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ANNOUNCER: Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome to the stage Atlantic Council President and CEO Fred Kempe. (Applause.)
FREDERICK KEMPE: As you sit, is my great honor to introduce, to open up the program, our chairman General Jim Jones. General Jones. (Applause.)
GENERAL JAMES L. JONES, JR.: Thank you, Fred. And ladies and gentlemen, excellencies, dignitaries and friends, welcome to the Atlantic Council’s 2018 Distinguished Leadership Awards. It’s great to have you all here. And it’s my great honor to open the Atlantic Council’s annual celebration of international leadership and tribute to the men and women who make the world our better – a better place. The Atlantic Council believes that the leadership of individuals can change history. This organization was founded in the early 1960s by some of the same premier leaders in American history – individuals like Dean Acheson, Lucius Clay, Henry Cabot Lodge, Mary Pillsbury Lord. Leaders like them have turned the tide of history in dark moments and anchored America to the cause of freedom in the struggle against communism.
So tonight’s dinner recognizes the remarkable work of the most recent crop of leaders who have offered their own contributions to making our world a better place. As we recognize the accomplishments of four outstanding individuals this evening, we hope to advance a new form of leadership that is equal to the challenges that we face.
So in that spirit, we honor the 43rd president of the United States, George W. Bush. (Cheers, applause.) We honor President Bush for not only international leadership, but particularly for his compassionate commitment to health in Africa.
President Bush’s leadership in creating the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief brought about the largest health initiative of one country, focused on one particular disease, and his legacy of leadership has provided for lifelong HIV treatment for more than 13 million HIV patients, enabled more than 2.2 million babies to be born HVI-free, and assist more than 6.4 million orphans, vulnerable children and their caregivers.
As President Bush’s former commander of the U.S. European Command and NATO, I would be remiss if I failed to acknowledge his leadership in expanding NATO to include Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Romania and Bulgaria.
Thank you, Mr. President. (Applause.)
Even as we celebrate the leadership of President Bush this evening, we keep him and Laura Bush and former President George H.W. Bush and the entire Bush family in our thoughts and prayers as the entire nation continues to mourn the loss of our former first lady, Mrs. Barbara Bush. (Applause.)
Tonight, in the military domain, we honor General Curtis Scaparrotti, Supreme Allied Commander Europe and commander of U.S. Forces Europe. General Scaparrotti’s remarkable legacy of leadership has impacted every theater in which he’s served, developing cadets at West Point, directing the Joint Staff in the Pentagon, commanding troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Republic of Korea and Europe.
His outstanding achievements and talents are all the more remarkable and needed as the United States prepares for an historic summit with the leadership of North Korea. General Scaparrotti’s legacy of leadership reminds us that the presence of U.S. forces in Europe and on the Korean Peninsula and our ironclad alliance commitments in both theaters underpin the prospects for peace and security in both of those regions.
And also tonight – (applause) – thank you. Also tonight we award Howard Schultz for his remarkable and transformative legacy as a businessman, philanthropist and social activist. As you may have heard, these dinners sometimes run a bit long, so we’d like to thank Howard Schultz for supplying the coffee later on this evening. (Laughter.)
Inspired by the coffee and community of Italian cafes, he pursued a dream of bringing his – the finest espresso drinks and café culture to the American market. His vision and determination built a global powerhouse with 25,000 stores in 75 countries around the world, including Italy.
Not content to just build a coffee company and an iconic brand, Howard Schultz wanted to create a company with a unique commitment to social justice. Under his leadership, Starbucks has served as a trendsetter in advancing youth and veterans’ employment, benefits for part-time staff, and incredible diversity.
And finally tonight, we will recognize the remarkable artistic contributions of seven-time Grammy winner and Medal of Freedom awardee Gloria Estefan. (Cheers, applause.)
It would not be an overstatement to say that Gloria Estefan is one of the most influential cultural icons in the Western Hemisphere, if not the world. She has sold more than 100 million albums in two languages over a career spanning five decades. Born in Cuba before immigrating to the United States in the early ’60s, Gloria Estefan brought the sounds of Cuba to a mainstream American market. In addition to her musical accomplishments, she is also a film star, an accomplished author, a businesswoman, and a great philanthropist. Thank you, Gloria. (Applause.)
So the Atlantic Council, ladies and gentlemen, is extremely proud to be able to recognize these four very special leaders and to add them to our star-studded collection of past honorees. These leaders also represent what we endeavor to do every at the Atlantic Council, and that is, very simply, to make an impact.
The word “think tank” is far too passive to describe the Council. The Atlantic Council is a dynamic and results-oriented strategy-based action tank working each day alongside our friends and allies to secure the future. It is that culture and that determination to make a difference that draws so many of us to the Atlantic Council.
So, with that, I’d like to ask all of my fellow board members of the Atlantic Council to stand so that we can applaud you for everything you do for this institution. (Cheers, applause.) Thank you. (Applause.)
And if I may, I’d also like to ask all of the staff members of the Atlantic Council here to stand as we applaud their daily efforts to produce cutting-edge work. (Applause.)
So, ladies and gentlemen, it’s now my honor to turn the stage over to their leader, Atlantic Council Supreme President and CEO Fred Kempe. (Laughter.) The reason I interject the title “supreme” is because, first of all, we’re ordering – we’re honoring a supreme allied commander. I was one of the recipients of the first Military Award, and ever since then Fred Kempe has reminded me that the title “supreme” is really the coolest military title there is. (Laughter.) And so when I walk in the room it’s “Your Supremeness.” It’s “the supreme commander is here.” And so I could only gather after all these years that he really likes that title. (Laughter.) So, without any vote or just by the power of the chairmanship, I am, for tonight, awarding the title – (laughter) – of supreme president and CEO to Fred Kempe. (Laughter, applause.)
But only for tonight. (Laughter.) Actually, for over 11 years under the leadership of Fred Kempe and the work of his great dedicated staff, the Atlantic Council has become one of the most influential think tanks in Washington and, in fact, around the world. Those of you who are longtime friends of the Atlantic Council know that when Fred assumed the role of president and CEO in 2007, the Council’s great brand had fallen on hard times. Its mission was not clear, and its population was diminishing, and its economics were in disastrous shape. But Fred brought an entrepreneurial spirt and focused leadership to the Council that has underpinned the organization’s absolutely remarkable growth.
Since taking over the Council, Fred has grown the size of the staff and fellows; has expanded its centers and programs to address global and cutting-edge issues of relevance to the Atlantic community, and in fact the international community; has markedly improved the quality and relevance of its work. He even moved the Council into a beautiful set of headquarters commensurate with the organization’s restored statue – stature, I should say. And although I must say that they are a bit fancier than anything I’ve ever enjoyed in the Marine Corps, but it’s very nice to see it is. (Laughter.) So, for all that progress, friends of the Atlantic Council owe Fred and Pam a great deal of gratitude.
And so it’s now my honor to turn the floor over to our supreme president and CEO, Fred Kempe. (Laughter, applause.)
MR. KEMPE: So any of you who know General Jones, he told me he was going to tell that “supreme” joke in front of all of you. And I offered him 100 bucks not to. (Laughter.) So clearly I underestimated the price. (Laughter.)
So thank you, General Jones, Jim. Or, as I typically said while clicking my heels at the Atlantic Council whenever he passes and saluting “mon general.” (Laughter.) Jim, did you hear those heels clicking back there? He actually really likes to hear them click loud. (Laughter.)
Joking aside, General Jones, day in and day out, over the course of your remarkable career – soldier, Marine commandant, supreme allied commander Europe, national security adviser – I swear to you there is no single human being who has ever had all of those roles. You have embodied the ethos of the Atlantic Council. Thank you so much for your principled – thank you so much, General Jones. (Applause.) You are principled, purposefully, nonpartisan, globally engaged, consistently seeking common cause solutions to the world’s greatest challenges – and you’re also a hell of a lot of fun. (Laughter.) You’ve long been a pivotal leader in our organization, and you graciously answered the call of the Atlantic Council Board of Directors to step in again as our chairman, following the departure of Governor Jon Huntsman, now serving as U.S. ambassador to Russia. You inspire us every day. Thank you for that. (Applause.)
