Full transcript of the 2011 Atlantic Council Annual Awards Dinner.
Tuesday, May 3, 2011
JOE SCARBOROUGH: Ladies and gentlemen, on behalf of the Atlantic Council, its Chairman, Senator Chuck Hagel and the President and CEO Fred Kempe, good evening and welcome to the Atlantic Council’s 2011 Annual Awards Dinner.
MIKA BRZEZINSKI: This is actually our third time as emcees of this event. And we keep coming back because we have such a deep belief in the organization and its cause.
MR. SCARBOROUGH: Well, it’s actually because Hagel and Kempe have promised to pull our membership if we don’t come back.
MS. BRZEZINSKI: And there’s so many big egos in the room, I just feel very comfortable here. (Laughter.)
MR. SCARBOROUGH: Really?
MS. BRZEZINSKI: Yes.
MR. SCARBOROUGH: You’re talking about your father, right, not me?
MS. BRZEZINSKI: Yes, well, my father’s here. My family is spread out in this room – my brothers and my dad – like landmines. Watch out for them. My dad and my brothers are all involved in the Atlantic Council. My father, as an international advisory board member; Ian is running NATO projects; and Mark, running an Iran study group. They would – (applause) – be very, very upset with me if I wasn’t here. And I wouldn’t miss it for the world.
MR. SCARBOROUGH: Ladies and gentlemen, I’m also proud to declare, this event is officially going to launch the 50th anniversary of yearlong celebrations culminating in the awards dinner next year.
MS. BRZEZINSKI: It was 50 years ago when the Atlantic Council of the United States was formed as a truly bipartisan effort to strengthen the trans-Atlantic partnership for the betterment of the world.
MR. SCARBOROUGH: And three U.S. presidents were honorary cochairs at the founding of the organization – Presidents Hoover, Truman and Eisenhower.
MS. BRZEZINSKI: At the council’s first awards dinner, President John F. Kennedy provided remarks while the council honored Supreme Allied Commander General Norstad. The evening’s printed program has vignettes from that rich history.
MR. SCARBOROUGH: Yet tonight is really more about the next 50 years than the last half century. Vice President Joe Biden is going to be here tonight. (Applause.)
MS. BRZEZINSKI: He’s backstage.
MR. SCARBOROUGH: And also Admiral Stavridis – are operating in a world where trans-Atlantic cooperation is crucial to addressing the challenges from Afghanistan to the Mid East, from sovereign debt to human rights. Of course, Vice President Biden and Admiral Stavridis, we have much to thank you for every day. But in particular, tonight, we thank you for your role – and of so many others – for the remarkable operation that resulted in the end of bin Laden. (Applause.)
You know, the Atlantic Council’s mission is more vital than ever. The global group gathered here tonight is certainly proof of that. And we’re honored that Vice President Joe Biden, one of the greatest Atlanticists of all time, would give the distinguished international leadership address this evening.
MS. BRZEZINSKI: And of course, the vice president’s prominence is complemented by that of our awardees tonight. Carefully chosen by the Atlantic Council, they each have demonstrated unique excellence and service in their field, plus a deep track record of commitment to the trans-Atlantic community and the world.
MR. SCARBOROUGH: Tonight, we’re going to be honoring Admiral Jim Stavridis for distinguished military leadership, Muhtar Kent for distinguished business leadership and Placido Domingo for distinguished artistic leadership. And they’re going to be introduced by two former awardees, General Jim Jones and General Colin Powell – (applause) – and by that sloucher, Charlie Rose. (Applause.) And Vice President Biden will be introduced tonight by Senator Chuck Hagel, of course also a former awardee.
MS. BRZEZINSKI: And our awardees are honored by a similarly high level and global audience. We have 800 guests from over 61 countries, including five former and current heads of state, 46 ambassadors to the United States, 30 chief executives of global companies and countless members of the U.S., European and other governments here tonight.
