2011 Awards Dinner Highlights

The 2011 Atlantic Council Annual Awards Dinner launched the Council’s 50th anniversary celebration in style, providing an evening of transatlantic luminaries, thoughtful conversation, and world class music—and some exciting news about the Council’s future.

This the fourth awards dinner during my tenure at the Council. Each year’s is better than the last, a remarkable feat given how high the bar has been set. 

In 2008, we honored former UK prime minister Tony Blair, Newscorp chief Rupert Murdoch, Joint Chiefs chairman Mike Mullen, and pianist extraordinaire Evgeny Kissin.

How to top a head of government? Well, two heads of government, naturally. So, in 2009, we honored former U.S. president George H.W. Bush, former German chancellor Helmut Kohl, then CENTCOM boss David Petraeus, IBM’s Samuel Palmisano, and world-renowned baritone Thomas Hampson.

Two heads of government and a rock star general! What could be better? Well, how about an actual rock star? So, in 2010 we honored former president  Bill Clinton, Deutsche bank chairman Josef Ackermann, Supreme Allied Commander Transformation Stéphane Abrial, Joint Forces Command chief James Mattis, and Bono.

2011 was somehow going to have to be even bigger. After all, the dinner kicked off a year-long celebration of half a century of promoting the transatlantic relationship. So, we added a new wrinkle: News.

Our keynote speaker was Vice President Joe Biden. In addition to gracing us with his presence, he gave us an early present: news that Osama bin Laden had been killed. And, Biden revealed last night, as many as 16 members of Congress knew about the mission for months and kept quiet. That’s storybook, man.

As if that weren’t enough, the vice president lauded the Council’s core purpose as well as any sitting official in quite some time, proclaiming the “transatlantic relationship as central as it ever has been” and adding “it’s hard to imagine a threat we can’t address more effectively together.”

Alas, Biden didn’t tip us off about the bin Laden thing in enough time to incorporate it into our event planning. That meant we had to make news of our own. So, our president and CEO, Fred Kempe, announced the launch of two ambitious new initiatives: the Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security and the Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East.

General James L. Jones, chairman of the Council from 2007 to 2009 and himself a previous recipient of the Distinguished Military Leadership Award, was announced as the founding chairman of the Scowcroft Center and George Lund as its founding co-chairman.

Brent Scowcroft, who chaired the Council from 1998 to 1999 and has served it in so many ways over the years, including as the current chairman of its International Advisory Board, offered characteristically humble and gracious remarks about the center that will bear his name and introduced Bahaa Hariri, the founding sponsor of the center named in honor of his martyred father.

Naturally, it being an Atlantic Council awards dinner, we also honored extraordinary service to the transatlantic relationship and to humanity.

The Distinguished Military Leadership Award was presented to Admiral James G. Stavridis, Supreme Allied Commander Europe, for the role he has played in service to our nation and his commitment to the security and promotion of the transatlantic alliance.

We presented our Distinguished Business Leadership Award to Chairman of the Board and CEO of Coca-Cola Muhtar Kent for the role he has played at one of the world’s most respected global and philanthropic companies and throughout a career that included crucial jobs during the transition to free markets in the former Soviet bloc.

Our Distinguished Artistic Leadership Award was given to leading tenor Placido Domingo, whose music and humanitarian accomplishments have resonated around the globe.

And, as always, the introducers were as impressive as the speakers and awardees; indeed, many of them are previous recipients of Council Leadership Awards: Atlantic Council chairman Senator Chuck Hagel for his longtime friend, the vice president; Jim Jones for Stavridis; Charlie Rose for Kent; and General Colin Powell for Domingo.

Closing out the evening was a performance by soprano Jennifer Lynn Waters, a member of the Domingo-Cafritz Young Artist Program at the Washington National Opera.

For the third year in a row, the night’s festivities were graciously and flawlessly hosted by the “Morning Joe” team of Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski, who’ve become part of the Atlantic Council family. They provided video highlights of the festivities on this morning’s show:

None of this would have been possible without the generous support of the evening’s co-chairs: Bob AbernethyAdrienne ArshtShaukat AzizJose Maria AznarTom BlairHenry Catto,Manuel Fernando Espirito SantoTom GlocerBoyden GrayBahaa HaririGeorge LundIzzat MajeedAlexander MirtchevBob MoritzGeorgette MosbacherHutcham OlayanTuncay OzilhamDinu PatriciuBrent ScowcroftJim TurleyTzvetan VassilevJacob WallenbergMaciej Witucki, and John Wren.

Yet another great job by Atlantic Council vice president Anna Eliasson Schamis and her amazing event team, led by Ania Voloshin and Rosanna Broadbent, who are surely dreading having to sustain this momentum for next year’s dinner.

James Joyner is managing editor of the Atlantic Council.

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