ever need any help from anybody else. Of course, they need – you know.
So I say that to drive home why I’m honored to be here, why I think the Atlantic Council is important, why I think the Atlantic institutions are important, why I think this nuclear cooperation is important. If you ask me my position on anything – and I mean anything – a little switch in my mind goes on and I ask myself, will this build up the positive forces of interdependence and reduce the negative ones? If it will, I’m for it. If it won’t, I’m against it. We all need a framework like that.
It needs to – look, there’s still argument for – there’s still plenty of room for Joe Scarborough and me to have an argument over what’s a center-right or a center-left way to deal with inequality and instability and un-sustainability. But we’re not out there in la-la land pretending that we are not interdependent, pretending that we don’t have to care about what happens to our friends in the Balkans, that we don’t have to care if all of that could go for naught if Greece fails, that we don’t have to care about what the ultimate resolution of this teetering relationship with Turkey is right now – that we don’t have to care about these things. I think we do.
And make no mistake about it, it’s just like what I told all those young people in the White House that night when we had the Mexican debate. You can reach out and try to do it right or you can decide it’s too much trouble and walk away from it. But a year from now, two years from now, five years from now, for good or ill, we are going to eat our interdependence. And if it’s going to be a good meal, it better be positive, not negative.
All it means is that divorce is not an option. That’s all interdependence means. We cannot get away from each other no matter how distasteful we might find the fact. (Laughter.) And I say that – (chuckles) – we’ve got to – you know, we need to get over this. And I think it is profoundly– you’re laughing, but I want you to laugh so you’ll – the reason I’m saying all – I realize I am preaching to the saved here.
Otherwise, I mean, why would you show up, unless you’re related to one of the honorees and have to? But I want you to think about that, because the danger for people in this room is, if you’re not in public office now, you will think only in traditional terms about what the politicians’ and the militaries’ jobs are.
And the truth is, that’s why I was delighted that Joseph Ackermann and Bono and I were recognized, because we’re not in politics or the military; we’re in the nongovernmental and the business world. And basically, the business model that large institutions follow is profoundly important in making the 21st-century Atlantic world. And there’s always a space between what the government can provide and the private sector can produce that the nongovernmental sector has to try to occupy. And that’s more important than ever before.
We had a million foundations in America before the financial downturn, and half of them were established in the last 12 years – stunning. India has more than a million foundations active in India, about half of them domestic. China has, probably, 400,000, registered and not registered. Even Russia, where they’ve received the cold shoulder, has got a couple hundred thousand. So this nongovernmental movement – the things Bono talked about – these things are important.
And when you look at the inequalities – just take the inequalities within Europe. If you look at the problems in the aftermath of this Greek crisis; if you look at the challenges our friends in Spain are having because of the impact of the financial bubble there, there’s plenty for people to do in the nongovernmental sector there. So that’s the one point I want to make. We all have something to do to sustain this Atlantic alliance, because it’s pivotal to building up the positive and reducing the negative forces of interdependence.
The second point I want to make is, if you believe what I said – if you believe we’re interdependent and you think the roadblocks to a more positive life are inequality, instability and un-sustainability, then it requires us to think about the way we do our business differently. I tried to get a good relationship with Russia. I did everything I could to help them financially in my first year as president. But that was popular, compared to Mexico. When I helped Russia, only 76 percent of the people were against that. (Laughter.)
But why did I do that? Because I knew we were going to share the future with them, one way or the other, and I knew they had been a great country before and they would be again. And it hurts to get – when whatever you’re doing doesn’t work anymore. Even if it’s good for the world, it hurts. And I didn’t want them to define their greatness – ask the president of Georgia here – I did not want them to define their greatness in 19th-century, imperial terms. I wanted them to define their greatness in more positive terms.
You know, every year, lots and lots of universities enter a global contest with teams solving computing problems – really advanced. Last year, two of the top three finishers in the contest were universities in Russia – in Moscow and St. Petersburg. The other was Chinese. Our highest finisher was the University of Illinois at Champagne-Urbana, where the Westinghouse Scholars go. But the point is, I’d like for them to take a lot of pride in that and define their greatness that way, not whether they’re fighting with Georgia or anybody else.
Most people see geopolitics as a zero-sum game. There has to be a winner and a loser. And we, Americans – we really like those zero-sum games. (Unintelligible) – pro basketball playoffs now. You watch these things. If they tie, we’ll make them play all night long until there’s a winner and a loser. (Laughter.) If every third player breaks a leg, we’ll still make them keep playing. And we do it in football, and we do it in soccer until we have a kickoff. We hate tie games. We hate games where both sides win.
But we need to get used to games where both sides win in real life. As a matter of fact, it needs to be our operating principle, that we can find a way for everyone to win. I’m not trying to help the Haitians rebuild their country after that horrible earthquake and four horrible hurricanes in 2008. And one of the things that I’m doing my best to do – I had a long meeting with the prime minister today – is to try to help build an ethic by every single thing we do so that there will be a set of values that wants everybody to come out of this ahead – wants everyone to be better off. That we don’t have to beat somebody down to lift somebody else up.
