Atlantic Council

2017 Global Citizen Awards

Adrienne Arsht, Executive Vice Chair, Atlantic Council;
Frederick Kempe, President and CEO, Atlantic Council;
Victor Chu, International Advisory Board Member, Atlantic Council


The Right Honourable Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada;
Moon Jae-in, President of the Republic of Korea;
Lang Lang, World-renowned Pianist, Educator and Philanthropist

Introductory Speakers:

Her Majesty Queen Rania Al Abdullah;
Mme. Christine Lagarde, Managing Director, International Monetary Fund;
Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman, World Economic Forum



Location:  New York City, New York


Time:  7:45 p.m. EDT

Date:  Tuesday, September 19, 2017




ADRIENNE ARSHT:  Ahoy!  Ahoy!  Welcome to the 8th Annual Atlantic Council Global Citizen Awards.  As executive vice chair of the Atlantic Council, I’m stepping in tonight for our chairman, Governor Jon Huntsman.  The governor could not be with us tonight because, as many of you know, his confirmation for the new post of U.S. ambassador to Russia took place this morning.  (Applause.)

I thank you all for being here tonight at this new venue, the Intrepid.  What a symbol for all the things for which we stand.  This, in fact – and this is a true fact – is the largest turnout ever for our Global Citizen Awards.  (Applause.)  We are enormously proud of our honorees this evening. 

We honor Prime Minister of Canada Justin Trudeau.  (Cheers, applause.)  We honor him for his visionary leadership, his commitment to sustainable and inclusive growth, his respect for freedom and diversity, and his promotion of open trade and open borders.  (Applause.)  Her Majesty, Queen Rania of Jordan, who received the Council’s Global Citizen Award in 2013 will introduce the prime minister.  (Applause.) 

We are also honoring the President of the Republic of Korea Moon Jae-in.  (Cheers, applause.)  We honor him for his principled leadership, demonstrated throughout a career of public service, for his success in building coalitions in the face of obstacles, and for his efforts to defuse regional tensions using tactics of diplomatic, economic, and cultural engagement.  (Applause.)  My friend, Christine Lagarde, managing director of the International Monetary Fund, will introduce President Moon.  (Applause.)

It is an Atlantic Council tradition to always honor a performing artist.  The arts define civilization.  They speak to us in a universal language.  Tonight, we honor the great pianist and philanthropist Lang Lang for bringing classical – (applause) – for bringing classical music to a multigenerational, global audience, and for his contribution to the crucially important effort to bring musical education to children across the globe.  (Applause.)  Our inaugural Global Citizen Award recipient, the World Economic Forum founder and its executive chairman, Professor Klaus Schwab, will introduce Lang Lang.  (Applause.)

And now, it is my pleasure to introduce the president and CEO of the Atlantic Council, Fred Kempe.  (Applause.)  Fred is one of the most gifted foreign policy entrepreneurs on the scene today.  His leadership of the Council over the past 10 years has been a driving force behind the Council’s incredible success.  It continues to be both a privilege and a real hoot to work alongside of him.  Fred, the stage is yours.  (Applause.)

FREDERICK KEMPE:  Thank you, Adrienne.  I won’t ask you to define hoot.  (Laughter.)  Adrienne is an incredible lawyer, banker, and philanthropist extraordinaire.  Don’t worry, Prime Minister Trudeau, that’s the only French word I’ll try to use.  (Laughter.)  Adrienne, thank you for your leadership as our executive vice chair, and founder of two of our centers, the Adrienne Arsht Latin America Center and, new this year, the Adrienne Arsht Center for Resilience.  And I’ll come back briefly to that later.

So what an illustrious crowd.  What a magnificent venue.  You are 572 individuals from more than 40 countries, heads of state and government, leaders of international organizations, ambassadors, more than 76 chief executives and presidents of companies, media leaders, civil society leaders, even the great author and writer Gay Talese, and even the reigning Miss USA, our own D.C. native, Kara McCollough.  And we’ve got a Nobel Prize winner, and who knows who else.  So talk to each other.  Get to know each other.  You may be surprised who is sitting not too far from you.

Last year we were at the American Natural History Museum, seated, I thought, precariously, underneath the belly of a giant whale.  This year, we’re quite literally of the belly of a different sort of sea creature.  This is our first year aboard the historic Intrepid which, in World War II, survived a torpedo hit and several dramatic air attacks.  So we’re relatively certain that it can sustain this weighty audience in Hangar 3.  Inclement weather is no match for you or the Intrepid, and the Intrepid itself is something of a metaphor for the resilience and steadiness in choppy waters our times require.  So Susan Marenoff-Zausner, the president of the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum – I don’t know where you are, Susan – but thank you so much for being here.  We’re delighted to be in your magnificent place here.