MR. SCARBOROUGH: To start us off this evening is Atlantic Council Chairman, Senator Chuck Hagel, one of the men who constantly reminds us of what the best Washington has to offer. From serving our country in Vietnam to the United States Senate, he now serves as cochairman of the president’s intelligence advisory board and is a member of both the secretary of defense’s policy board and the secretary of energy’s blue-ribbon commission on America’s nuclear future.
Now, some in the Republican party also keep wondering whether some may be able to persuade him to take a crack at a higher mission. What do you think?
MS. BRZEZINSKI: Perhaps, perhaps this is the place to start, Mr. Senator, forming your PAC. Senator Chuck Hagel. (Applause.)
CHUCK HAGEL: Thank you. Good evening. And I first want to thank Joe for announcing my candidacy. (Laughter.) Vice President Biden took particular interest. (Laughter.) I am not running for president and so Biden can come back. He’ll be all right.
First let me add my welcome on behalf of the Atlantic Council to each of you and express my thanks on behalf of the Atlantic Council to each of you for your contributions, your leadership, your steady and sustained efforts on behalf of this institution over many years.
I would begin my welcoming remarks – which will be very brief as I prepare to introduce Vice President Biden – with an acknowledgement on behalf of the Atlantic Council of the men and women of this country who serve in uniform, who serve in the intelligence communities, who serve in the State Department Foreign Service, their selfless devotion to a calling higher than their own self-interest, their sense of purpose, their dignity and their ability to rise above so much of the silliness that dominates our media today, dominates our thinking today and especially dominates this town today. To all of you out there tonight who are serving our country, have served our country, thank you. (Applause.)
A thanks as well to Mika and Joe for their once again agreeing to be our emcees for the evening. It was a big sacrifice that they gave up their bowling league night – (applause) – to spend with the vice president and all the rest of us. So thank you.
I want to thank in particular the board of directors, the leaders of this organization and especially Fred Kempe and his spectacular staff. What Fred Kempe has meant to this organization, the people he has surrounded himself with hasn’t just happened. It has been because of Fred’s leadership, his ability to make things happen and a lot of support from a lot of good people.
And Fred, incidentally, is about to become a much-acclaimed author of a wonderful book. And just a moment of crass mercantilism – I know none of you are familiar with that – (laughter) – but let me plug his book, which will come out here in a week, “Berlin: 1961.” It is a remarkable book. And I know that you will buy it. (Laughter.) That’s not why I said it, of course. But I do think you will find it most instructive and parallels a number of the same kind of challenges and decisions this president is making, is going to have to make over the next year and a half, as did President Eisenhower in 1956.
Now, I have done my part on helping the family fortunes of the Kempe household. We congratulate the honorees tonight for their accomplishments, what they have done to and for, on behalf of their industries, of their families, those who have mentored them and helped them – but most importantly – what they have meant to the trans-Atlantic alliance and the world. So you will hear more about each of those honorees later in the program. But on behalf of the Atlantic Council, I wish to acknowledge them. And as they have and continue to be important to our world – because each in his own way has been about making the world a better place.
Ladies and gentlemen, now let me introduce a very special guest, friend. In a world full of swirling changes, shifting alliances and global frameworks, we look to anchors of stability for assurance that tomorrow is going to be better than today. Few alliances in history have stood the test of over 60 years like the trans-Atlantic alliance. This alliance didn’t just happen. It wasn’t always there. It didn’t just appear after World War II.
This alliance faced challenges and threats and internal disagreements. It helped nations grow and prosper and it worked toward global freedom, peace and stability. It became the cornerstone of world alliances because of visionary, courageous and hopeful leaders who brought to their responsibilities a wide-lens view of the world.
As has already been noted here this evening, 50 years ago in this town – in fact, just down the street – President John F. Kennedy gave the defining speech, which formed the Atlantic Council and its purpose. Tonight we recognize President Kennedy’s words and address the important renewal of this alliance. As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Atlantic Council, we are honored to have with us one of those special leaders, unique leaders who possess character, capacity and common decency, shaped by the humility that accompanies individual struggle and grounded by its consequences.
