2018 Freedom Awards
President and CEO,
Executive Vice Chair,
National Security Advisor to German Chancellor Helmut Kohl
Executive Vice President,
2018 Freedom Awardee:
Secretary Madeleine Albright,
Former U.S. Secretary of State
Introduction by: Carl Bildt, Former Prime Minister of Sweden
Location: Schlüterhof, Deutsches Historisches Museum, Berlin, Germany
Time: 7:30 p.m. Local
Date: Saturday, June 23, 2018
ANNOUNCER: Please welcome Atlantic Council President and CEO Fred Kempe. (Applause.)
FREDERICK KEMPE: (In progress following audio break) – was the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.
But we’re also here on the eve of another historic anniversary. Tomorrow marks the 70th anniversary of the Berlin – of the beginning of the Soviet blockade of Berlin, the defining crisis of the first months of the Cold War. The Soviet Union blocked all access to areas of Berlin under Western control. I won’t go into much detail here – you can look it up; it’s a fascinating tale – but it came a few days after the introduction of the new deutschemark. So everything, in the end, also is economic and political and security.
It was this crisis where the Soviet Union blocked all access to areas of Berlin under Western control that tested for the first time how far the allies would go, how far the United States would go, the British would go, to protect the freedom of postwar West Germany and West Berlin. In response, over the course of the next 15 months the Western allies, in particular U.S. and British militaries, came together in a Herculean effort to airlift in supplies each and every day to sustain West Berlin.
General Lucius Clay, two days after the start of the blockade, gave the order to launch what he called Operation Vittles. On the following day, June 26th, 32 C-47s carried 80 tons of cargo, including milk, flour, and medicine. General Clay told his betters in Washington that this would be a three-week operation to break the blockade. Over the course of the operation, which went from June to the next year – the Soviets only really gave up the blockade when they saw there was no surrendering on the allies’ part, so it went from June to the following May. And then the airlift itself lasted to the following September. So this three-week operation, in the end, went over a year and allied forces flew 200,000 flights and dropped 8,893 tons of supplies.
One of the heroes of this airlift, U.S. Air Force Colonel Gail “Hal” Halvorsen, took on an unauthorized mission that become a subsite of Operation Vittles. It became known as Operation Little Vittles. His was an effort to raise the morale of West Berliners in the simplest of ways. He had given some Wrigley chewing gum to a couple of children in West Berlin, and it was one piece and they broke it up into about 10, and then those that didn’t get the piece were smelling the wrapper. And he said, I see an opportunity here.
And so he said, I’m going to bring you more candy. And they said, well, how will I recognize you? And he said, I’ll wiggle my wings as I come over Berlin. And so he did that. Via mini parachutes, American candy. Over time, he dropped 23 tons of candy to the citizens and the children of Berlin. Lots of it was donated by U.S. children, once the word got out, and then by American manufacturers. So in the words of what we’ve been talking about in the last couple of days, if you had done hashtag #CandyBomber at that time, it would have gone viral. (Laughter.)
So tonight, we have dropped a piece of candy on each of your plates, or a couple, as a nod to Colonel Halvorsen, and a nod to the impact of one man or one woman’s actions who believe in freedom, and what impact that action can have on a whole population, and a nod to the bonds of our transatlantic community because I can promise you, had it not been for the Berlin airlift, there would not have been a NATO. There would not have been a reunification of Germany. And we would not be sitting here tonight fighting new – celebrating new freedom fighters.
By the way, Colonel Halvorsen, I have a soft spot for him because was from Salt Lake City, Utah, and so am I. But he did not have German heritage, and so do I – and I do. And so for me, Berlin is a special place because when the wall went up it didn’t just divided the unfree and the free worlds. It didn’t just divide East and West Germany. It divided our family. And so for me, this city has global meaning and very, very local meaning.
So it’s incredibly fitting that on this anniversary, and on our 10th anniversary of the Freedom Awards, we return to Berlin, a city that is the embodiment of the triumph of freedom and democracy. Our awards have always honored for those who fight for these principles. Many of you here spent the last two days at our 360 OS, Open Source, Summit. And in doing so, you joined our grassroots movement to harness the technologies that some would use to divide us to bring us together and fight for truth in the digital space. So before we get going, I want you all from 360 OS to applaud yourselves. Thank you. (Applause.)