We’re gathered here in New York on the opening evening of the United Nations General Assembly’s 72nd session.  It is against this backdrop that we at the Atlantic Council pause – or have paused ever year for the last eight years – to recognize individuals who devote their lives to causes larger than themselves.  And by recognizing them, we hope to inspire others to similar leadership.  And at the same time, underscore our enduring cause.  At the Atlantic Council, for nearly 60 years, we have pursued the mission of galvanizing constructive U.S. leadership, alongside global friends and allies, to secure the future.  Our founders were literally there at the creation of the international liberal order that for the past 70 years has provided one of the most promising, prosperous, and secure periods of human history.  We, at the Atlantic Council, feel, as they were there at the creation, that we may there potentially at the salvation or at the reinvention.

To quote the anthropologist Margaret Mead, quote, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, concerned citizens can change the world.  It’s the only thing that ever has.”  End quote.  And we believe that.  The world order that the Atlantic Council’s founders helped create is under attack.  Liberal democracies face the challenges of nationalism and populism.  New questions have arisen regarding America’s role in the world.  And a combustive mix of threats boil from North Korea to Russia’s revanchist efforts in Ukraine, which President Trump mentioned in his defense of sovereignty today at the United Nations.  The Atlantic Council, across our 11 programs and centers, embodies the ethos of common cause to shape the future.  What we added to the Atlantic Council since we met last year underscores our purposeful, results-oriented approach, where we adjust to the times.

The launch of the Arsht Center for Resilience recognizes the world will not become less volatile.  Rather, uncertainty is the one certainty.  So we need to build in more resilience, whether it be within hurricane-struck cities or crisis challenged global institutions.  We also launched in the last year our digital forensic research lab, which has become a leading 24/7 force in countering disinformation, fake news, and hybrid threats.  As we sit here aboard this now-luxury vessel, convening one set of supporters for the Atlantic Council mission, five members of our digital forensic team are in a tent in a European forest that must remain unnamed, embedded in allied military exercises, helping with the new science of digital force protection.

As you can see by looking around you tonight, we’re a community of business and civil society leaders, cutting-edge experts and policymakers.  We generate ideas.  We foster debates.  We built consensus.  We mobilize durable coalitions.  We transform ideas into action.  What we don’t do is we don’t write papers that gather dust on shelves.  Adrienne shared the news to you of Governor Huntsman’s confirmation hearing this morning.  It went extraordinarily well.  We expect that he will be confirmed, and not so far in the future.  He sends all of you his warmest wishes.  He did give me some message to say to you in Russian but, to be frank, I can’t remember it.  (Laughter.)  So massive thanks.  And in his absence, I hope you’ll join me in applause for Governor Huntsman and his remarkable public service, and his service to the Council.  (Applause.)

Let me also express a particular thanks to the brilliant global business leader Victor Chu, an Atlantic Council International Advisory Board member whose vision and drive made these awards a reality.  Please stand, Victor, wherever you are, so we can salute you.  (Applause.)  A special thanks and welcome to the 2017 Global Citizen Awards presenting partner, and Atlantic Council International advisory board member, Mehmet Nazif Gunal.  Thank you for all you do for the Atlantic Council in Turkey, in Africa, now aboard the Intrepid.  Thank you.  (Applause.) 

For the first time tonight, all of our awardees will be introduced by previous awardees.  That’s an illustration of the growing strength of our community, bound together by shared values.  We are honored to have these previous awardees in the audience tonight.  Hold your applause until I’ve shared all of their names, and if they would please stand.

Our inaugural Global Citizen Award recipient, the ultimate global citizen, World Economic Forum founder and executive chairman, Professor Klaus Schwab.  (Applause.)

The recipient of our 2011 Global Citizen Award, Christine Lagarde, has already been introduced to you.  (Applause.)

The recipient of the 2013 Global Citizen Award, Her Majesty Queen Rania, who has also been mentioned to you as well, and I think she is backstage at the moment.

We are also pleased to welcome the son of the late Shimon Peres, former prime minister and president of Israel, recipient of the 2014 Global Citizen Award, Chemi Peres.

Where are you sitting?  Could you please rise?  (Applause.)

We are also privileged to be joined by several current and former heads of state and government, our honorees to be sure, the South Korean president and the Canadian prime minister.  We also have the former prime minister of Australia Kevin Rudd, the former president of Costa Rica José María Figueres, the former president of Timor Leste His Excellency Xanana Gusmão; the Nobel Peace Prize recipient and former president of Timor Leste José Ramos-Horta. 

All of you who I have mentioned who are in the audience, please stand and let’s give you a round of applause.  Thank you.  (Applause.)

Government and ministers from around the world, please stand, and please hold your applause until I’ve mentioned them.

Deputy Prime Minister of Korea Kim Dong-yeon, Minister of State of the UAE Dr. Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Korea Kyung-wha Kang, Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism of Korea Do Jongwhan, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Canada Chrystia Freeland – (applause) – a very popular one of the ministers here and, like me, a recovering journalist, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine Pavlo Klimkin, Vice Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Georgia Mikheil Janelidze.