Vice President Joe Biden has served his country for almost 40 years. Although he has accomplished great deeds and climbed to the pinnacle of political power, nothing has been more important to Joe Biden than his family. His story of grandma and grandpa Finnegan, their wise council, appropriate for all occasions, are legend. And I think most are true. (Laughter.) His wife, Dr. Jill Biden, a much accomplished and highly respected education leader and professor continues to help shape lives and make a better world, including her husbands. His son, Beau, is an Iraqi war veteran and Delaware’s attorney general.
During his 36 years as Delaware’s United States senator, Joe Biden rose to chair the Senate Judiciary and Foreign Relations Committee and became the 47th vice president of the United States. And he always took the train. I thought that was better. (Laughter.) Aaron Dowd in my office told me not to say that. (Laughter.) But let’s see, where were we?
But this tells you only what offices Joe Biden has held. But it has not addressed what he has contributed to America and the trans-Atlantic alliance. Few members of Congress have ever attained the internationally respected prominence of Joe Biden. I, like many of you here tonight, watched him and worked with him as he became one of the most knowledgeable and effective foreign policy thinkers and practitioners in the history of the Congress. His only shortcoming, as far as I can determine, his speeches are always far too short. (Laughter.) That’s good. Now we’re back with it here.
When – oh, it wasn’t in the script – she said she loved me down here. When Republican Strom Thurmond of South Carolina died – and this is a serious moment – the longest-serving senator in the history of the U.S. Senate – he left instructions that he wanted no memorial services and only a funeral with one individual giving the eulogy, his Democratic Senate colleague from Delaware, Joe Biden. Like the reason for Strom Thurmond’s last wish – whether you agree or disagree with Joe Biden – his colleagues respect him. Respect, like trust, is earned and is the currency that allows leaders to make important and lasting contributions to their country and the world.
I am often asked, you know Joe Biden. You served with him on the Foreign Relations Committee for many years. You traveled all over the world with him. What kind of a guy is he? My response is always the same. He’s one of the few people who has spent most of his life at the center of power in Washington D.C. and still has his soul. That’s Joe Biden. (Applause.)
Ladies and gentlemen, the vice president of the United States, Joe Biden.
VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: Thank you. Thank you. (Chuckles.) Thank you. Thank you. Please sit down. Thank you. Thank you very much. You’re very gracious.
As my grandfather, Finnegan, would say – (laughter) – if there’s one audience in the entire world that would know that hardly anything Chuck said about me was true, it’s all of you – (laughter).
I – as you can tell – I hope you can tell – Chuck is not only – was not only a valued colleague, he’s one of my closest friends. And I always kid with him: If we’d grown up in the same neighborhood, we would have hung out together our whole lives.
Ladies and gentlemen, I’m honored to be invited to speak to such – and I mean this sincerely – an illustrious audience. And I understand everyone from Colin Powell to – well, there’s just so many distinguished folks out there that I can’t see but I’m told are here. And I’m flattered to be asked to come and help celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Atlantic Council.
Let me briefly acknowledge tonight’s distinguished honorees: Admiral Jim Stavridis is a – is the real deal; he could tell you more about and understands the incredible, the phenomenal, the just almost unbelievable capacity of his Navy SEALS and what they did last – last Sunday. (Applause.)
Placido Domingo is probably the only man who could appropriately sing their praises – (chuckles, laughter). And Muhtar Kent said he’s sending them a lifetime supply of Coca-Cola – (laughter). But all kidding aside, congratulations to the honorees. And I want to congratulate the council also on its two new and very ambitious initiatives: the Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security, and the Rafic Hariri Center on the Middle East.
I know Brent is here, and I think Nazik is here as well. Congratulations, fellows, and – (applause) – and Nazik, on a personal note, give me – your family my best. Your mother was so incredibly gracious to me in Beirut, and your family was so open in hosting me several years ago in a time of great sorrow in your family. And I just wish everyone well.