What the last two days have underscored is the nature of the trials we face as a global community have shifted. And therefore, we have to refine our strategies to overcome these challenges. Old language, old solutions, old approaches won’t cut it. And the impressive group of awardees that we honor tonight embody just that. They hail from different regions, industries, and different generations. But together, they exemplify the courage, passion, and dedication that is needed to build a global community fundamentally rooted in the fundamental causes of freedom, democracy, and human rights.
All of the honorees you will meet tonight share a conviction that together we can overcome the greatest issues of our time, both globally and very locally. As they break down barriers and inspire others to do the same, these trailblazing women – excuse me – women and a girl –these trailblazing females are redefining what freedom means to our generation and a new generation. That is why tonight we recognize Secretary Madeleine Albright for championing democracy and human rights for all, and for her unwavering devotion to building a secure and a prosperous world.
Secretary Albright. (Applause.) And thank you so much for inspiring so many others, including me, including Damon Wilson, including all of us at the Atlantic Council.
Not too far away from Secretary Albright is my newest best friend, Bana Alabed, for her innovative use, at nine years of age – and then she was eight – of social media to document the plight of Syrian children in war-torn Aleppo and for her awareness, drive, and maturity well beyond her years.
Bana. (Applause.) My own 10-year-old daughter would be crashing at this time, so thank you so much. (Laughs.)
Secretary Albright, Bana, in all of our Freedom Awards over the last 10 years, this is the biggest gap of generation that we’ve had. But I must say you inspire me about the future. And Secretary Albright inspires us that a lifetime led on behalf of freedom is a lifetime well spent.
Third, the International Women’s Media Foundation for building press freedom from the ground up by supporting the critical work of women journalists, understanding that freedom is threatened not just by conflict or direct oppression, but also by apathy and lack of opportunity. So please applaud the International Women’s Media Foundation. (Applause.)
And finally, pop star Aryana Sayeed for selflessly using her musical talents to bring people together, to support women and girls in Afghanistan, to stand up for injustice. To become a star of such talent and be so recognized is a hard thing to do in any country in the world. It is an almost impossible thing to do in Afghanistan. And so many in so many places in the world are inspired by you. So it will be an honor for us to honor you as well. (Applause.)
This impressive representation, all of them female leaders – you can also be a leader at age nine – illustrates the power of the individual in the face of a spectrum of challenges, some newly emerged, others echoes of the past. The call is to act as a community and to take decisive action, and it could not be louder. And the message of the Berlin airlift is what is the cost of not doing so?
Tonight’s honorees all answered that call, and for that we take this moment to pause and celebrate their actions tonight and their impact in the world.
It must be said, of course, that this pause sadly does not apply to the World Cup. So rest assured, we will be streaming tonight’s match during our dinner break, and even after the close of the program. If you really are virulently in favor of Germany winning this match – and, you know, the former prime minister of Sweden Carl Bildt, is here in the front row, and he probably would like to have a conversation with you – (laughter) – which brings me to a few words of gratitude.
We at the Council are also stronger as a community, working hand in hand with our partners. There are too many here we’re working with tonight to name you all. But I would like to thank our Freedom Award supporters, without which we would not be here: The Foreign and Commonwealth Office of the United Kingdom, Facebook, Twitter, Microsoft, Ambassador Rockwell A. Schnabel, and Ambassador Victor Ashe. Thank you so much for making this evening and these last two days possible. (Applause.)
And finally, I’d like to extend a warm welcome to the former Freedom Award honorees in this audience this evening. Ambassador – and maybe you can stand so people can see where you are – Ambassador Dan Fried, Ambassador Jerzy Kozminski – (applause) – and former Prime Minister of Sweden Carl Bildt. (Applause.)
I encourage you to engage in social media with this incredible community using the hashtag – and also those not in the room, I think we’re streaming this; if we’re not, start – (laughter) – using the hashtag #ACawards.
So thank you for joining us and, with that, it’s my honor to welcome to the stage – and I want to say a couple of things about him – the former Freedom Awardee, Horst Teltschik, a personal friend, someone who was on the front lines of freedom throughout his impressive career, playing an instrumental role in German reunification.
I won’t tell you one story; I will tell you another. So I worked for the Wall Street Journal for many years and he was a source, and I won’t tell you those stories. But thank you, Horst, for talking to me during that period of time.
The second I will tell you, which is after the fall of the Berlin Wall – might have been around middle of November, going on November 19th or so – he met with the chancellor, Helmut Kohl, and they were talking about what they should do next, and Horst Teltschik, being a person who understands the sweep of history and when to take a moment to grab the chance, said to the chancellor, I think it’s time to tell the German people and tell the world that we’re all in for German unification and we’re going for it.