Please, a round of applause for all of these ministers who have joined us tonight.  (Applause.)

And finally, finally I would be remiss if I did not salute my very dear friend and our New York board co-chair Richard Edelman and his wife, his new wife, Claudia González Romo, who just tied the knot this weekend.  (Applause.)

Richard, because Claudia told me it is Jewish tradition for wedding celebrations to last a full week, we added this little party of 570 of your closest friends on an aircraft carrier.  (Laughter.)  So please join me in wishing global citizens Richard and Claudia profound happiness ahead.  Please stand up, Richard and Claudia.  (Applause.)

Thank you all for joining us this evening.  Thank you for support.  Without your engagement and support, we quite literally could not do the crucial work we’re doing right now.  It just wouldn’t be possible.

Enjoy your evening.  Let’s set sail.  Oh, and watch the screen for the beginning of our program.  (Applause.)

(A video presentation is shown.)


ANNOUNCER:  Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome the 2013 Global Citizen Award recipient, Her Majesty Queen Rania Al Abdullah of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.  (Applause.)

HER MAJESTY QUEEN RANIA AL ABDULLAH:  Thank you.  We live in an era of shrinking trust in government institutions.  But every once in a while, a leader steps up onto the stage and reignites our faith. 

Justin Trudeau says he entered politics to make change that would better serve Canadians.  In fact, his leadership is making change that better serves all of humanity.  On the one hand, he has captivated the world with his youthful, modern flair, from taking selfies at the G20 summit and photos with adorable panda twin cubs, to releasing his summer Spotify playlist, to making political statements with his fashionable footwear, what The New York Times calls “sock diplomacy.”

At the same time and as Canada celebrates its 150th anniversary, Mr. Trudeau has led his country in renewing its deepest values, the openness, generosity, big-heartedness and broad-mindedness for which Canadians are admired across the globe.  He understands those values well. 

Public service is in his blood as the son of another great Canadian leader, Pierre Trudeau, who taught him the value of perspective.  In paying tribute to his late father, he said that he and his brothers knew they were the luckiest kids in the world and that they had done nothing to actually deserve it.  Perhaps that humility explains his response in the face of human suffering.  He knows children of war are the unluckiest in the world and that they don’t deserve it either.

Prime Minister Trudeau has led his nation in transforming compassion into action.  Last year at the U.N., he and I co-chaired the panel on the refugee crisis.  In his words and his bearing, the world saw moral leadership and moral authority, two values so often lacking in these divisive and polarized times.  Even as he described how Canada had taken in nearly 31,000 refugees in less than a year, he declared we have a responsibility, as all countries do, to do more to help solve the global refugee migration crisis.  For me coming from Jordan, it was especially powerful to hear a Western leader speak this way.

I recall, as well, the prime minister greeting a planeload of refugee families as they landed in Toronto, helping shy, but curious children into warm winter coats, telling them all “welcome home.”  It wasn’t just the relief in their parents’ faces that made such a deep impression, it was the way the prime minister underscored the value of embracing newcomers in need, the value not only for the resettled families, but for all Canadians as well, because he recognizes that it is the people who are not like us that make us grow.

That conviction, to me, symbolizes what global citizenship is all about, not simply that we look out for one another or that we support each other in times of hardship, but that we value, respect and celebrate one another as fellow human beings.  That is the spirit that shines so very bright in this northern star, a father, a feminist, a moral leader, a global citizen, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.  (Applause.)



PRIME MINISTER JUSTIN TRUDEAU:  Thank you very much for that warm welcome.

Thank you, Your Majesty, for your kind words, but mostly thank you for your grace and your strength as you engage in the world, care passionately about your country, but also help shape the values and contributions that we each make every day towards bringing better peace and harmony to the world.  Thank you for your leadership, Your Majesty.

And while I’m talking about extraordinary women, I have to highlight someone who just arrived and I haven’t seen yet, but I’m told she is here, someone who just came from a speech on women’s empowerment and women’s issues, which is why she was a little late, but someone who challenges me and inspires me every single day to do better and be better, my wife, Sophie Grégoire.  Thank you, Sophie.  (Applause.)

It is my sincere pleasure to be here with you this evening.  And it’s a great privilege and honor to receive this award.  I am deeply touched by it.

When I was a boy, I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to meet quite a few world leaders while traveling with my dad.  Something that struck me then and still does today is the reassuring humanity of those encounters.  However great or powerful a leader may be, they are still just people.  And the majority that I have met, I have to say with some gratitude, want to do what is right for their citizens and for the world.  If that weren’t the case, it would be a far grimmer world than it actually is.

The challenge of leadership, indeed the very essence of it, is to fairly balance the competing interests of different groups of people who have, at times, quite different aims and needs, but sometimes events coalesce.  There are times when our principal aims and needs become universal.  And I believe we are living in such a time right now.

