The Atlantic Council presented its annual Global Citizen Awards on September 21 to six people whose leadership or partnership has strengthened the transatlantic community and contributed to its role in addressing world problems.
The 2014 honorees are: former President of Israel Shimon Peres; actor, film director, and producer Robert De Niro; former Prime Minister of Singapore Lee Kuan Yew; President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko; President of Mexico Enrique Peña Nieto; and pianist, composer, and humanitarian Llewellyn Sanchez-Werner.
The annual awards dinner, held at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, brought together nearly 400 business, government, media, and civil society leaders representing twenty-eight countries.
The program began with welcoming remarks by Atlantic Council President and CEO Frederick Kempe, Chairman Jon M. Huntsman, Jr., International Advisory Board Member Victor L.L. Chu, and Board Director and former US Secretary of State Dr. Henry Kissinger, who each highlighted the importance of galvanizing the Atlantic community and its allies to address today’s global challenges.
“It is important to reflect on how order can be brought back to this world,” said Kissinger.
The first honoree of the evening, former President of Israel Peres, was introduced by World Economic Forum Founder and Chairman Klaus Schwab who praised Peres for his lifetime of leadership. Peres delivered a moving speech in which he drew comparisons to Jean Monnet’s experience as the founder of a united Europe in bringing stability to the Middle East.
“In spite of the complicated news, the chances of peace are great because both the Atlantic and the Pacific are trying to help the two parties to come together and make peace,” said Peres.
The awards dinner also served as the world premiere of a humorous video written by Peres’ granddaughter, writer, and satirist Mika Almog, exploring what life after the presidency might be like for this distinguished statesman.
Musician and philanthropist Quincy Jones, a 2013 Global Citizen Award recipient, introduced De Niro and touted his humanitarian efforts in addition to his artistic accomplishments: “For more than four decades, Robert has been a master of portraying the complexities of the human condition through his work in front of and behind the camera… His genuine artistic spirit compels him to use his success for the betterment of mankind. Robert has never shied away from stepping up to help the less fortunate around the world.”
De Niro joked: “This is always how I imagined it would end. Me as an exhibit in the museum of natural history.”
“I’m most grateful to the Atlantic Council for encouraging and supporting dialogue on so many essential issues. When we’re talking, we’re not shooting, so let’s keep talking,” continued De Niro.
Kempe returned to the stage to present a moving tribute to Dinu Patriciu, founder of the Atlantic Council’s Dinu Patriciu Eurasia Center, who passed away in August. His daughters Ana and Maria Patriciu and Dinu Patriciu Global Properties Executive Chairman Melanie Chen were on stage to join in the tribute.
Huntsman, a former US ambassador to China and Singapore, added a personal touch to his introduction of former Singaporean Prime Minister Lee, the founding father of modern Singapore: “My own respect and admiration for Mr. Lee developed when I was a young US ambassador to Singapore… His astute worldview, shaped by over five decades of leadership, pervades any national or cultural boundaries—it is the product of strong convictions and a clear vision of what it means to be a statesman.”
Singaporean Foreign Minister K Shanmugam accepted the award on behalf of Lee, who just turned ninety-one last week. “Singapore is often in a small minority, sometimes a minority of one, in speaking out for the United States,” said Shanmugam speaking on Lee’s behalf. “If asked, he would tell America that it has to be confident… the world still needs America’s clear, sensible leadership.”
Atlantic Council Executive Vice President Damon Wilson then delivered remarks about Ukrainian President Poroshenko’s steadfast commitment to a Ukraine integrated with Europe. Poroshenko, who accepted his award in Washington, DC, on September 18, stressed that he shares the award with the hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians who continue to fight for democracy and freedom in his country: “I think that [this award] is worth much more than money, weapons, because this is a symbol of our unity. This is a symbol of our solidarity. That will be a symbol of our victory—victory in the struggle for peace.”
Motion Picture Association of America Chairman and CEO and former US Senator Christopher J. Dodd presented the award to Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, whose reforms have already transformed Mexico’s image into a global innovator and example for other nations.
“These reforms establish a modern jurisdictional framework; indispensable to unleash Mexico’s potential and provide opportunities for its citizens,” said Peña Nieto. “I welcome you all to be acquainted with Mexico, a country that dared to change, and today is on the move.”
Adrienne Arsht, Atlantic Council Board director and founder of the Council’s Adrienne Arsht Latin America Center, introduced Llewellyn Sanchez-Werner, a seventeen-year-old piano virtuoso who uses his musical talents not only to entertain audiences, but also to bridge cultural divides and encourage collaboration. He closed out the evening with a performance of Maurice Ravel’s “Alborada del Gracioso.”
The Atlantic Council’s Global Citizen Awards dinner recognizes global leaders who have made exceptional and distinctive contributions to strengthen the transatlantic relationship. Previous honorees include Nobel Peace Prize laureate and former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger; Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi; IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde; then-US Senator John Kerry; former UN High Commissioner for Refugees Sadako Ogata; former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri (posthumously); the great musician Quincy Jones; President of the Republic of Poland Bronisław Komorowski; Her Majesty Queen Rania Al Abdullah of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan; and Maestro Seiji Ozawa.