There was no consultation with the U.S. at that point, with the British, with the French, on the fact that he was going to do that, and they even kept it a secret from the foreign minister of that time, Hans-Dietrich Genscher. But that’s another book.
Chancellor Kohl said, go ahead – write the speech. Join me in welcome Horst Teltschik to the stage for all he’s done over his lifetime for freedom and democracy. (Applause.)
HORST TELTSCHIK: Good evening, ladies and gentlemen, Secretary Albright, Your Excellencies. First of all, I was told to ask you to start eating. (Laughter.)
Well, Fred, thank you for the kind introduction. Well, back in 2016, when I last stood on the Freedom Awards stage in Wroclaw, in Breslau, the tone was optimistic. As I stand before you now in 2018, some might say we are living in unprecedented times. The United States and the countries of Europe seem to be no longer united. Immigration, trade, energy, populism, even defense – these are just a handful of the issues that divide us.
Many of you in the audience may be too young to remember the events surrounding the end of the Cold War and the fall of the Berlin Wall. For those of you who do recall, you know that the process of reunification was never guaranteed. It took mutual respect, mutual trust, commitment, and a keen acknowledgment of the historic moment.
Back then, we came together as a global community, working hand in hand to ensure a peaceful reconciliation and built a better world. May I just remind you of the Charter of Paris for a new Europe, from Vancouver to Vladivostok, signed by all 35 presidents and heads of governments of the CSCE countries in November 1990. What a vision.
But who really took care of it? The United States was one of Germany’s greatest partners in all these efforts. The challenges we face today may be unprecedented and they are, certainly, concerning. But they are not insurmountable. It is often difficult without hindsight to comprehend the complexity and the magnitude of the moment in which we live. I speak from experience. But make no mistake, just as we overcame the great trials before, we can and will do it again.
Now is not the time to build walls. We did just that half a century ago, the consequences of which still reverberate today. No, now is the time to tear down our walls and to overcome the difficulties, which is why I’m delighted to be part of tonight’s celebration. The work of the awardees we will honor this evening is absolutely vital to defending freedom in our world.
Thank you for being here. Thank you for honoring these individuals. And most importantly, thank you all for doing your own small part to ensure that the challenges we face today do not defeat us.
It is now my honor to formally start the program. I ask you to please turn your attention to the video screen behind me as we honor Secretary Madeleine Albright. Thanks a lot. (Applause.)
(A video presentation is shown.)
ANNOUNCER: Please welcome His Excellency Carl Bildt, former prime minister of Sweden.
CARL BILDT: Madam Secretary Madeleine, I wasn’t aware of that thing with the drums. (Laughter.) But I hope we can get some elaboration on the background to that.
I can also, before some remarks on Madam Secretary Madeleine, announce that it’s still zero-zero. And don’t expect me to be very much more in terms of guidance on football. I’m well-known in my country for being fairly less expert, let’s put it like that, on these issues. There was an instance when I was ‒ I was prime minister at the time and there was a world championship of football going on. And the media came up to me ‒ and the media, they always have their sort of devious plots ‒ so they asked me whom I thought was going to win. And being prime minister of Sweden, I thought that I could only say I expect Sweden to win. And I thought that was a fairly good answer from the political point of view. It only turned out that Sweden wasn’t playing that year. (Laughter.) And those things do happen.
I’m deeply honored to be asked to say a couple of words of the Freedom Award nominee, Madeline Albright. Madeleine, if I’m allowed to say that – I am – is in my opinion a girl from and of Europe. From and of. From, obviously. Born in Prague, then Czechoslovakia, before the war. And her family and herself was forced to flee from Czechoslovakia when Hitler took over. But then, of course, Hitler was defeated, there was a new hope for Europe. They could return to their Prague, but then had to flee again in 1948 when Stalin descended upon half – that half of Europe. And then the family and Madeleine ended up, via Ellis Island, the Statue of Liberty, in the United States. And that became, of course, the scene of her astonishing public career over the decades that followed.
Started as an academic career, not very well known, political scientist devoting her studies also to what happened in her native Czechoslovakia. But then, through her academic credentials being dragged into – dragged into public policy, foreign policy, working under Zbigniew Brzezinski – born not in Prague but born in Warsaw – working under Zbigniew Brzezinski in the National Security Council under President Carter. But then, of course, became much more of a household name for all of us, and acquired public prominence when she became the ambassador of the United States to the United Nations in 1993 under President Clinton with, if I remember, Cabinet rank. So there are ambassadors and ambassadors, but then there are ambassadors with Cabinet rank. And Madeleine was among those.