Some might look at this Council’s half-century-old mission, to promote cooperation across the Atlantic, as the rarified concern of elites or an idealistic throwback to another century.  Well, nothing could be further from the truth.

We live in a time where global peace and security, free and fair trade, human rights and liberty have never been more intertwined or, in this post-war era, at greater risk and in greater need of our active, focused engagement.  Alliances that have underpinned global security and prosperity since 1945 are being put to the test.  And the urgency of the challenges we share in common, climate change and drought, income inequality, violent extremism, civil war and the mass migrations that result, continues to grow.

Allow me to repeat that last bit in French for the folks at home.

(Speaks in French.)

(Continues in English.)  Worldwide, the long-established international order is being tested.  With Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea and encroachment in Ukraine, we have seen the first major territorial seizure in Europe since the Second World War.  This is not the time for retrenchment, it is a time for the Atlantic democracies to renew our commitment to universal standards of rights and liberty, enforced through a multilateral rules-based order that has promoted peace and stability and stood the test of time.  (Applause.)

We have to work together on this, which means a renewed commitment to longstanding alliances such as NATO and NORAD, bodies such as the United Nations and the WTO.  Global security requires the ability to project hard power when it is needed.  That is one reason why earlier this year Canada announced a robust long-term reinvestment in our military with significantly increased spending for the tools and training our women and men in uniform need to do their jobs.  (Applause.)

The second major pillar of global peace and security is, of course, free and fair trade.  As you know, as you may know, as you hopefully know, Canada is currently engaged with the United States and Mexico in modernizing the North American Free Trade Agreement.  (Applause.)  We are working hard and we’re looking forward to hosting our partners in Ottawa this weekend for round three.  And, as you may have seen in the media, Canada has been very ambitious at these talks, particularly in advancing a progressive trade agenda that puts gender equality, the rights of indigenous peoples, environmental protection and labor standards squarely at the heart of the discussion.  (Applause.)

Now, some appear to have been confused by this.  It’s as though they expect us to do trade exactly the same way it was done by our parents a quarter century ago.  And yet, there is a precedent.  CETA, Canada’s groundbreaking trade agreement with Europe, goes into provisional application in two days.  It is the most progressive trade agreement in the world today.  We made it that way for a reason.

Trade, as it has long been done, though broadly positive for the majority, has not been perfect.  If it were, there would be no political current against globalization, yet there is such a current, especially in places where traditional manufacturing has been disrupted by automation, mechanization and offshoring.  So we need to do a better job of ensuring the benefits of trade extend to the middle class and those working hard to join the middle class, not just the wealthiest few.

We made a deal.  We told people that trade and the things that went with it would lift all boats, would benefit everyone.  And people have been wondering when that benefit is going to hit the majority.  That’s what we need to turn around.  We need to do more to help the people displaced by economic shifts so that they can get well-paying jobs and provide for their families.  A big part of that is upholding labor rights, not just in our own countries, but worldwide. 

And again, that’s an important bit, so I’m going to repeat it for the folks at home.

(Speaks in French.)

(Continues in English.)  In short, progressive trade is not a frill.  In addition to being the right thing to do, it is a practical necessity without which popular support for a growth agenda could not be maintained.

The third pillar of peace and security is the advancement of human rights, liberty and tolerance, the very touchstones of our societies, although even the word “tolerance” is something that I like to think we can get past.  Because you use the word “tolerance” in a sentence – I tolerate that you exist – it doesn’t sound very warming, there’s no religion in the world that says “tolerate thy neighbor.”  I mean, there are places in the world where a little tolerance will go a long way.  But I think in countries like Canada and the United States and Atlantic democracies, we need to move beyond putting up with each other towards words like “friendship,” “acceptance,” and, yes, “love.”  This is both morally necessary and practically vital.

Respect for others, regardless of what they look like, the language they speak, the God they worship or the person they love, makes it possible for the human family to get along.  And getting along makes it possible for humanity to survive.  (Applause.)

In the 1980s when I was a teenager, the fight against the apartheid system in South Africa dominated the global conversation.  Canada, through its leadership at the commonwealth, played an important role in helping coalesce world opinion in opposition to apartheid.  Now, we need to be every bit as strong, every bit as vigilant in opposing the scourges of racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, ethnic and religious bigotry, neo-fascism, neo-Nazism and the violent extremism of Daesh that confront us in 2017.  (Applause.)

We cannot waver.  It would be unconscionable to take even one step back in upholding the standards of decency of the sisterhood and brotherhood of the human family that won the day in the most painful struggles of the last century.  Many of you here in this room remember those struggles.  We must not relive them.