And if you think about what the Atlantic community went through in the 20th century, from World War I to the Great Depression to World War II to the Balkan wars, and if you think about the courage it took to unify Germany – for Germany to reach out to Russia, for the European Union to reach out to Russia, to take a chance on the euro, to have a European Central Bank, to deal with all these political integration issues, really, the Atlantic community, including our southern neighbors, ought to take the lead in building a world where we can increase the positive and reduce the negative forces of interdependence.
And we can do it because none of us have to win at someone else’s expense. The best example of this on earth that I have encountered is in Rwanda, where I do a lot of work. They’re the most amazing people I ever saw. When I went there after I was president the first time and I was working on setting up their AIDS program for them, a reporter from America went there and said, aren’t you mad that Bill Clinton’s here working? I mean, he said himself that he should have acted in 1994 to stop your genocide and it’s one of his great regrets.
And the cab driver says, no, I’m glad he’s here. And he said, how can you say that? I mean, the guy was really frustrated, because he was supposed to write a bad story. But the cab driver said – didn’t have anything to do with me; it was about what was in his head – the cab driver said, “First, he did not make us kill each other. We did that all by ourselves. And second, at least he came here and apologized; no one else has. And right now we’re looking at the future and we need all the help we can get.” In other words, this guy did not have a zero-sum ethic.
When I helped them personally and with my foundation to finish their genocide memorial, which is the most amazing three-tiered crypt with the bones of 300,000 victims of the genocide buried and registered in a roll of honor and I went back to see it, I got this tour from this really handsome young man who was just calmly taking me through and going through just like, you know, he was giving you a tour of the Museum of Natural History or something. And I said, did you lose anybody in the genocide?
He said, oh, yes. He said, my mother, my father, my brother and my sister-in-law, and he said, well, if you stop at my uncles, my aunts and my first cousins, 73 people. And I said, isn’t this hard for you? He said, oh, no, it’s therapeutic. And he smiled. He said, “We have to face the past so we can let go of it and get on with the future.”
So I said, you know, the first time Hillary and I came here in ’98, I met with six genocide survivors, and one of them reminds me of you. She was a woman whose husband and six children were murdered and she awoke in a pool of her own blood. She miraculously survived. And she said, first, she’d screamed out to god in anger that she had survived. And then she realized there must have been a reason that couldn’t be something as mean as vengeance. So this woman started an adoption service and a foster care home. And she took kids in without regard to their ethnic group and she placed them in families without regard to their ethnic group.
So this kid starts smiling – this young guy – and he says, well, I should remind you of her. She is my aunt. They’re amazing people. Two years ago – I always send out, at Christmastime, gifts – crafts gifts from – to my supporters of my foundation from the countries where I work. So two years ago, I sent out Rwandan baskets. They’re great basket-makers. And one of the coops we bought from was run by a Tutsi woman named Pskasi (ph), who’d lost seven children and her husband in the genocide.
She had 10 kids. Seven of her 10 kids were murdered and her husband. And she had to start again. She was 50 years old. Her kids were grown. They were in the military, was the only reason they didn’t get killed. So she goes out and finds this Hutu woman that’s in the other camp, if you will, who was a good basket-maker and said, look, we’ve got to make a living. We can’t be eaten up by this. We’ve got to start again.
So they start making baskets. And pretty soon, they’re on sale all over Kigali, and pretty soon, they’re on sale at Bergdorf Goodman at New York. (Laughter.) I mean, these women were amazing and they did so well training women in basket-weaving that young men began to show up and ask to be trained. And about a year after they started taking young men, this 26-year-old man asked if he could see the boss, Pskasi.
And he went to see her and broke down in tears. And he said, “You have been wonderful to me, but I can’t live with myself any longer. I murdered one of your sons.” And he said, I know you have three older children in the military. Send for one of them to come and kill me. That would be justice. And I will stay here and work for you every day until he comes. And this woman, who had lost seven of her 10 children, said, “What good would that do? I forgive you. Get up and go back to work.”
Now, could you do that? Could you? I don’t know if I could. But I know one thing: Every time I start feeling sorry for myself, I think about that. And I say that because everybody’s got a legitimate beef. It’s kind of like Argentina messing up. Most of your resentments are based on something that’s real. Most of your identity that drives you to have to have a loser in order for you to be a winner is based on something that’s real. It may be real, but it is not sustainable in the 21st-century world.
So anytime you doubt that we can work our way through the still-thorny problems of the Balkans – we are not out of the woods yet – anytime you doubt – you think, oh, this Northern Irish thing – it was a special moment in history. It probably can’t be replicated. You think about that woman losing seven kids and telling that boy, who wanted to be killed because he killed one of them, that she forgave him.
That woman may have little education and little in common with you, and she may have never crossed the Atlantic Ocean, but she is a citizen of the 21st century because she thinks her common humanity is more important than the interests in differences which darn near destroyed her country.
If we can fight non-zero-sum games in a way that embraces the positive and reduces the negative, and none of us escapes our responsibility, we’re going to be just fine. Don’t bet against America; don’t bet against the Atlantic community. Everybody that’s done it so far, in the end, has lost money. Thank you and God bless you. (Applause.)
Transcript by Federal News Service, Washington, D.C.