For nearly 60 years, the Atlantic Council’s been propelled by the belief that the United States cannot lead alone, and that we must pull together with like-minded global friends and allies to shape the future or accept that other forces will shape the future or chaos may fill the void. And for those six decades, nearly six decades, we’ve engaged the international community and built partnerships to advance the rules-based international system created from the rubble of World War II by far-sighted U.S. leaders and their global friends – many of whom also, as General Jones said, helped build the Atlantic Council.
We gather tonight at a time of global uncertainty, when truths and assumptions we thought to be ironclad are now thrown into question. The great statesman Dean Acheson, among the Atlantic Council’s founders, wrote the famous book, “Present at the Creation.” As we sit here tonight – and I must say, I’m awed sitting and standing here before this amazing community of influence – as we stand here – as I stand here tonight, and as you sit here, we must fear that we are present at the destruction of this order that brought us unparalleled peace and prosperity over the last 75 years. Or, this is the Atlantic Council purpose, can we be – can we muster the creativity and political will to be there at the reinvention, at the reinvigoration, at the rethinking of how we can build upon what we’ve constructed.
From the renewed threat of major power conflict, to uncertainty about America’s role in the world, from the fraying of Western-style democracy to the erosion of the global order, to the opportunities and challenges inherent in the coming era of technological change unlike any we have faced before, these are the challenges that our 12 programs and center roll up into what we’re taking on in a results-oriented, dynamic way. General Jones was right, we hate the term “think tank” because it’s just too passive. It’s not sufficient. It’s a good starting point, but insufficient.
Our longest-serving board member, Henry Kissinger, recently at the Atlantic Council said it’s the most unsettled global situation since the end of World War II, where the U.S. role in the world and relationship with the world is the most unsettled as well as it’s been since World War II. But we at the Atlantic Council don’t see these as reasons for despair; we see it as a call to action. We operate under the guiding principle that it is not and cannot be business as usual. Our 12 programs and centers are driven by the conviction that if we work constructive, we can secure a peaceful and prosperous future. Likewise, we believe we will suffer the consequences shall we fail to raise – to rise to the challenges. Through the papers we write, the ideas we generate, the future leaders we develop, the communities we build, the Atlantic Council shapes policies, choices and strategies to create a more free, secure and prosperous world.
Our longtime chairman and eminence grise, Brent Scowcroft, recently told – by the way, he sends you all his greetings. I saw him very recently and he was at a very recent offsite meeting of the board of directors, and he said to this offsite of the board of directors that he considered all these challenges that we’re talking about such a defining moment in history and he called it a new founding moment for the Atlantic Council. We agree, and we thank all of you for being here to support our efforts. (Applause.)
I’m not sure why he hired me but what the hell, it’s been a good ride. Thank you, General Brent – thank you, General Brent Scowcroft. Thank you. In his absence, please thank General Brent Scowcroft for everything he’s done for our country and for the Atlantic Council. (Applause.)
So we think that we’re at an inflection point perhaps as important as 1919, 1945, 1989 – end of the First World War, Second World War, Cold War – where outcomes were uncertain and leadership decisions had outsized importance. 1961 was the first dinner of this kind, launching the new Atlantic Council, and it was John F. Kennedy in front of a crowd like this one at the Mayflower Hotel and it was all about the rising threat, losing our nuclear monopoly, facing ideological struggle across the developing world, facing a new Berlin crisis.
We face just as uncertain times today and we must rise again to the challenge. Our results-oriented mission of working together with friends and allies to secure the future has never been more relevant or more urgent or more in question, and that brings me back to our gathering tonight and to you.
By being with us tonight, you’ve taken a place in our community to support the work we do and the values that drive it. And look around you – what an impressive accomplished community it is. You are among more than 800 guests from more than 70 countries, to include – and please hold your applause – Former Prime Minister of Pakistan Shaukat Aziz, Former Prime Minister of Sweden Carl Bildt, Former President of Poland Aleksander Kwasniewski, Former Prime Minister of Denmark and Secretary General of NATO Anders Fogh Rasmussen, Former Secretary General of NATO Lord Robertson of Port Ellen, Former Prime Minister of Australia Kevin Rudd, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross, U.S. Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin, Canada’s Finance Minister Bill Morneau, Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas, Representatives George Holding and Richard Hudson of North Carolina, Representative Martha Roby of Alabama, Representative Elise Stefanik of New York, Representative Michael Turner of Ohio. Thank you so much, all of you, for being here. (Applause.)
And, of course, countless other senior officials, business executives, ambassadors, media, civil society leaders, it is your strength that drives us forward. So without further ado – I hate that term “further ado” – enjoy the evening. Please turn your attention to the screens as we move into tonight’s dinner program. (Applause.)
ANNOUNCER: And now, a special message from former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
CONDOLEEZZA RICE: Greetings. Hello to all of you who have gathered here this evening to pay tribute to these outstanding Americans. The people being recognized tonight truly embody the best of what our country means.
I’m especially honored to have the opportunity to introduce someone who has led our country in the most difficult of times with dignity, dedication, and a deep love for the United States. It was, remarkably, almost 20 years ago when I first joined with Texas Governor George Bush as he embarked on a journey to lead America into the new century. None of us knew then that our service would come at a time of deep peril for our country.
But after those awful attacks of September 11th, President Bush did not give in to despair, nor did he allow his fellow citizens to do that either. Instead, he summoned the best in us, leading America to show its compassion in the President’s Emergency Fund for AIDS Relief that saved millions of lives. He led us to champion freedom from tyranny for all. And he reminded us that greatness starts at home, refusing to give in to the soft bigotry of low expectations and insisting on a high-quality education for all of America’s children.
George W. Bush showed what true leadership means and requires – being true to yourself and doing what you think is right, even if it’s not popular. It is not telling people what they want to hear or playing to their fears. It is telling them the truth and calling on them to see the world not just as it is, but as it should be.
True leadership means knowing how to empower the people who are trying to support you. Just as importantly, it means knowing how to make hard decisions, both as commander-in-chief and as decider-in-chief.
And ultimately, true leadership requires being, deep down, a good person. Character matters. And it is evidenced most clearly in how leaders treat the people around them. They assign worth, dignity and respect to every person, and they treat them accordingly.
It helps, too, to be humble and to have a good sense of humor, never to take yourself too seriously, even when you are the occupant of the Oval Office – maybe especially when you are the occupant of the Oval Office.
As I can attest from first-hand experience, George W. Bush embodies all of these qualities and more. Through his many years of distinguished service, he has proven himself to be a true leader and a great American. I am so grateful to have worked with him and to count him among my dearest friends.
Congratulations, Mr. President, on this well-deserved recognition. And may God bless you, your family and the United States of America, our country, which you have served so well. (Applause.)
ANNOUNCER: Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome to the stage former U.S. National Security Adviser to President George W. Bush, Mr. Stephen Hadley. (Cheers, applause.)
STEPHEN HADLEY: Good evening. In 2001 almost 3,000 people were killed in the 9/11 attacks, and the intelligence community predicted that 9/11 would be the first of a series of mass-casualty attacks on the U.S. homeland, and that some of them could involve weapons of mass destruction. These dire predictions did not come true. Instead, our nation strengthened its defenses at home and took the fight to our terrorist enemies abroad so we did not have to fight them here at home. And as of today, there have been no further 9/11-style mass-casualty attacks on the American homeland. (Applause.)