And this brings me back to where I began.  The thing we begin to realize when we appreciate that all leaders are human is that nothing is guaranteed, that the global order that our grandparents and parents built isn’t cast in stone, it can change for the worse or, as I prefer to think, for the better.  But in order for this to happen, our definition of what constitutes leadership or who gets to be a leader needs to broaden.  Every person here is a leader.  Every citizen in the choices they make, the things they choose to say or to not say, to do or not do, to teach their kids or not teach, is a leader.  It’s not just every vote that counts, it’s every choice that counts.

So I’ll leave you with this.  Let us be good leaders.  Let us be the best leaders we can possibly be.  Together, let’s roll up our sleeves and let’s get on with the tough, entirely achievable, vitally necessary work of leaving this world a better place than we found it.  Our children and grandchildren deserve nothing less.

Merci beaucoup.  (Applause.)

ANNOUNCER:  Ladies and gentlemen, the next portion of our program will require simultaneous translation.  Please take a moment to locate the headset provided at your seat.  For English, turn to channel one.  For Korean, turn to channel two.

Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome to the stage 2011 Global Citizen Award recipient and managing director of the International Monetary Fund, Madame Christine Lagarde.  (Applause.)

CHRISTINE LAGARDE:  Bonsoir, good evening, annyeonghaseyo.  (Applause.)  As an alumni of the program, I have to say that it’s a great, great pleasure to come back. 

And I would like to thank Fred, Adrienne and the whole team backstage.  They do an amazing work.  You don’t see it, but everything works to perfection, so well done.

I would like to congratulate tonight all this year’s winners:  of course, my friend Justin Trudeau, prime minister of Canada, who is a tough act to follow I have to say, well done – (applause)‒President Moon, whom I will have the pleasure to introduce in a second, and the world-renowned pianist Lang Lang.

It is a particular honor for me to introduce President Moon tonight and to present him with the Atlantic Council 2017 Global Citizens Award.  And it’s particularly timely for me and a great honor that he himself has asked that I present him this award, because we were together last week in Seoul and I had the great privilege of meeting with him, with members of his team, members of his cabinet as well to go through the very many challenges that his country is facing.

Korea was 50 years ago, right after the independence, the poorest country in the world, 50 years ago.  And in a matter of 50 years, it has managed to become the 11th economy of the world.  (Applause.)  And it is a thriving economy full of innovators, entrepreneurs, men and women – a bit less women than men I have to say – (laughter) – but all unbelievably motivated, dedicated, hardworking to the extreme.

And at the same time, as we were discussing last week and as we will all recognize, Korea is a country that is facing massive challenges, demographic challenges.  It is a country that is aging, that will be losing a hundred thousand working force people starting next year.  And it’s right at the center of probably the most difficult geopolitical challenge of the days.  It lives in a fairly difficult neighborhood, and this is very much an understatement.  When I visited the Demilitarized Zone last week, you have that feeling of both proximity, connection, and unbelievable divide.  Four meters large, 248 kilometers long, and people who have not been able to talk, to have a dialogue for many years, and which clearly President Moon is examining with all his wisdom, sagacity, resilience and courage.

And to face such challenges every day over so many years requires enormous, formidable strength, and it also takes a deep reservoir of courage.  President Moon, from his early years, has displayed such courage.  He has shown this by having the strength and courage to push his country, the country he loves – he was born there, but his parents came from North Korea today – well, what is known today as North Korea.  And he always wanted his country to be a better place.  He wanted that often at great personal expense.

Before becoming a lawyer, a human rights lawyer, in his student days, he led the charge for human rights and civil rights.  He studied law.  He was an activist.  He studied law.  He was an activist.  He passed the bar.  He was an activist.  He went to jail because he was an activist.  And it’s when he was in jail that he found out that he had passed the bar.  He now dreams of a peaceful reunification.  He saw his dream come true at home in South Korea when, in 1987, finally there were democratic elections.

He has now returned to the political stage, center stage.  He was in politics before, and he worked very closely with the one who had been his partner in that small human rights law firm, soon-to-be President Roh, now passed.  And I think it is that friendship with that former partner of his which drove him to want to be center stage in politics in Korea, and to have the determination, the resilience, and the courage to go forward, to march ahead.

And what is very special about him is that he wants to fight corruption.  He says that the job he is in, it’s like wearing clothes that do not really fit.  Well, I certainly think that those clothes fit him extremely well, and certainly the fight that he takes against corruption in his country fits him beautifully.  It is not an easy challenge anywhere in the world to fight corruption, and yet it is the key to reinforcing the social trust that Alexis de Tocqueville, one of the first Atlanticists if any, highlighted as so important for democracy to flourish.

To lead a great society such as Korea takes, as I said, strength and courage.  And perhaps now more than ever it takes a global citizen – a global citizen that can – who can demonstrate that the advantages – Atlantisma (sp) – (laughter) – that brings us all together tonight has nothing to do with the ocean that sometimes separates us.  It has to do with the ideals that we pursue, the value that we respect, and the principles by which we abide.  It is clearly those that inspire President Moon.

