Atlantic Council

2019 Distinguished Leadership Awards

Distinguished International Leadership Award Presentation



John F.W. Rogers,


Atlantic Council Board of Directors


Frederick Kempe,

President and CEO,

Atlantic Council



North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)

(Award Accepted by NATO Deputy Secretary Rose Gottemoeller)


Video Message From:

Jens Stoltenberg,


North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)



General James L. Jones, Jr.,

Executive Chairman Emeritus and Chairman, Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security, Atlantic Council



Location:  Washington, D.C.


Time:  7:00 p.m. EDT

Date:  Tuesday, April 30, 2019


ANNOUNCER:  Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome to the stage Atlantic Council Chairman Mr. John F.W. Rogers. 

JOHN F.W. ROGERS:  Ladies and gentlemen – ladies and gentlemen if I could ask you to take your seats.  Ladies and gentlemen, if I could ask you take your seats and we’ll begin tonight’s program.  Ladies and gentlemen, excellencies and friends, on behalf of the board of the Atlantic Council, and on behalf of my partner, David McCormick, who’s the chair of our international advisors, and all the board, we want to welcome you here to the 2019 Distinguished Leadership Awards.

Now, standing before you this evening I don’t need to tell you that together the United States, Europe, and our allies and friends worldwide face one of the most volatile geopolitical environments in recent memory.  And seldom has that work be so acutely in need of the kind of authentic and effective leadership we celebrate here tonight.  And with that in mind, as we recognize the accomplishments of outstanding efforts and individuals, we hope to advance a far more ambitious form of leadership that is equal to the challenges that we collectively face – braced in principle and nimble in the face of ongoing challenges and change.  And at the very heart of this vast change stands the Atlantic Council.

Now, against that backdrop, for the first time in the Atlantic Council’s history we are recognizing an international organization, NATO, for its extraordinary contribution towards promoting global peace and stability.  (Applause.)  And I want to thank that we have here today Rose Gottemoeller, who is the deputy secretary-general of NATO, for joining us to accept the award on behalf a truly deserving and pretty extraordinary organization.

We are also gathered, this illustrious audience here tonight in Washington, to celebrate an individual who exemplifies the leadership, and the vision, and the character needed to navigate these turbulent times.  He was raised by his mother and his uncles with an early – with the early passing of his father.  He was crippled by bone disease as a small boy.  But he regained his health by the age of 10 and he went on to become a pilot by the age of 15, an athlete, a decorated Marine, a Vietnam veteran.  He wrote a paper for an economics case while attending Yale outlining overnight delivery service in a computer information age.  And the rest, of course, is history.  And today, as chairman and CEO of an organization that we use every day as a verb, FedEx – (laughter) – Frederick Smith is someone who we’re going to celebrate tonight his entrepreneurial spirit and his transformational leadership.  (Applause.)

But I also want to note, with Fred, his positive corporate culture that he’s inspired throughout his years of leading this enterprise.  It’s 450,000 teammates that he’s assembled in 220 countries.  And that’s an enormous accomplishment.  So we’re grateful to have him here with us tonight.

Now, we honor as well individuals who, in an era that increasingly looks to the role models of women and girls, stand out by any measure as who we’re going to talk about tonight.  In fact, I was thinking about how best to introduce them and I was transported to an exhibition that I saw a few years ago in the docks of Edinburgh, Scotland, where it was unveiled a warship that was done to celebrate the role of British women in the First World War.

It offered a contemporary take on a strategy that developed by military model makers and camouflage experts, so many of them who were women themselves, and they were to paint warships with bold optical designs to confuse the enemy.  Now, this technique – the dazzle technique, as it came to be known – reached its peak at the end of the war with some 2,000 warships that had been ordained with the vibrant patterns to mask their size, their speed, and the direction of their travel.

And what was especially striking about this exhibit, however, is what was less apparent, perhaps more telling and certainly more powerful, because across this 239-foot vessel was painted in reflective paint and encrypted in Morse Code “Every Woman a Signal Tower.”  And what’s more, in creative and symbolic use of the medium and context – the Morse Code dashes and dots – they were completely gray by day.  They barely registered on the surface against the sunlight and the bright overall design.

However, at night the message “Every Woman a Signal Tower” was activated by the reflective paint, poignantly but powerfully recognizing women’s invaluable role in that great undertaking and holding themselves up as beacons of hope, of resiliency, and single-minded resolve.

Now, tonight we too will motivate and we will activate that same message – every woman a signal tower.  We will ignite the beacons of hope and resiliency and resolve, and we’re talking about two of our honorees, who, in their own right, are signal towers of resonance and of results and resolve. 