In 2002 world health experts projected that HIV/AIDS would kill millions of people in sub-Saharan Africa. Economists predicted that this would be – this would decimate the emerging middle class and set back economic development a generation or more. These dire predictions also did not come true. Instead, our nation helped launch both the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB, and Malaria, and a bilateral American effort called PEPFAR, the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief. Under this program, over 85 million people have been tested for HIV/AIDS and over 13 million people have received treatment, compared to only 50,000 people in Africa receiving treatment when PEPFAR began. (Applause.) As of today, over 13 million lives have been saved, and we are turning the tide on this pandemic.
In 2004 public health officials reported more than 300 million clinical malaria cases and more than 1 million malaria deaths per year. The common expectation was that these numbers would only increase, but these dire predictions also did not come true. Instead, our nation launched the President’s Malaria Initiative to partner with the Global Fund and other institutions in focusing on sub-Saharan Africa. And as of today, more than 6.8 million malaria deaths have been averted and 1 billion malaria cases have been prevented in what Nobel laureate economists call the best return on investment on the planet. (Cheers, applause.)
These dire predictions did not come true, and instead millions of lives were saved because of the vision and leadership of this year’s Distinguished International Leadership Award recipient, the 43rd president of the United States, President George W. Bush. (Applause.)
PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: Thanks, Chief. I appreciate the globe. (Laughter.)
I want to thank Fred and the Board of Directors for honoring me with this award. As Hadley will testify, I really don’t like award banquets. (Laughter.) I have had the greatest honor anybody could have, and that is to be the president of the United States. That’s award enough. However, I’m honored you select me.
I’m also honored to be honored with Harold Schultz. I call him “Starbucks man.” (Laughter.) You need to call him Mr. Schultz. (Laughs, laughter.)
I call him General Scarp. “Scaparrotti,” it’s kind of hard for a Texan to say. (Laughter.)
And mi amiga, Gloria Estefan. (Cheers, applause.)
I’m really here for two reasons. One is to highlight the success of the PEPFAR program. And, two, to encourage Washington, the White House, the State Department, the Congress, to make sure this program continues to be strong, to save lives. (Applause.) When Hadley invited me here, he didn’t tell me it was black tie. (Laughter.) He finally confessed. And he said, look, this is an important crowd in Washington. I don’t want you wearing that old ratty tux you used to wear to the White House Correspondents Dinner. (Laughter.) I looked at Hadley and said: Hadley, read my lips. (Laughter, cheers, applause.) No new tuxes. (Laughter, cheers, applause.)
Laura’s sorry she can’t be here. She sends her very best. She’s doing great. And so does a previous Atlantic Council honoree, a man I call 41 sometimes, usually call him dad. (Laughter, cheers, applause.) He’s doing well. He’s doing well. Of course, he misses mom. I don’t know if you heard what mom said the last time I ever saw her. We were in a hospital in Houston. The doctor walks in. And mother looks straight at the doctor and says: You want to know why George W. turned out the way he did? (Laughter.) The doctor was somewhat perplexed. (Laughter.) And she says: Yes, Mrs. Bush. She said: Because I drank and smoked when I was pregnant with him. (Laughter, cheers, applause.) My whole family thanks you for your prayers and condolences. All is well with her soul and all is well with ours. (Applause.)
In my quest to become a better painter – (laughter) – I have been studying Winston Churchill. (Laughter.) It occurred to me that I am receiving a special award on a special date – May 10th, the date in 1940 in which the man who coined the term “special relationship” became prime minister of Great Britain. In his first address as the prime minister, Churchill said: I hope I may be pardoned if I do not address the House at any length today.” I’m going to show the same courtesy. (Laughter.) Churchill received an honorary degree from Harvard. I guess the Yale trustees were asleep. (Laughter, applause.)
He spoke about the ties of blood and history and common values that bind our nations together – law, language, literature, justice, compassion, morality and, above all, a love of freedom that connects us across the Atlantic. He also noted we are united by a common tongue, though I always had a little probably with the tongue part. (Laughter.) Churchill said in his lifetime two world wars had shown that oceans no longer protected the new world from problems of the old. The only way for peace was through partnership and engagement. If we are together, nothing is impossible. If we are divided, all will fail. That’s why the Atlantic Council is important today. And I appreciate your good works. (Applause.)
It’s very important for our fellow citizens to remember these words from Winston Churchill. America is indispensable for the world. And the dangers of isolation loom. The price of greatness is responsibilities. One cannot rise to be in many ways the leading community in the civilized world without being involved in its problems, without being convulsed by its agonies and inspired by its causes. If this had been proved in the past as it had been, it will become indisputable in the future. People in the United States cannot escape world responsibility. I wholeheartedly agree.
Fifteen years ago this month, our nation took on a dire world responsibility. As Condi and Steve mentioned, an HIV/AIDS pandemic threatened to wipe out an entire generation on the continent of Africa. My administration believed that of those to whom much is given, much is required. We believed that we’re all God’s children and every human life is precious. So in 2003, we decided that the greatest, wealthiest nation ever had a moral responsibility to intervene.
We recognized, too, that the United States had a national security imperative to act. Societies mired in disease breed hopelessness and despair, leaving those forgotten by wealthy nations susceptible to recruitment by radical extremists.
As I said when I signed the law authorizing PEPFAR on May 27th, 2003, America is the nation of the Marshall Plan, the Berlin airlift and the Peace Corps. As we saw on 9/11, how people live overseas can affect us here at home. When we confront suffering, when we save lives, we breathe hope into the devastated populations, strengthen and stabilize society and make our country and the world safer.
A decade-and-a-half on, PEPFAR has had great results. You all have heard them. Thirteen million people now live who would have died had it not been for the generosity of the American people. Across Africa, people who had been given up for dead are leading healthy and productive lives. Entire villages that had been abandoned are now thriving. Calling to mind the story of Jesus raising his friend from the dead, Africans have come up with a phrase to describe the transformation. They call it the Lazarus effect. The sad news is most Americans have no idea that their generosity has such an amazing effect.
I have come tonight to draw attention to this great and compassionate act. Some Americans may ask, is this really in our national interest? Why are we spending money abroad when we’ve got big problems here at home? Those are legitimate questions. Here is my answer: I believe that spending less than two-tenths of 1 percent of our federal budget to save millions of lives is the moral, the practical and in the national security interests of the United States. (Applause.)
People say we shouldn’t spend money on programs that don’t work at home or abroad. I completely agree. But we should invest in programs that are efficient, effective and results-oriented. PEPFAR is a program ‒ such a program. It works. And it’s going to have positive implications for our country for decades to come. And we have got to continue to support it. (Applause.)
So I woke up in Crawford the day after watching President Obama get sworn in and it was quite a shock. (Laughter.) I had to get the coffee. (Laughter.) Shortly thereafter, we discovered this startling fact: That women who have had HIV are five times more likely to develop cervical cancer on the continent of Africa, which is a preventable, treatable disease. And it broke my heart to think about the Lazarus effect taking effect in a village and then all of a sudden a preventable disease taking the life.
And so at the Bush Center, we’ve decided to do something about it. We decided to work with public/private partnerships utilizing the PEPFAR platform to deal with women’s cervical cancers, the leading cause of death of women on the continent of Africa. (Applause.) Half a million women have been screened; 32,000 have been treated for lesions; 147,000 have been vaccinated against HPV, the virus most responsible for most cases of death.
Over the past year, the Bush Institute has worked with Ambassador Deb Birx and PEPFAR on a bold new strategy. This week we’re announcing the next phase of our partnership with PEPFAR and UNAIDS, a plan to effectively eliminate cervical cancer amongst HIV-positive women within a generation. (Applause.)
Laura and I have been over to Africa five times since we left Washington. I wish – I wish a lot of our citizens could go and realize how appreciative the people are for our generosity. It’s the best kind of diplomacy there is. It’s soft power at its most beautiful.
We were recently in a clinic in Namibia, and it’s a maternity clinic. And there were, like, 120 women, all who had HIV-AIDs, with their babies, not one of which had HIV. (Applause.)