I now invite President Moon to come to the stage to receive the Atlantic Council’s 2017 Global Citizen Award.  And I hope your dreams come true, President.  (Applause.)



PRESIDENT MOON JAE-IN:  (Speaks in Korean; unofficial translation.)  The Honorable President Frederick Kempe, His Excellencies Prime Minister Trudeau, President Keïta and President Kaboré, Her Majesty Queen Rania, the officials of the Atlantic Council who have prepared this event and distinguished guests who are adding something special to this evening,

It is my great privilege to stand here as an honoree of this meaningful award. I had a chance to meet Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau at the last G20 Summit to discuss bilateral cooperation and peace on the Korean Peninsula. I was especially impressed by his initiative in addressing the issues of gender equality and Syrian refugees.

I also congratulate Mr. Lang Lang, a world-renowned pianist and warm-hearted philanthropist supporting children, on receiving the honor. His music is truly a beautiful message of peace. I am all the more pleased to receive the award together with these two honorees.

Distinguished ladies and gentlemen,

First of all, I want to dedicate this award to the people of the Republic of Korea who held out their candles on the freezing streets throughout last winter.

As you are well aware, the Korean people brought new hope to world democracy with their candlelight rallies. They rescued democracy that was in jeopardy in the most peaceful and admirable manner and helped launch a new Administration. I am the President born out of the ‘candlelight revolution.’

Just like in many newly independent countries following the Second World War, the modern history of the Republic of Korea has been punctuated by one period of hardship after another. Koreans, however, have prevailed over the history of tribulations that continued from the colonial period to national division, war, poverty and dictatorships. Finally, the country has succeeded in achieving democracy along with economic growth.

I believe that such globally acknowledged accomplishments of the Korean people are the reason I am receiving the Global Citizen Award today on their behalf.

I was born in the year the Korean War ended in a truce. It was when the vast majority of people suffered absolute poverty, and democracy felt like a distant dream. One foreign newspaper columnist wrote about the situation in Korea during that period, “expecting democracy to flower in Korea is like expecting a rose to bloom in a garbage can.”

Surprisingly, however, it did not take that long before the world witnessed the great potential of the Korean people.

Koreans hoisted high the flag of the democratization movement through the April 19 Revolution in 1960 and never succumbed to military dictatorial regimes that continued for a long time after that. Many of them threw themselves into protecting human rights and democracy. Countless people also devoted themselves to achieving economic growth dubbed ‘the Miracle on the Han River’. As such, the people of Korea moved forward little by little while tackling challenges of democracy and economic development head on.

In May 1980, a civil uprising occurred in the southern city of Gwangju in Korea. It was a watershed in the history of Korean democracy. Many lives were lost. Ordinary people risked everything to uphold most ordinary common sense. They acted nobly in the name of human dignity. Their mature citizenship was manifested in the courage and resolve they showed in the face of death. Citizens stood in lines to give blood for the wounded and prepared rice balls to share with whoever needed them.

This civil uprising was a very significant chapter in Korea’s democracy. The efforts made in the aftermath went beyond commemorating those who had lost their lives. The Korean people strived to expose concealed truths and ensure that the courage and resolution of Gwangju citizens would be clearly recorded in the history of democracy.

Another breakthrough for Korean democracy came through the June Struggle of 1987. The Korean people’s deep-rooted will for democracy was given form and expression on the plaza, which helped shift the course of history from dictatorial rule to democracy. The people took back their right to elect the president, and from there, democracy began to expand to all sectors of society.

Korea’s democracy, which progressed from the resistance of a few to the participation of a majority, proved to be a source of fortitude in the face of economic challenges. In the same way the Korean people overturned a seemingly unassailable dictatorship, they exhibited an incredible drive for economic development. The united strength they displayed in working to realize democracy was the same strength that brought the country back from the brink of default in the 1997 Asian financial crisis and helped it weather the global economic crisis caused by the 2008 financial crisis.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Today, democratic progress in Korea is nearing the full realization of popular sovereignty. Through candlelight revolution and in accordance with constitutional procedures, the Korean people unseated a president who had betrayed their trust. The will of the people was fulfilled in the most peaceful and admirable of ways. 

On their own strength, the Korean people reclaimed from dictatorial rule their right to directly elect the president. And on their own strength, they exercised their right to hold such a president accountable for wrongdoing through impeachment. The National Assembly and the judiciary provided legal and institutional support to uphold the will of the people.

The people of the Republic of Korea demonstrated to the citizens of the world the constitutional proposition that “all state authority shall emanate from the people.” They also made it clear to me—who became the President through their upholding that proposition—that a president is just one of the people. There are no words to describe how proud I am of this fact. I also feel a sense of self-esteem and responsibility. 