We honor this evening Madam Christine Lagarde, the managing director of the International Monetary Fund – (applause) – her steadfast, resourceful, and principled leadership in a time of volatility, her commitment to providing opportunity through economic reform, and her unwavering support for gender equality.

And we at the Atlantic Council are especially proud to present our rarely bestowed distinguished service award to a true force of nature, a visionary business leader, a generous philanthropist and, most importantly, a comrade in arms, Adrienne Arsht.  (Applause.)

Adrienne is the executive vice chairman of the Council.  She is an integral part of the Atlantic Council family and our board leadership.  Now, her passion for this Council and its mission is infectious and her dedication to her cause is unwavering.  Her leadership has enabled the Council to expand its geographic reach to Latin America and her out-of-the-box thinking equipped the Council to launch a world-class Resilience Center.

So you’ll hear more about these beautiful women – (applause) – later today.  But I want to offer my congratulations to all of them, and rather than hearing my poor words, let’s get on with our program tonight and honor these wonderful people.

Thank you very much.  (Applause.)

ANNOUNCER:  Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome to the stage a procession of esteemed NATO representatives, past and present, to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the alliance: Former Secretary General Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen – (applause) – former Supreme Allied Commander Europe General George A. Joulwan – (applause) – General Wesley K. Clark – (applause) – General Joseph W. Ralston – (applause) – former Supreme Allied Commander Transformation General Stephane Abrial.  (Applause.)

Please also welcome ambassadors from the following NATO member countries: Albania, Belgium, Bulgaria, Denmark, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Luxembourg, Montenegro, the Netherlands, Norway, Romania, Spain.  (Applause.)

Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome to the stage Atlantic Council Executive Chairman Emeritus and former Supreme Allied Commander Europe General James Jones.  (Cheers, applause.)

GENERAL JAMES L. JONES, JR.:  Good evening, ladies and gentlemen.  It’s my not only pleasure but great honor to introduce our first award of the evening, which we will present to NATO for the alliance’s role in ensuring the peace, stability, security and freedom of Europe and North America for the past 70 years.

Before doing so, though, I have the sad task of informing you that one of our great diplomats, one of our great congresswomen, one of our great business leaders, former Congresswoman and Undersecretary of State Ellen Tauscher, passed away last night in California.

As many of you know, Ellen was one of NATO’s most active advocates.  She was a patriot, a politician, a transatlanticist, an Atlantic Council board director, the mentor to many of us here on stage and here in the audience, but above all, a great friend to many of us in the room.

I first came to know Ellen when she was a member of Congress from California’s 10th district, the seat she held from 1997 until 2009.  She was a Democrat in a Republican district, but she also liked to say that her district was the smartest district in the United States because it included all of Silicon Valley.

She was a Blue Dog Democrat who brought her extraordinary experience from the private sector to the Congress, along with a determination to work across the aisle.  Prior to joining the Congress, Ellen was a dynamic business leader who, at the tender and young age of 25, was the first woman to hold a seat on the New York Stock Exchange.

With her business acumen and exposure to the technology world in San Francisco, Ellen instinctively understood the importance of a strong American foreign policy.  She quickly became one of Congress’ leading experts on nuclear weapons, nonproliferation, and arms control.  Her commitment to international security in Congress was rewarded in 2009 when President Obama appointed Ellen to serve as the undersecretary of state for arms control and international security.  And as undersecretary of state, Ellen shepherded the difficult negotiations with the Russian Federation on the New START treaty which was signed and ratified in 2010. 

It was one of the highlights of my professional career to be able to work with Ellen on the White House on this crowning achievement of the Obama administration’s foreign policy.  She continued to make her mark in policy outside of government, serving on the boards of numerous blue chip corporations, nonprofit organizations, and the board of governors of the National Labs of Los Alamos and Lawrence Livermore.  She was the vice chair of the Atlantic Council’s Brent Scowcroft Center on Strategy Security, and a member of the board’s executive committee.  She has also remained a regular attendee at the Munich Security Conference, where she hosts regularly – she hosted regularly a Saturday night German-American friendship dinner that has become a standing room-only affair.

Ellen would have instinctively understood why the Atlantic Council is offering its International Leadership Award this evening to NATO in recognition of the alliance’s contribution to peace and security for so many decades.  And she would have been so pleased that her dear friend and successor at the State Department as undersecretary, Rose Gottemoeller, will accept the award on behalf of NATO as the alliance’s deputy secretary general.  Rose is a friend to many in this room.  She is a highly and well-respected career diplomat, and one of the finest minds in nonproliferation and arms control and had a lot to do with the successful signing of the START treaty in 2010. 