And so I’m honored to get this award. I really would like to dedicate it to the generosity of the American people and ask you to spread the word about what this great compassionate nation has done.
I want to conclude by talking about that speech Churchill gave at Harvard. (Scattered laughter.) Nothing wrong with Harvard. (Laughter.) “To the youth of America, as to the youth of all the Britains, I say you cannot stop. We have now reached a stage in the journey where there can be no pause. We must go on.”
Well, we’ve turned the tide against HIV-AIDS, but the gains are still fragile. We cannot stop. We have now reached a stage in the journey where there can be no pause. We must go on.
Thanks for having me. (Applause.)
ANNOUNCER: Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome to the stage the 19th Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Joseph F. Dunford, Jr. (Applause.)
GENERAL JOSEPH F. DUNFORD, JR.: Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. I have the honor of introducing General Mike Scaparrotti, this year’s recipient of the Council’s Distinguished Military Leadership Award.
General Scaparrotti is currently serving as the command of the United States European Command and as supreme allied commander Europe. He’s a 1978 graduate of the United States Military Academy West Point. And to use a Marine expression, for the last four decades he has served in literally every clime and place. And that service includes commanding forces during Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, Operation Support Hope in Zaire, Rwanda, Operation Joint Endeavor in Bosnia-Herzegovina, and Operation Assured Response in Liberia.
He’s an extraordinary leader, a strategic thinker, and somebody I’m proud to call a friend. I’ve known him for many years and always admired his ability to build teams based on a foundation of trust and commitment. In Afghanistan, he commanded more than 130,000 NATO and NATO-partnered forces from 50 different countries. And it was his leadership that brought the force together and enabled them to thrive in the crucible of combat. In Korea, as the commander of the United Nations Command, Combined Forces Command, and U.S. Forces Korea, Mike worked closely with partners throughout the Pacific to strengthen and sustain resolve, enhance U.S.-Republic of Korea interoperability, and ensure the alliance was always ready to fight tonight.
Over the last three years, as we’ve witnessed significant changes in the European strategic landscape, his steadfast leadership has forged a team of NATO military leaders able to navigate the challenges of what Fred Kempe called earlier tonight – and I think accurately described earlier tonight – as an inflection point. As a resurgent Russia seeks to undermine the credibility of the alliance, and as the alliance has dealt with violent extremism and the challenges from the south, Mike’s led the transformation of NATO’s military capabilities to be, in NATO terms, fit for purpose for the 21st century.
Consistent with the mission of the Atlantic Council, he’s made an important and lasting contribution to the strength of our transatlantic relationships. And ladies and gentlemen, I’d like to go off script for just a minute. Mike is accompanied tonight by his wife Cindy, who’s sitting over here. And she’ll probably never speak to me again, but I want to ask her to please stand and be recognized for her decades of service and support. (Cheers, applause.) Cindy has been there since Mike was a second lieutenant.
Ladies and gentlemen, it’s now my privilege to introduce General Mike Scaparrotti, this year’s Distinguished Military Leader.
GENERAL CURTIS M. SCAPARROTTI: Thank you, Chairman. It’s an honor to serve this great nation of ours with you. And the men and women of America’s armed forces are fortunate to have you as our chairman. You personify the professionalism and selfless service that distinguishes our country’s finest officers. And I’m grateful for your leadership, your example, and for your friendship as well.
To the Atlantic Council, I’m profoundly grateful and touched by this award. I would like to thank the staff here in particular for their hard work behind the scenes. And I want to extend my thanks as well to Fred Kempe and Damon Wilson for their leadership as eloquent spokesmen for this organization and for the values that the Atlantic Council upholds. I personally, the U.S. European Command, the Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe, have benefitted tremendously from the Council’s expert analysis and thinking on complex issues that will define the future of our security.
I would also like to congratulate the other honorees tonight. I am deeply humbled to recognized with you – a two-term president of the United States, a visionary servant leader who built a global company, a Grammy Award winner and philanthropist. And then there’s me, a soldier a long way from Logan, Ohio.
The journey I’ve taken would not have been possible without the love and support of my family through the years. My wife Cindy, my son Mike, and my daughter Stephanie and their spouses are here with me tonight, and they represent the families of our armed forces who serve and sacrifice as well. (Applause.) This evening I also think of my father, a noncommissioned officer and a combat vet, who taught me so much about being a soldier.
Tonight I’ll accept this award on behalf of the inspiring men and women of NATO and the United States European Command. As we gather this evening, tens of thousands of NATO servicemembers from all 29 allied nations are deployed around the world, conducting operations, missions and training exercises in the Arctic, in the High North, in Afghanistan, along the Eastern Alliance border, in multinational battle groups from Estonia to Romania, and naval task forces tonight in the North Atlantic, the Baltic and Black Seas, and in the Mediterranean. And they’re over the skies of Europe, providing air surveillance.
These men and women of NATO are demonstrating the alliance’s resolve and its ability to change and to remain relevant in a complex environment. In the U.S. European Command, more than 60,000 servicemembers and civilians are forward deployed, supporting and defending our nation’s interests in Europe and in the broader Euro-Atlantic. EUCOM forces support NATO. They deter Russia, defend Israel, counter transnational threats, and enable operations around the world.
Every day, our soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, Coast Guardsmen and civilians demonstrate their commitment to professionalism and excellence in their duties. And I’m proud of all they have accomplished and all they will continue to do for our country.
Our mission in Europe is as important as ever. As our National Defense Strategy states, a strong and free Europe, bound by shared principles of democracy, national sovereignty and a commitment to Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty, is vital to our security.
Even as we affirm these principles, we recognize that democratic values are once again under assault, both by nation-states who benefit from destabilization and by nonstate actors who thrive in disorder. They value power over principle. And in their pursuit of power, they seek to sow discord, confusion and doubt within the nations of the Euro-Atlantic.
In the face of these challenges, some skeptics question the strength of our values and the resiliency of the rules-based international order that underpins our security and prosperity. This is why now, more than ever, we must articulate our principles with clarity, consistency and conviction. We must communicate our narrative of freedom, democracy and rule of law. We must affirm the importance of our alliances and partnerships, which remain the backbone of our global security.
To those who doubt our resiliency, I would remind them that almost 70 years ago, 12 nations came together here in Washington to sign their names to a treaty stating that they were determined to safeguard the freedom, common heritage and civilization of their peoples. Over the decades, this treaty and the NATO alliance it founded have been tested. But the U.S., our allies and our partners have met every test with unity and resolve.
Today, as the U.S. and NATO face this complex and dynamic security environment, we must maintain our resolve, to obtain the defense posture we need, to continue to adapt, to preserve the unity of the alliance, and to strengthen the international order we’ve created. And I’m confident that we’ll do so, supported by the significant work of the Atlantic Council.
Ladies and gentlemen, thank you. (Applause.)
ANNOUNCER: Ladies and gentlemen, please enjoy your dinner. The second half of the program will begin shortly.
ANNOUNCER: Ladies and gentlemen, please take your seats. The program is about to begin. Please welcome back to the stage Atlantic Council President and CEO Mr. Fred Kempe. (Applause.)
MR. KEMPE: What an incredible buzz in the room. I hate to interrupt your fascinating discussions, but it’s my duty to bring you back to the rest of our scheduled program and our last two awardees.
First of all, in my acknowledgments, one always doesn’t hit everything that one should have that was important. So I would like to salute the member of Congress we did not mention in the first part and also the person who is accompanying him, who is quite important in her own right. So Senator Dan Stevens (sic; Sullivan) of Alaska accompanied by Catherine Stevens, the widow of the great Senator Ted Stevens. Thank you so much. Please stand. (Applause.)
I hope that wins just a few more votes the next time around.
Tonight would not be possible if not for our incredible community of supporters, and most notably the co-chairs of tonight’s dinner. You’re not only supporting this dinner, you’re supporting our work all year long. And so I’ll ask those co-chairs in attendance to stand and stay standing as I read out their names. It’s an impressive list, but please hold your applause until I finish.