The candlelight rallies were a mass civic action participated in by some 17 million people over several months, but we did not witness a single act of violence or arrest from the beginning to the end. The rallies went on like peaceful and civilized festivals. They showed that the power of peace, not violence, could change the world. I believe that the very citizens of the Republic of Korea, who have demonstrated the power of peace to the whole world and offered a glimpse of hope amid the global crisis of democracy, deserve to even receive the Nobel Peace Prize.

Distinguished guests,

When I was a student, I took part in the pro-democracy movement and, later, I became a labor and human rights lawyer. I participated in the candlelight revolution and became the President, embracing the aspirations of the people that their President should uphold the spirit of the candlelight revolution. 

As the President, I have shaken hands with numerous people. When they offer their hands first with much delight, I am overjoyed. But at the same time, my heart aches. When they hold my hands tight I feel their earnest desire for a fair and just nation and a peaceful Korean Peninsula.

I renew my commitment here at this honorable place today. Now the new Republic of Korea will move toward economic democracy and peace. The people of the Republic of Korea and I are in the process of making a new paradigm of economic democracy called ‘the people-centered economy’. I am confident that the Republic of Korea, having contributed a new chapter in the history of world democracy, is also capable of presenting a solution for low-growth and economic polarization, which is a global concern.

The award I receive today may also contain encouragement and support from peoples around the world for me to accomplish peace on the Korean Peninsula for the sake of world peace. As I explained the history of democracy and economic growth in the Republic of Korea today, I am confident that after realizing peace on the Korean Peninsula, there will be a time when we can talk about the history of peace achieved by the Republic of Korea.

I ask all of you here to give unsparing support to the Republic of Korea on its path to economic democracy and peace. Come join us on the path.

I thank you again for your warm welcome and friendship. I wish the Atlantic Council tremendous success and good health and fortune to all of you here today.

Thank you very much.  (Applause.)

ANNOUNCER:  Ladies and gentlemen, we will now take a short break for dinner.  Please enjoy your meal.  The program will resume shortly.


MR. KEMPE:  (Off mic.)

VICTOR CHU:  Many of you have been here with us for eight years, and I sincerely thank you.  Some of you are here for the first time, and I hope you are having a great time.

I want to thank Etihad Airways for your generous donation.  I want to congratulate my good friend David Hogan (sp) to be the lucky winner.

But I see amongst you we also have other airlines.  We have Hainan Airline.  (Cheers, applause.)  We have All Nippon Airways.  (Applause.)  And dare I say, Peach Airline.  (Applause.)  So I would like to suggest that in addition next year to Etihad continue supporting us, we should encourage other airlines amongst you to also generously donating tickets so that the lucky winners can strive to be an even better global citizen.  (Laughter.)

Ladies and gentlemen, the Global Citizen Award was conceived by Fred and myself about 10 years ago at Davos.  We were inspired by Professor Klaus Schwab’s philosophy of multi-stakeholders concept and the concept of global citizenship.

So I’d like to thank and acknowledge Klaus and Hilde coming here again – (applause) – Klaus being with us every year.  Thank you, Klaus, for your inspiration and support.

I would also like to thank many leaders amongst you who are from international organizations, such as my friend Peter Maurer from the International Committee of the Red Cross.  You are doing a wonderful job for the world community.  Keep up the good work.  (Applause.)

Ladies and gentlemen, global citizenship means that you reach out from the comfort zone of your immediate responsibility to help global common good.  Sitting in New York and having a luxury dinner like tonight, we must not forget that there are many people in all corners of the world who are less fortunate than we are.

So I would like to urge every single one of us that we also engage in global citizenship so that people around the world can live in peace, harmony, and share wealth and equality.  These are the values that we need to strive.  And tonight’s award is trying to celebrate and incentivize leaders to do just that.

It remains for me to thank all of you, particularly our co-chairs.  There are 24 co-chairs this evening.  I won’t name them one by one because they’ve been clearly shown on the screen, as well as in our program.  But I’d like to ask you to be upstanding so that we can give you a collective appreciation.  Would the co-chairs please be upstanding?  (Applause.)  Thank you very much.

As it is our tradition now, when you leave there will be a bag of goodies to be presented to you.  And these are goodies to promote our intellectual stimulation.  Again this year, with the generous support of Random House, we will be presenting you with two excellent books.  One is a book containing the finest speeches of Supreme Court Justice Scalia, which is a great read.  The other book is called “The Fix.”  I think it’s from a wonderful journalist from Foreign Affairs, who lists out 10 of the most important global challenges that we have, and he can find solutions to each one of them.  So, you know, it should be very compelling reading.  So please don’t forget your books on the way out.

And finally, I’d like to call on my good friend, Professor Klaus Schwab, to come and introduce our third awardee this evening, Lang Lang, who is a wonderful, wonderful musician, philanthropist, who has done so much to promote harmony around the world.

Professor Klaus Schwab.  (Applause.)

(Music: “Rhapsody in Blue.”)