In 1993, was a period of – let’s remember that – profound hope. The Soviet Union had disappeared. Russia had embarked on a course of profound economic and political and democratic reforms, we all engaged with, and hope for the new Russia that emerged. Germany had reunified and started its new course. Poland was free. So was Czechoslovakia. But the Balkan area, the former Yugoslavia, was in flames. So it was a period of profound hope and possibilities, but also significant and difficult challenges in terms of where our Europe was heading. And Madeline was, of course, in her position at the United Nations, deeply involved with all of this.
In 1997, she was appointed secretary of state. There had been very many secretary of states in the history of the United States, I would assume, but she was the very first woman in that particular position, and became the highest positioned women in the United States federal government ever at that particular time. And that was also a time of challenges and possibilities. Just mention one thing that happened, and that was that what was then the Czech Republic was admitted into NATO. And so the girl from Prague who had been forced to flee that city from first Nazis, fascists, and then Communists, was then able to be instrumental in bringing that country into the community of free Atlantic nations.
She stepped down as secretary of state 17 years ago. That’s a fairly long time ago. And a lot of public officials, as we know, they step down, and then they write a book or two, and that’s roughly it. Not Madeleine. Madeleine belongs to those rather rare individuals which I believe have been even more powerful after leaving office than when in office – not having the power of the office that’s gone, but the power of ideas and the powers of conviction and the powers of inspiration. And that, in a sense, is over time far more powerful than any office in itself can bring.
Her commitment to and her work for the different causes are well-known, starting with women or girls. And I think it is appropriate that Madeleine is honored here together with a number of other, Fred, girls, because she has been a force for the empowerment of women in whatever positions they have all over the world during those – all of these years.
Her work for freedom and democracy is, of course, what is perhaps what she’s most well-known for. Her leadership of the National Democratic Institute is perhaps the thing that one has heard, which has been her perhaps most important platform over these particular years because that has made it possible for her voice to be heard all over the world for freedom and democracy. And we have seen that also in the last few months with her new book about “Fascism: A Warning,” a bestseller I understand on so far the other side of Atlantic, hopefully on this side of the Atlantic as well.
And then, also, third should be mentioned for refugees: whenever, wherever, coming from a very personal experience.
So she has inspired many multitudes on continents and throughout Europe, even more after having left office than she was in office. And that, I think, is quite an achievement.
I particularly remember I think it was in December 2011, when we both – but primarily Madeleine, I’d say – went to the funeral in Prague of Vaclav Havel, who was of course one of the absolutely leading lights of democracy and human rights in our part of the world. And Madeleine was among the few that was invited to speak in the cathedral, and spoke, of course, in Czech. I didn’t understand what she said, but it was deeply moving and deeply important, and that was fairly obvious.
I think it’s highly appropriate that Madeleine gets the Freedom Award. And I think it’s also very symbolic that it happens in the city of Berlin, that this girl from and of Europe gets the award in this city – this city of Berlin, where Nazis was defeated, where communism collapsed, and where Europe started to come together again, and where U.S. leadership over the decades has been so profoundly important.
So, with these words, I just want to profoundly congratulate and ask Madeleine, perhaps, to come and receive the award. (Applause.)
(The Freedom Award is presented.)
MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: Thank you very much, Prime Minister Bildt – or Carl, if I may – for those very kind words and for your friendship and for your immense contributions in the Balkans. We did a lot of things together, and your role was just incredibly important and central to what happened in what continues to be a very important part of the world, and also for your dedication to the cause of freedom.
And it has been my pleasure and honor to keep our friendship going over the years and to intersect at various important conferences and just to make sure that those of us that have cared about what happens in Europe and around the world continue to speak out.
I want to commend tonight’s other honorees. And let me just say that I’m very pleased to be with this incredible girls’ team. And also the things that you have done are the things that I wanted to do. So, Aryana Sayeed, I have always wanted to sing. So I’m delighted to be on the stage with you. And to Elisa Lees Munoz, who is representing the International Women’s Media Foundation, I have wanted to be a journalist. And I actually was a little girl. So we have – (laughter) – a lot in common. And I’m delighted to be up here with the girls’ team. And I want to thank all of you for what you have done and will yet to do on behalf of the values we all cherish.