So please join me in thanking 21st Century Fox, Adrienne Arsht, chairman emeritus of TotalBank. (Applause.) Now, who can possibly hold their applause for Adrienne Arsht? But thank you very much. (Laughter.)
Airbus Americas and Jeff Knittel.
Alshaya Group and Mohammed Alshaya, represented by Mohammed Alshaya. (Applause.)
The Blackstone Group, represented by Maria Pica Karp, our board member.
Dentons, represented by Karl Hopkins, our board member.
Edelman, represented by Richard Edelman ‒ (applause) ‒ also a board member.
Gelbard International Consulting, represented by Ambassador Bob Gelbard, also a board member. (Applause.)
Georgetown Entertainment Group, represented by Franco Nuschese, a board member.
Hanesbrands, represented by Joia Johnson, a board member.
Hariri Interests, represented by Rafic Bizri, a board member.
H&A Group, represented by Adam Tan, an international advisory board member. (Applause.)
Hunt Consolidated, Hunter Hunt.
Ihlas Holding, represented by Ahmet Oren, a board member.
KMW, represented by Robert Schulz. (Cheers.) Very popular.
Leonardo DRS, represented by William Lynn – Bill Lynn, a board member. (Applause.)
Lockheed Martin Corporation.
Maroc Télématique, represented by Ahmed Charai, a board member.
David McCormick, who I’ll introduce in a second, co-CEO of Bridgewater Associates. (Cheers, applause.)
McLarty Associates, represented by two board members, Nelson Cunningham and Rick Burt.
MNG Group of Companies, represented by their founder Mehmet Nazif Gunal, an International Advisory Board member.
Nestle USA, represented by Molly Fogarty.
Penguin Random House – (cheers, applause) – represented by Markus Dohle. And please pick up the books at the end of the evening that he’s donated, that are in your bags – amazing books. And they’re also listed in your program.
Raytheon, represented by John Harris – (cheers, applause) – a board member.
Saab North America, represented by Michael Andersson, also on our board. (Cheers, applause.)
SAIC, represented by Tom Eldridge – Thomas Eldridge, a member of the board. (Applause.)
The Schultz Family Foundation.
SouthWest Holdings, represented by Tewodros Ashenafi on our International Advisory Board.
Starbucks Coffee Company. (Cheers.)
Textron, represented by Mary Claire Murphy.
Thales North America, represented by Alan Pelligrini, also on our board. (Applause.)
Thomson Reuters, represented by Kate Friedrich. (Applause.)
Total Wine, represented by David Trone, founder and congressional candidate, a member of the International Advisory Board.
UTC, United Technologies Corporation, represented by Tim McBride, on our board.
Please join me in applause for the generosity of all of our co-chairs this evening. (Cheers, applause.)
And while I’m on the topic of supporters, I have some news. You may know that I’ve had something to do with the news industry in the past, and I like to break news. I’m delighted to preview a forthcoming announcement that the Council’s innovative Digital Forensic Research Lab is launching a partnership with Facebook to support the world’s largest community in their effort to strengthen democracy, aiming to ensure that the tools designed to bring us closer together aren’t used to drive us further apart. Our Digital Forensic Research Lab does counter-disinformation 24/7, all around the world. It’s one of our most successful new ventures. Thank you to Joel Kaplan and Katie Harbath of Facebook who have started this partnership and joined us this evening. (Applause.)
Through the work of our Digital Forensic Research Lab, and we’re doing a major gathering in Berlin at the end of June of what we call a digital solidarity movement. We’re not only doing it ourselves, but we’re also training activists and journalists in the skills of using open-source forensics to spot fake news, bots, trolls, and others trying to lead astray our information society. We are building a digital solidarity movement, a community driven by a shared commitment to protect democracy and advance truth across the globe. With that cat now out of the bag, it’s my pleasure now to introduce Dave McCormick, newly on the Atlantic Council leadership team, as chairman of our international advisory board.
At a recent dinner in his honor, our chairman emeritus, General Brent Scowcroft, quite literally passed him the baton. Dave is that unusual individual who can draw from rich military, government and private sector experience. A graduate of West Point, he is a former Army officer, a successful entrepreneur, and how co-CEO of Bridgewater Associates, a global macro-investment firm and the world’s largest hedge fund. Prior to joining Bridgewater, Dave served as U.S. Treasury undersecretary for international affairs. And before that, as deputy national security advisor for international economic policy, and undersecretary of commerce for export administration.
Indeed, he served the president we honored tonight. Doing that, and serving President George W. Bush, he held the responsibility not only for coordinating U.S. international, economic, and energy policy, but also U.S. foreign assistance, humanitarian relief, stabilization and reconstruction efforts. Dave, we consider ourselves lucky to have a person of such personal passion and commitment to join our mission in such a leadership position.
With that, please join me in welcoming to the stage our new International Advisory Board chairman, Dave McCormick. (Cheers, applause.)
DAVID MCCORMICK: All right, thank you.
Let me start by recognizing Senator Dan Sullivan from the great state of Alaska. (Cheers, applause.) Even though he’s a Marine, I want to make sure he gets the appropriate recognition. (Laughter.)
I’m really delighted to be here. Thanks, Fred, for that kind introduction. It’s really such an honor to be in this room with so many distinguished business leaders and military leaders and public-service leaders, and many friends and people I’ve admired for many years.
As the new chair of the International Advisory Board – and thank you, others in the room who are members of that – it’s a real honor to be part of the Atlantic Council. I’m just beginning to see how wonderful the Atlantic Council is in so many ways, with such an important mission.
And tonight we’re really here to celebrate leadership, the kind of leadership that’s fundamental to the success of our country and the global community, and the kind of leadership that’s really exemplified by our four honorees. It’s strong leadership that others have said that’s really been at the core of the longstanding peace and stability that we’ve experienced over many, many decades. And it’s that same kind of leadership that’ll be so critical to overcoming the challenges we face.
Now, if we all gave our definitions of leadership, I’m sure we’d have different definitions of people in mind. But there are two examples or attributes of leadership that have really become more important in my mind as I’ve – as I’ve seen and experienced things over the years. And that’s, as Condi said, the ability to have good humor and also the ability to build great teams.
And while I’m sorry he left – President Bush had an early bedtime; that’s not a new thing – (laughter) – I had the great honor of working for President Bush, and so did many other people in this room. It’s great to see many of you here. And these were the leadership qualities that he really had – great humor and a great ability to build a team.
And so when I was thinking about tonight’s ceremony, and then I was reminded of this with Condi’s remarks, a story came to mind. And right now Fred’s sweating more than he already was sweating, because I’m going off script. But the memory is one of the Asian-Pacific Economic Conference in 2006.
And as Steve Hadley will remember, I came into that job in the White House as the deputy for international that fall. And one of the first important things on the agenda was to staff the president, which was part of my job, for the APEC conference. And so that was in Vietnam in November. And I was anxious about this, because there were big issues around trade and sanctions. Does that sound familiar? And I was really wanting to make sure I talked to the president about it. And Steve kept saying, no, the president doesn’t have time; you’ll have a chance to update him on Air Force One.
And so I waited and I studied, and I had my binders with all the policy issues. And I got onto Air Force One and I finally got my opportunity. I walked into the conference room on Air Force One. I said, Mr. President, I’m here to talk about APEC. And he leaned back in his chair and said “sherpa.” And that was the title. (Laughter.) And so that became my nickname, which, by the way, compared to some of the other nicknames, wasn’t so bad. So I took that. (Laughter.)
And he said, “Sherpa, this is not my first rodeo.” (Laughter.) And I said, well – I thought to myself, well, you know, it’s my first rodeo. (Laughter.) But I’m going to go with it, because he seems to know what he’s talking about. So we landed in Hanoi, and he had a number of meetings. And then it was my time. I was the person that was going to be with him without anybody else. I was the single person staffing him for the conference. And so he and I drove together, and we walked into the big conference center.