She was the principal negotiator day-to-day with her Russian counterparts.  She took up her position as deputy secretary general of NATO in October of 2016, after serving nearly five years as undersecretary for arms control and international security at the Department of State, where she advised the secretary and the president on arms control, nonproliferation, and political military affairs.  Ladies and gentlemen, I would ask you for a moment of silence in memory of a great American patriot, a great international leader, and a wonderful human being.

Thank you. 

It’s now my honor to invite Deputy Secretary General Rose Gottemoeller up on stage to accept the award and say a few words.  Thank you.  (Applause.)

ROSE GOTTEMOELLER:  Thank you, Jim, for that very moving tribute to my boss, my mentor, and my friend Ellen Tauscher.  It really hit me in the gut today to hear about this.  And I heard many gasps in the audience at the news.  She truly was a great American, and we will all miss her, I know.

But let me say a few words about what this award means for NATO as well.  And I really wanted to thank you, Jim, also for your kind introduction of me.  But I must thank you for your lifetime of service and for everything that you have done for NATO and for the defense of our great nation.  (Applause.)

I’m also going to hazard a little bit by thanking you for being a fellow Hoya.  We both graduated from Georgetown University.  I know there are others in the audience, yes.  (Laughter, applause.)  Including my very good friend and roommate from freshman year who is here, Phyllis Kay (sp), but also Alonzo Mourning I understand graduated from Georgetown.  So there are a lot of us here.

Thank you to Fred, Damon, and the entire team at the Atlantic Council for honoring NATO with this prestigious award in our 70th anniversary year.  As you mentioned, Jim, NATO and the Atlantic Council have shared a close bond over the years.  We are the offspring of the same visionary founders.  One of them was a former U.S. secretary of State, Dean Acheson.  On signing NATO’s founding treaty in Washington in 1949, he described his hope that new strength and courage would come to all peoples of the world who seek freedom and peace.  And that’s what we are celebrating here tonight – freedom and peace, the benefits that 70 years of unprecedented freedom and peace have brought to all of our countries, all of our peoples.

NATO is the first international organization to receive this distinguished leadership award in its own right.  It is a distinct honor and a fitting testament to the hard work and vision of so many men and women over the years.

So it is a particular honor to be joined on stage by representatives of NATO’s military command, also the former secretary general – Secretary General Rasmussen – here today, and also representatives of the alliance; that is, so many of the NATO ambassadors have been able to join us here tonight.  So we are very, very pleased to have them here on stage.

And we’re very proud to be recognizing, alongside our own award, the other impressive honorees tonight, Adrienne Arsht, Christine Lagarde and Fred Smith.  They are inspiring leaders in the public-private domain, philanthropists.  It’s a great thing for NATO to be included in their number.

I’m here to accept this award on behalf of men and women around the world and down the decades who have helped make NATO what it is today.  We are 29 and we hope soon to be 30 allies.  Our many partner countries and organizations around the globe also participate in our work and help in our missions, the brave men and women in uniform who serve side by side under the same NATO flag, the thousands of civilians working every day across the alliance to build a better NATO.

We have always in mind our nearly one billion citizens.  For them, the result of our efforts is a safer, stronger, and more prosperous world.

So thank you again for recognizing all that NATO has done for deterrence and defense, and just like those visionary leaders who came before us, may we always have the strength and the courage to stand firm for freedom and peace.

Thank you for your attention.  (Applause.)

JENS STOLTENBERG:  (Via video.)  Ladies and gentlemen, it is a great honor to address you again and to receive this Distinguished Leadership Award on behalf of the whole of NATO. 

NATO is the most successful alliance in history because through the decades we have kept our commitment to protect and defend one another and because we have adapted as the world around us changes.

For 70 years NATO has ensured unprecedented peace and prosperity – (applause) – uniting two continents, 29 allies, and almost one billion people.  We ended the Cold War without a shot being fired, stopped bloodshed in the Western Balkans, fought terrorism in Afghanistan and Iraq, and spread democracy and stability in Europe by keeping our door open, with North Macedonia soon to become our 30th ally.

Today, as we face the biggest security challenges in a generation, Europe and North America are doing more together than for many years.  Because NATO is good for Europe and NATO is good for the United States.

We are adapting and modernizing our alliance, strengthening our collective defense, stepping up the fight against terrorism, and investing more in our defense.

Together Europe and North America are greater than the sum of our parts – half of the world’s economic might and half of the world’s military might.  When we stand together, we are stronger than any potential challenger, economically, politically, and militarily.  We are stronger and safer together.

So thank you, on behalf of the whole NATO family, for honoring us with this prestigious award.  With your help, with increased investment and strong political will, NATO will ensure our freedom and security for many more years to come.  Thank you very much.  (Applause.)