I can tell you about the drums, actually. What happened was that I was at the Kennedy Center with Chris Botti, who plays the trumpet, and we went down to see him ahead of his show. And he actually said sometimes, when I have somebody in the audience that has a name, I ask them to come and play drums with me. Will you play drums with me? And I said sure. I’ve never played drums before, but I did it. I’ve done it now a number of times. And my nickname is Sticks. (Laughter.) So there’s always time for a different career.
I also want very much to thank the Atlantic Council, because it does, in fact, represent so many of the values that we all cherish. And I think for me, as Carl mentioned, I find myself as somebody who is dedicated to the European-American relationship and the importance of that relationship always being renewed. And the Atlantic Council is doing an incredible job. And for as long as I can remember, this organization has preached the gospel of international engagement on behalf of freedom, prosperity, and law.
In recent years, the Council has acted with renewed vigor and purpose. And this is testament to the boundless energy of Fred Kempe and the wisdom of many on the board and many of the members who are here this evening.
Council supporters understand the value of the transatlantic partnership, and not only how important it is to those in Europe and the United States, but to people everywhere. And they also know that the values which underpin as history and this history-changing friendship are being challenged from inside and out.
As the little girl in Czechoslovakia – and, by the way, the picture of me in my national costume was when I was about your age – I always said my father was the ambassador, and I’m the little girl whose job it was to give flowers at the airport. That was what I did for a living at that time. And as a little girl in Czechoslovakia, I saw what happens when good and decent people fail to unite in the face of threats to freedom. And it disturbs me greatly to hear echoes and see shadows of that era in our day.
Now, as then, there are politicians who propagate conspiracy theories designed to nurture hate and fear among average citizens, who encourage followers to lash out at people who differ from themselves and who promise simple solutions to hard problems through the repression and degradation of others.
Now, as then, there are leaders who seek to monopolize authority by rewriting constitutions, coopting the courts, weakening legislatures, and equating dissent with treason. Now, as then, there are leaders who want us to believe that greatness is defined by spectacle, not character, that honor is irrelevant, and that winning means not having to answer any questions.
We are gathered this evening in a city that was once decimated and divided, but now reborn into a capital at the heart of a new Europe. This history is a reminder that we cannot afford to be complacent. We have to draw a line between legitimate debate and efforts to augment power by chipping away at the foundations of democracy.
Carl mentioned I have a new book. It has a very bland title, “Fascism: A Warning.” It has a very kind and bland cover, red and black. And it is ‒ I have been told that it’s alarming; it’s supposed to be alarming.
In the United States, we have a slogan that has been drilled into us in relation to the fight against terror: If we see something, such as unattended suitcase or a backpack, we should say something. Well, I’ve added a third element to the slogan: See something, say something ‒ and what I’ve added is do something. And that is why I have issued a warning in my new book.
And that is why I say tonight that there is an urgent need for people on both sides of the Atlantic to stand together and vow that we will not allow the peddlers of hate to shape our future. We will not allow them to turn us against one another or to treat our neighbors with contempt. We will not allow them to hijack the institutions that ensure our freedom and define our democracies.
We will not abandon all that have gained from decades of shared sacrifice. We will not accept the idea that we should simply go home and sleep, ignoring the gathering threats to peace. We will not remain silent as they strive to drain the meaning from words and to convince us that up is down and wrong is right and truth is whatever they claim it to be.
Instead, in every country, from all parts of the political spectrum, we have to insist on the integrity of our own minds, the importance of democratic values, the rights of the majority and minorities and the dignity of every human being. Because with those beliefs behind us ‒ (applause) ‒ and with those beliefs as our support, I’m convinced that there’s no threat before us against which we cannot prevail if we heed the warning, if we act in time and if we learn from our other honorees tonight.
I don’t think there’s been a speech or a book written in the United States that doesn’t quote Robert Frost. And I’m doing the same thing because what he wrote was, now that I’m old, my teachers are the young. And that could not be truer than this evening because I can still be inspired when I see children like Bana coming together to demand the right to live in peace and freedom. We have a lot to learn from her.
The cynics will tell you that there’s nothing to be done about the crisis we find ourselves in today. But as Nelson Mandela said, everything is impossible until you do it. It is in that spirit of determination and solidarity that I accept this award tonight. I am deeply, deeply honored. And it is with gratitude and affection that I thank you again for honoring me this evening. This means a great deal to me, from this organization, in this incredible city. Thank you very much. (Applause.)