And the APEC conference is 16, 16 or 18, world leaders. And each of them has the person that’s staffing them, their sherpa. And I had been told that the room was going to be set up where there was going to be all these big desks in a circle, and the sherpa would be sitting behind each of the leaders. And we walked into the big room, and there was no place for the sherpas. So it was just the leaders, and the sherpas were shuttled off into a hold room.
And so this became a little disconcerting, but I went along with it. And we went to the hold room and we all sat there. And there was a big scoreboard that said each country’s name. And if your leader wanted to speak with you, then he could push a button and the buzzer would go off, and then you’d be brought into the room. (Laughter.)
And so I had the headphones on where I was listening – (inaudible) – being translated, just early in, and I thought, well, it’s his first – not his first rodeo, so this probably – there’s not going to be probably any questions. And then the United States of America. Light goes on, buzzing. And I’m thinking to myself, oh, here we go. And all the other sherpas are looking at me like I have an issue, which is – which is also concerning.
So I get my binders – (laughter) – because I have all the policies in there, and I walk into the room. And of course, it’s just all the world leaders. And so it’s President Hu and it’s Prime Minister Howard and Prime Minister Abe and President Hu. And I’m walking across the room, and I walk up behind the president and I lean up behind him and I say, Mr. President, did you have a question? And he looked at me with a somewhat evil smirk on his face and said, I pushed the wrong button. (Laughter, applause.) And there’s still some question of whether this was intentional or not. (Laughter.) He insists that it really was a button, but he seemed to take so much pleasure in it. (Laughter.)
So it was a walk of shame back past Prime Minister Abe and President Hu and President Putin – (laughter) – back out to the room, back to explain to the other sherpas that my world leader just pushed the wrong button. (Laughter, applause.) And we’ve had a lot of fun with that over the years. And it was one of the many things that I loved about him, which is he was hard but he was always fun, and a great man to work for and a great man to honor tonight. (Cheers, applause.)
And now it’s really my pleasure and an honor to turn over the stage to another, you know, incredible leader, really an incredible leader that I met for the first time tonight, and that’s Medal of Honor winner Master Sergeant Leroy Arthur Petry. He’s our next – (applause) – introducer.
A recently retired Army veteran, Master Sergeant Petry was a liaison officer for U.S. Special Operations Command Care Coalition, where he’s worked on the noble, noble cause of providing oversight to our wounded warriors, of which he is one. His impressive list of awards and decorations include the Medal of Honor, two Bronze Stars, and the Purple Heart. So before giving him a loud ovation, please direct your attention to the screen. Thank you.
(A video presentation is shown.)
ANNOUNCER: Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome to the stage Medal of Honor recipient Master Sergeant Leroy Arthur Petry. (Applause.)
MASTER SERGEANT (RET.) LEROY ARTHUR PETRY: Thank you. (Applause.) Thank you.
I’m honored to be here with all of you this evening. First of all, I’d like to thank the Atlantic Council for recognizing these inspiring – the inspiring leadership of all of our honorees tonight. I am humbled to be given this opportunity to introduce a man who has earned my respect and admiration and inspired me. He is a leader, a family man, and a champion for so many.
I first met Mr. Schultz probably around five years ago. I had been invited by one of the veterans working at Starbucks to come visit the headquarters and meet some of the veterans. I was only stationed a few minutes south of Seattle. Starbucks had previously a poor reputation amongst some of our troops because of some bad rumors started early in the war that they did not support the troops, and so I made the trip. I wanted to go there and see for myself, and talk with the veterans that were there, and hear their perspective.
They showed me around the building. I was shocked to see they had a monumental wall in the heart of the building honoring veterans employed and ones that were deployed. I learned of their initial initiatives to support their veterans and the troops deployed.
As we continued the tour, they asked if I wanted to meet Mr. Howard Schultz. I said, sure. I thought it would be a quick handshake and maybe a photo, the usual for so many high-profile people I get to meet. But no, he invited me into his office. We sat and we talked a while, and we ended up talking not only to the veterans, but to all of the employees. They all loved working for Mr. Schultz. They all loved the company, Starbucks.
Shortly thereafter Starbucks raised the bar, announcing the hiring of thousands of veterans and spouses. A few months later the Schultz Family Foundation initiated a tremendous support for our troops and care for our veterans. Mr. Schultz, a few months later, started a book to honor our troops and selfless service. It included his father having served as a medic during World War II, another small group of people who I hold in high regard – no pun intended. But the book released on Veterans Day that year. At the same time, he teamed up with HBO and covered the National Mall, not far from here, with a Concert for Valor, free for all to attend, to honor the service and to show appreciation for our military and veterans. He has continued to increase Starbucks’ support through many different venues, supporting transition programs, employment, education, only to name a few.
Having witnessed it myself from visited Starbucks, if most people knew – only knew the amount of care, precision, and effort that go into Starbucks products, they would realize what a bargain they are purchasing. It is not only the quality of their products that Mr. Schultz has influenced; the diversity, the values, the ethics, and the morals, and high standards of its employees – or, as Starbucks calls them, partners – giving each of them a vested interest in the success of the company.
His support of his Starbucks family and his family’s foundation support of so many globally has impacted numerous lives. His impeccable vision of what right should look like and his continued engagement to, like Starbucks, serve so many is the reason why, like an Airborne Ranger leads the way, he continues to lead from the front and set the example for others to follow.
Mr. Schultz, thank you for your inspiration, commitment, dedication, leadership, compassion and all the remarkable things you have done and continue to do. We look forward to your continued success and your endeavoring effort to make a difference to humanity.
Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Howard Schultz. (Applause.)
HOWARD SCHULTZ: What a speech that was. Other than my wife, Sheri, and my children who are here tonight, there is no one in the entire world I would have liked to have had the privilege to introduce me tonight.
Sergeant Petry represents all that is good about America, about our military, about our values, about our guiding principles and really the true promise of America. (Applause.)
Let me begin by just acknowledging the three other recipients: Obviously, President Bush, who was ‒ he was really funny, he was great tonight ‒ (laughter) ‒ Gloria Estefan and General Scaparrotti. It’s an honor for me to share the stage and to receive this award with the three of you tonight.
To the Atlantic Council, let me acknowledge with great humility your extraordinary, critically important, bipartisan work in an age of polarization. We are living at a very unusual time and I don’t think it would be an overstatement, especially this week, to say that the country is facing a real crucible. And I think you can broaden that and kind of ask the rhetorical question about the crucible of leadership.
Twenty years ago, as a Jewish person, I had the opportunity to go to Poland and visit Auschwitz for the first time. The closest I have gotten before that to any of the death camps was the Holocaust Museum here in Washington, D.C. and the museum in Israel.
It was a very cold, grey winter day. And the two or three hours that had passed while we were there was a gruesome, gruesome visual understanding of what took place in these camps. And to be honest with you, we were scheduled to stay four or five, six hours and visit another camp, but I just ‒ I couldn’t do it. I just did not have it in me.
Somehow when we were leaving the camp, in the mud and in the sand, I reached into my ‒ into the sand and into the mud and I somehow found this stone. And this stone has been sitting on my desk for the last 20 years. (Applause.) And I know it’s somewhat unorthodox and perhaps a little unexpected to put a stone on the podium, but I wanted you to think about this stone as something more than a rock. I want you to think about it in terms of allied forces, the character of America, the valor, the bravery and what it took to liberate millions of people and to create freedom around the world and to literally save the world from tyranny.
I’ve had that rock on my desk to constantly remind me not only to never forget, but in an age of uncertainty, especially the last couple of years, to remind me of the best of America. Now, it’s been 75 years since the end of World War II. And I think many today, unfortunately, at home and many around the world – and I travel a great deal – are questioning the moral leadership of America, and the ideals of America and what this rock, not once but still, represents.
