The Atlantic Council presented its annual Global Citizen Awards in New York on September 19 to three exceptional individuals whose extraordinary leadership has been invaluable in addressing global challenges and fostering unity.

This year’s awardees were Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe; Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi; and musician, composer, educator, and Managing and Artistic Director of Jazz at Lincoln Center Wynton Marsalis. The evening’s dynamic lineup included US Secretary of State John Kerry; World Economic Forum Founder and Executive Chairman Klaus Schwab;  and Nadiya Savchenko, Ukrainian parliamentarian, former prisoner of war, and decorated hero of Ukraine.

The seventh annual awards dinner, held at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, convened an influential gathering of nearly 500 government, business, military, media, and civil society leaders from around the world.
Atlantic Council Chairman Jon M. Huntsman, Jr. and President and CEO Frederick Kempe opened the evening with remarks on the importance of joining in common cause to improve the state of the world amid historic challenges.
“The scale of the challenges today [present] a call for us to rise to the occasion and seize the opportunity to remake the world as freer, more open, and more prosperous,” said Huntsman.

Kerry took the stage next to present the award to Renzi. “Prime Minister Renzi is a daring reformer at home [and] an open voice on behalf of shared security,” Secretary Kerry said.

Speaking about the importance of global leadership, Prime Minister Renzi said that “global citizenship is not an award but a responsibility. We must not lose the value of dignity of a human being.”

Schwab, the inaugural recipient of the Atlantic Council’s Global Citizen Award, introduced Abe. He commended the prime minister’s optimistic approach to energizing Japan’s economy. “The Japanese people have now found the light of hope at the end of a long dark tunnel,” said Schwab.

Paula J. Dobriansky, an Atlantic Council board director, presented the Atlantic Council’s Freedom Award to Savchenko, a former Ukrainian military pilot who became a national hero during the two years of her detention by Russia. Recognized at the Atlantic Council’s 2015 Freedom Awards, Savchenko had received the award in absentia while she faced imprisonment on a fabricated criminal charge. She was pardoned and released in May.

Savchenko accepted the award in person on September 19. In a moving tribute to her stoicism, Dobriansky said: “Nadiya [embodies] the spirit of the Ukrainian people and symbolizes their struggle for freedom.”

“Freedom is what is given to people by God from their birth,” Savchenko said in Ukrainian. “But very often, in order to have freedom, one must fight for it.”

In recognition of his work to introduce jazz music to the world, the Council honored Wynton Marsalis, whose musical talents and cultural contributions have been instrumental in breaking down barriers, not only between classical and jazz genres, but also between artists across the Atlantic. Atlantic Council Executive Vice Chair Adrienne Arsht presented the award to Marsalis.

“What happens when finance and politics lose their way,” asked Marsalis. “We have to go back to our routes—culture.”  Marsalis concluded the evening with a moving performance with the Wynton Marsalis quartet.

The Atlantic Council’s Global Citizen Awards dinner recognizes global leaders who have made exceptional and distinctive economic, political, and cultural contributions toward strengthening international relationships. Previous honorees include former Israeli President Shimon Peres; actor, film director, and producer Robert DeNiro; Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto; European Central Bank President Mario Draghi;Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi; then-US Senator John Kerry; former UN High Commissioner for Refugees Sadako Ogata; former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri  (posthumously); musician Quincy Jones; and Her Majesty Queen Rania Al Abdullah of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.