KLAUS SCHWAB:  Good evening.  It’s such a great pleasure and honor for me to introduce my friend Lang Lang.  But before doing so, as the first honoree seven years ago, of course I watched very well the development of the Atlantic Council.  And also, as an observer, and maybe actor, in international affairs, I have to say it’s so remarkable how the organization, under the leadership of Fred Kempe, has developed in the meantime.

Lang Lang, you’re only 35 years old.  I’m – I have a little bit more than double your age.  But unbelievable what you have achieved.  When you were one year old, actually, your parents bought already a piano for you.  What foresight.  And I have to say you are here accompanied by your mother.  Please let’s give a special applause to her – (applause) – for having recognized this great talent.

Five-year-old – five years old, you played already in public concerts.  At the age of 15, you were already a star on the international scene.  And at the end of 25, you wrote already your own autobiography.  And today who doesn’t know Lang Lang in the – not only in the music world, but in the general population?

Lang Lang, you’re not only known very well.  You have brought the laugh, the music to thousands, millions, of people.  You are also very true, very authentic, in your personality—dedication, philanthropy.  You are an ambassador for peace.  And I could go on and on.

So let me just say one word why your presence here and receiving a prize here, together with such two outstanding politicians, is so important.  We are, in some way, at a—I would call it a new area, in a new area, the post-industrial revolution.  And many people say the next decades will be determined by a war between robots and humans.

We can win this war only if we are reminded constantly what makes us really human.  Culture is not just something for entertainment.  Culture is the expression of our humanity.  And here, Lang Lang, you are for me not only a pioneer, a younger mentor, if I may say so.  You are the person who encapsulates the basic values which we need in order to fight the battle against the robotization and to remain humankind.

You have those values which are needed for peace, for future human prosperity.  And I just want to enumerate three values which you are so much a symbol for.  And I want to give those three values, all those here in the hall, a new way.  It’s a beginning of really exercising global leadership.

First, respect human dignity and diversity.  Second, serve the community more than yourself.  And number three, be a trustee, as you do through your educational philanthropic world – be a trustee for the next generation.

So let’s embrace those values.  But now, Lang Lang, please join me so you can accept this Award for Global Leadership of the Atlantic Council’s, this award 2017.  (Applause.)



(A video presentation is shown; music: “Rhapsody in Blue.”)

(Applause, cheers.)

LANG LANG:  Thank you.  Thank you, Mr. Schwab, for this amazing introduction.  And I still remember I played for you seven years ago also at this amazing award, in a different occasion.  (Laughs.)  I’m very deeply humbled and honored to receive this Global Citizen Award.  And I’m also honored to be presented this award by you, Mr. Schwab.  It means a lot.

I do wish to congratulate you on the tremendous work done by the World Economic Forum under your leadership to address the various economic challenges of the 21st century.  (Applause.)  It’s actually a great place to perform.  Actually, I played for you in Davos and it was a very nice place—very good ski place, yeah.  (Laughs.)

I’m most grateful to the Atlantic Council for honoring me together with such distinguished recipients of the award this evening, like Prime Minister Trudeau and President Moon—amazing speeches.  It was really inspiring.

Music is a universal language.  It opens doors.  It inspires, connects hearts and peoples.  Through this unique language, I have had great opportunities and experiences.  I was three when I first started to play the piano.  Over the years I have had occasion to perform in different parts of the world and have come to realize the power and magic of music.

I have been extremely fortunate to have met wonderful people in my life who have directed me and advised me on how to give back to society the same opportunities that I had.  In 2008, I established the Lang Lang International Music Foundation.  Through this foundation, we’re nurturing the potential of future generations by providing opportunities to fulfill their dreams and aspirations.

I have also been honored a few years ago by being appointed as messenger of peace of the United Nations.  I know now it’s a U.N. week, yeah.

In a world with numerous conflicts and natural disasters, I am heartened to know that through music I can bring some relief and joy to the affected people and make a difference in their lives.  (Applause.)

And lastly, I want to thank to my mother here, Xiulan.  (Applause.)  And, of course, to my long-time sponsor and dear friends, the HNA Group, for its continued support.  (Applause.)  I mean, you guys really make my life much easier, you know.  I’m flying so much more fun in this way.  (Laughs.)  And thanks to Mr. Adam Tan, CEO of HNA Group, for being here tonight.  (Applause.)

And thank you all for your great support in art and music.  And now I would like to introducing one of my scholars from my foundation, Amir, to the stage.  And we will perform something for you to make this evening very special—I mean, already special.  (Applause.)

(Music: “Aquarium.”)


(Applause, cheers.)

MR. KEMPE:  Thank you so much for all our honorees; Lang Lang.  Thank you so much for our co-chairs and all our supporters.  The life rafts are being lowered.  This is the end of tonight.  We’ll see you next year.  We’ll see you during the year.  Thanks, and please come back.  (Applause.)