I want to try and face these issues of moral leadership and our ideals with you tonight through two lenses. One, the personal lens of my life story. And, second, through the lens of my company. And I say straightaway that my company and what we do at Starbucks is not a proxy for the country or leading the country. But our values and guiding principles I think are steeped in American values.
From a personal standpoint, you are looking at a person who is living proof of both the promise of America and the American dream. I grew up in public housing in Brooklyn, New York. And if I took all of you there today, the odds of getting from that place to this podium is almost impossible. But it can only happen in America. (Cheers, applause.) And it can still only happen in America.
My life story, and the imprinting I had as a poor kid living on the other side of the tracks, presented me with lots of vulnerabilities and, to be honest with you, shame and insecurity of being that poor kid. And with that, I dreamed about perhaps one day building the kind of company that my father – who served in the military and unfortunately came back and did not have access to the things he thought the company would provide him.
But the aspiration was to build a different kind of company, a company that would achieve the balance between profit and conscience, a company that would demonstrate that not every decision is an economic one, a company that would demonstrate success is best when it’s shared. And do things that were unheard of – ownership for every employee, comprehensive health insurance over 20 years before the Affordable Care Act, free college tuition for every employee. All of these things steeped not in marketing or PR but steeped in the understanding that we have to create opportunity for everyone.
Now, we are living at a time both at home and abroad where the challenges are significant and acute. We have significant systemic issues – social issues in the country. And as a result of that, I feel so strongly that today businesses and business leaders must understand that we are living at a time where the rules of engagement for a public company are very, very different than they’ve ever been, because we must pick up the slack and, unfortunately, the lack of responsibility of the political class.
And what that means is that we must do more for our employees, more for the communities we serve. And, regardless of the color of your skin, your sexual orientation, your ethnic background, your station in life, we want to welcome you as a customer and we want to welcome you as an employee. And with that, we want to expand Starbucks all over the world. And as we expand from one country to the next – and we’re almost up to 80 – we want to carry that American flag to every country and every community, demonstrating the pride, the love, and the humanity – and most importantly the values and character of dignity and respect – which has built the United States of America. (Applause.)
We have over 3,000 stores in China. We open a store every day. People ask me, how have you succeeded in China? We’ve succeeded in China in the same way we succeeded in the United States – by asking our managers and our leaders to do one thing: Exceed the expectations of our people so they can exceed the expectations of our customers, to demonstrate a deep sense of humility and respect in all the things we do.
I want to go back to this crucible. There are a lot of important people in this room who have a great deal of influence on the future of our country and the future of our world. In my view, as a private citizen who travels the world, perhaps more than many of you here, there are real questions and real concerns and real doubts about the strength and conviction and moral courage of the United States of America.
The Atlantic Council stands for relationship-building, trust and confidence among our allies. This is not a time for isolationism, for nationalism. This is a time, as we face this crucible, for cooperation. This is not a time to build walls. This is a time to build bridges. (Applause.)
Over the course of the last year, I wanted to do a number of things that would give me exposure to the human condition here at home and abroad. I wanted to understand the opiate crisis. I wanted to go to the southern border in Texas and understand the immigration issues. I wanted to go to Gettysburg and I wanted to go to Normandy.
It was in Normandy that something happened that I want to share with you. I had never been there. I didn’t know what to expect. And, unlike Auschwitz, we couldn’t get enough of it. We couldn’t get enough of the love and respect that the people in Normandy have for America and how they hold us so close to their heart.
But it was in the cemetery that really, really moved me. I was walking and walking. I couldn’t believe the, I believe, over 9,000 headstones. About 150 yards away from where I was standing at the time, way, way off to the distance, I could see a man; didn’t know exactly what he was doing, but he was isolated. And I just started walking towards him.
The closer I got, the first thing I noticed, he was wearing a uniform as an employee of the cemetery. And then I got to about 10 yards, and he was on his knees, on his knees, with a scrub brush. I kneeled down. He did not speak a word of English. And he was washing, washing, with great, great respect and honor, the headstone, one by one. And I kneeled down and I said thank you. Thank you so much. And he stood up, no English, and he said, no, we thank you.
I started with a stone to remind us of who we once were and who I believe we still are. And I finish with the headstone of a Frenchman on his knees, scrubbing the headstone of a fallen warrior out of respect for who we are, who we are. And I think the call to action for all of us is to understand that we are a country that is not entitled to our success. We have to earn it. And it’s been earned many, many times by people who have come before us. And we have an awesome responsibility not to be desensitized by the time we are living in, not to accept the status quo of a lack of dignity and a lack of respect, but to rise above it and to do all we can – like the man kneeling in Normandy – to once again respect and honor the history, the tradition, the valor, the bravery and, most importantly, the love of the United States of America. Thank you very much. (Applause.)
ANNOUNCER: Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome to the stage Executive Vice Chairman of the Atlantic Council Ms. Adrienne Arsht. (Cheers, applause.)
ADRIENNE ARSHT: The arts define us a civilization. The paintings of Lascaux Caves, the music over the centuries, the songs that are handed down through generations. The arts matter. I am known as someone who supports the arts, partially because I can’t perform any of them. (Laughter.) But let me tell you about a great artist, Gloria Fajardo Estefan, tonight’s recipient of the Distinguished Artistic Leadership Award. (Applause.)
As you’ve heard, Gloria is a seven-time Grammy winner, a singer, a songwriter, an actress, businesswoman, New York Times best-selling author and, of course, she is also a daughter, a wife, a mother, abuela – that’s a grandmother – and my friend. Gloria is the embodiment of the American dream. She was born in Havana, Cuba. Her father, Jose Fajardo, was a Cuban soldier in President Batista’s army. Her mother, Gloria Garcia Fajardo, was a teacher.
In 1960, Gloria, her mother and sister fled Cuba to Miami. Her father remained in a Cuban jail as a political prisoner. Eventually, he was released and he, too, came to Miami. Gloria remembers the housing rental signs that said “No children. No pets. No Cubans.”
When her father came to Miami, he enlisted in the United States Army and served in Vietnam. While there, he was tainted by Agent Orange, and when he returned to Miami he required full time medical care. Gloria graduated from the University of Miami with a degree in psychology and a minor in French. She was already bilingual with Spanish and English and now, with French, she was a translator for the customs department at Miami International Airport.
Because of her skills, the CIA offered her a job. If she had taken it, it might be she that was up for confirmation hearings. (Laughter, applause.) But, fortunately for us, Gloria focused on her music career. She met Emilio Estefan, who had created a band called the Miami Latin Boys. He asked Gloria to join the band and, of course, he renamed it the Miami Sound Machine, as they now had gender diversity.
As they started out, they were a very popular local band, playing at quinseaneras as well as the weddings and bar mitzvahs of the Anglo population. And yet, when they went to meet a record label executive to pitch their first English-language song, he told them, stay in your lane – Americans have no interest in Latin music.
Emilio answered – and I wish I could do his accent – look at my face – whether you like it or not, this is what an American looks like. (Applause.) And guess what? Gloria has sold more than a hundred million albums and had 38 number-one Billboard hits. (Applause.) And how’s this for a coincidence tonight? President George H. W. Bush appointed Gloria to serve as a delegate to the United Nations, thus adding diplomat to her resume.
And another story, a bit ironic, about tonight, albeit tragic, is that after Gloria and Emilio met with Bush 41 at the White House, they got into their tour bus and headed to Philadelphia. It was a very snowy night. On that trip, a huge tractor trailer crashed into their bus. Gloria was left paralyzed. She was not expected to walk again, let alone do the conga and sing.
With her natural resilience, she proved them wrong and was back on stage a year later at the American Music Awards, performing a hit she wrote during her difficult recovery. She called it “Coming out of the Dark.”
The life story of Gloria, Emilio and her family was made into the Tony-nominated musical “On Your Feet.” I’m not supposed to tell you this, but soon you will hear several songs from that show. Act surprised. (Laughter.)
Well, for all this and so much more, it is so fitting that the Atlantic Council’s Distinguished Artistic Leadership Award be given to my friend and fellow Miamian, Gloria Fajardo Estefan. (Cheers, applause.)
GLORIA ESTEFAN: Thank you so much, Adrienne.
And thank all of you – Adrienne, who is the only person that has two companies in the Atlantic Council and is an amazing friend and mentor. And I am so thrilled.
But Adrienne, you don’t know if I actually joined the CIA, do you? (Laughter.) It’s a perfect cover. I’ve met with presidents, two popes, several royal people throughout the world. So, yeah, my mom wasn’t having it. She was not happy about that.
But tonight – I’ve been so lucky to have so many moments of pinch me; how is this happening? This is one of them.
And there’s also that moment of six degrees of separation from every amazing recipient on this stage. As Adrienne shared, we were with George H.W. Bush the day before my accident, where he for 45 minutes spoke to my son in the Oval Office. And I thought my son was going to be really nervous and say – you know, freak out. And he actually said to the president, Mr. President, I watched your – Mrs. Bush’s tribute to American teachers, and then proceeded to take over the conversation. They are a very warm and beautiful family.
And George W. Bush, who was here – Emilio, my husband – who, baby, I wouldn’t be here without you; we wouldn’t be here without each other. (Applause.) He’s over there. We will be married for 40 years this September. (Cheers, applause.) Yes – together 43. He was my first and only. He got a good deal. (Laughter.) Come on. In the `70s, I think if I’m the last remaining virgin at that time. (Laughter.) I was a Catholic schoolgirl. What can I tell you?
But we had the opportunity to meet the president. And I wanted to take my mother to meet him on one of those opportunities. And my mother was so far right, she was left. She’s a Cuban, extremely right wing. So we were standing there waiting for the president to come in, and I tell her, Mom, be on your best behavior. My mom was a force to be reckoned with.
And at that time, we had just – one of our planes, our high-tech planes from the United States, had landed in China, and they had kind of confiscated it and were trying to charge us money to get it back. So I knew my mother had a beef about that issue. And I warned her, Mom, please be on your best behavior. You’re meeting the president. Give him a break.
So Mr. President comes in and she’s standing in line, and the first thing she says to him is don’t pay the Chinese. (Laughter.) Emilio turns to my husband and says, that’s your mother-in-law? I feel for you, buddy. (Laughter.) So that’s the amazing President George W. Bush.
Howard Schultz – what an incredible speech that he gave. (Applause.) What an example – although I still think Estefan Kitchen does the Cuban coffee way better than Starbucks. (Laughter.) Gonna have to give him some pointers on that ground.
General, my dad served, as you heard, in the U.S. Army. And I’m an Army brat, so your uniform really impresses me. Thank you so much for your service and for the amazing job that you’ve done.
And, Cindy – (applause) – thank you, because my mother sacrificed a lot to have her husband serve his two countries, Cuba – where he served in Bay of Pigs and was a political prisoner for two years – and the United States Army, that he served with honor and so much love for the freedom that this country gave us, a freedom that I still appreciate so much and defend whenever I can, because I think that the immigrants that come to this country oftentimes really appreciate what we have much more so than people that have been here for generations, and realize – (applause) – it’s the truth. And realize that these freedoms have to be defended every moment. That it is not a given that everything that we have, we need to defend and honor.
And for me, that has always been my moving force. I’ve been so lucky that through our music we’ve been able to bridge instead of build walls, as the amazing Howard Schultz said. We’ve been able to live our lives in a part of life that is – celebrates what we share as human beings. Music rarely separates us. It’s not politics. It’s not religion. It’s something that reaches across into the hearts of people all over the world. And it didn’t matter what language we were singing in. Somehow, the rhythm got them. And I’m very happy for that. (Laughter.)
And I’m not going to, you know, keep you hear longer. I know you have jobs – (laughter) – that are important to get to tomorrow. But a few years ago I told my husband Emilio – I said, you know, I wish I could clone myself. And, hello, I figured out how to do it. I have three amazing Gloria’s all over the globe right now doing our life story in the amazing “On Your Feet.” And tonight, as Adrienne said, we are going to have the Gloria that established this amazing role on Broadway for two years – I don’t know how she did it; it was a tough gig. She’s going to be performing for you tonight. And Ana Villafane, who is an amazing singer, actress, and she has been able to go out there and do my job for me, which I am very appreciative of.
But like I said, moments like these, where I look around and I think, oh my gosh. I was two years old when I came to this country, with all the dreams that my father had for us for my life, that my mother had – she had a Ph.D. in education in Cuba. And she came here and revalidated her credentials and served as a teacher for 25 years. She was the union rep for the public school system in her school. And she was someone that defended this country as much as my dad did. And I will do that until the day I die, because I believe in this country. And the fact that the Atlantic Council – the fact that they exist gives me only hope for the future, because the bottom line is that we are all together.
We are all in this together. And no matter what happens, no matter what challenges we face in the world, in this country, when there are people trying to get together, trying to work it out, trying to understand each other, trying to make bridges, then I know that we’re in a good place. So I am so incredibly honored and thrilled to be receiving this award. And I cannot tell you enough how much I love this country, how much I am proud of having grown up here, how much I try to be emblematic of that freedom through my songs that I write, celebrating freedom of speech, celebrating the things that I’ve grown up, thankfully, in this country experiencing. All I can tell you is that I am beyond honored and privileged to receive this award, especially in the company of the recipients of this year, and also everyone in this room that is so incredibly important to our nation and has done so much.
So thank you very much. I really appreciate it. Thank you, Adrienne. Thank you, Atlantic Council. Thank you, all of you. Thank you to all the recipients with me. Thank you. God bless you. (Applause.)
MS. ESTEFAN: Thank you. Thank you. What an incredible evening. I had the honor, of course, of telling Gloria’s story on Broadway for two years, as you heard. And, yes, she’s a cultural icon. Yes, she is the conga queen. But she’s also an incredible human being. And going back to what Howard Schultz said, that I think is almost more important than all the other accomplishments.
And this next song is probably my – was probably my favorite part of the Broadway show, and I’d like to dedicate it to the fact that she is many things, including a mother, and this is Mother’s Day weekend. So I’d like to dedicate this song to her and to her mother, her late mother, Gloria Fajardo, as well as to the inimitable Barbara Bush. (Applause.)
MS. ESTEFAN: I love you. Thank you.
All right. So this next song I am dedicating to something a little more abstract. Doing eight shows a week was definitely a commitment, and there was a time when my voice doctor told me I had to stop drinking caffeine, which was awful because there was actually a Starbucks downstairs of our theater.
So where is Howard Schultz, by the way? Howard, Howard, where are you? OK, great.
Anyway, so there was a Starbucks downstairs at the Marriott Marquis Theatre, and I was very much addicted, and every single day I got a venti white chocolate mocha with coconut milk. And then I could not do that anymore. So this song goes out to that. (Laughter.)
MS. ESTEFAN: (Laughs.) Thank you for, I don’t know, amusing me. (Laughter.)
So for my last song I wanted to sing this one, which I did not sing in this show actually, but I watched the incredible Andrea Burns perform it every day. And it is actually from my favorite album. It is the titular song from the “Mi Tierra” album. And this song is all about pride in one’s homeland. So I could think of no better closer than this song. It’s called “Mi Tierra,” which literally means “my homeland.” And this one I want to dedicate to the general and to all of the active military, or the former military, and of course to Fajardo, which was Gloria’s father. So here we have it.
MS. ESTEFAN: Good night! (Cheers, applause.)
MR. KEMPE: Thank you all for being here. Thank you for the Atlantic Council staff. Howard, we can get you rights to that last act. See you next year. Thank you for your help all during the year. Thank you. (Cheers, applause.)