General Jones, a good friend and a former colleague, is here. I hope it’s appropriate to also acknowledge one dear friend of all of ours who is not here tonight, Ron Asmus, who passed away this last weekend. (Applause.) He passed away after a very – he was a young man; it was a very long fight with cancer. As everyone knows here, Ron made extraordinary contributions to the trans-Atlantic relationship. And he will be sorely missed.
Folks, I’d be remiss also if I didn’t say an extra word about the incredible events, extraordinary events this past Sunday. As vice president of the United States, as an American, I was in absolute awe – awe – of the capacity and dedication of the entire team, both the intelligence community, the CIA, the SEALs; it just was extraordinary.
And what was even more extraordinary was – and I’m sure former administration officials will appreciate this more than anyone – there was such an absolute, overwhelming desire to accomplish this mission that although for over several months we were in the process of planning it, and there were as many as 16 members of Congress who were briefed on it, not a single, solitary thing leaked. I find that absolutely amazing. (Applause.)
And those brave professionals who tracked and killed Osama bin Laden – it was just a – it was actually breathtaking. It was a staggering undertaking, and there was no one else, I believe, other than an American group of military warriors who could do it. And the world is a safer place today, not only for the American people but for all people. I was pleased – I was pleased, and I must tell you, a little bit surprised, but pleased by the reactions that have poured in from all corners of the globe, from all peoples, from the region and from every corner of the globe.
At the same time, our thoughts and prayers remain with the innocent victims of terror, and their loved ones, both here and abroad because we know that this triumph, this triumph is continuing nonetheless. They continue to struggle – they all have – missing their loved ones who were taken out by this butcher. And the pain still exists. And in a bizarre way, it brings a lot of it back to the surface. So they remain in our thoughts and our prayers.
But I think one clear message has gone out to the world: There’s no place to hide, no place you can hide. When the United States decides from one administration to the next that we will, in fact, reach a goal, meet the goal, we are determined and we will relentlessly, without any hesitation, follow on that commitment – Democrat, Republican, it doesn’t matter.
But look, folks, I’m here tonight to talk about the importance of the trans-Atlantic relationship and this 50th anniversary of the – of the council. Five decades, the council has enriched the public debate on both sides of the Atlantic, and – and not incidentally, helped forge consensus not just among the political leaders but consensus among the elites and the populations of all our countries to deal with some of the hardest, most difficult and divisive foreign policy issues we have faced and will continue to face.
You have been relentless, relentless champions of the critically important idea that is the essence of why you exist: the idea that American leadership, side by side with our partners in the Atlantic community, can and will meet all the great challenges of our day. And we’ll do it together because it’s much more difficult, and sometimes not possible when we try to do it independently. And that remains – that remains true for the future challenges we will face.
The Atlantic Council was born, as you know, at a time of crisis – 1961 – as the wall that became the Cold War’s defining symbol was being erected. American and Soviet troops faced off across a divided city of Berlin, and a young American president confronting the greatest challenge of his time declared, and I quote, “We seek peace, but we shall not surrender.”
He went on to say, “The Atlantic community, as we know it, has been built in a response to challenge. Now, standing strong and prosperous after an unprecedented decade of process – of progress – the Atlantic community will not forget either its history or the principles which gave it meaning.”
Those words are as relevant in my view, and I suspect of you – of all of you in this room, today in 2011 as they were when they were spoken in 1961.
America’s partners across the Atlantic remain our oldest friends, our – and collectively, our closest allies. And it’s hard to imagine; it’s hard to imagine a single threat or opportunity that we cannot address more effectively if we do it together.
As President Obama said not too long ago, he said, Europe is “the cornerstone of our engagement with the world and a catalyst for global cooperation.” With no other region in the world does the United (ph) share so many values, interests, capabilities and goals. That doesn’t mean we agree on everything; God knows we’ve all attended those interminable conferences about “whether NATO” – (laughter) – God knows we’ve been declared dead so many times by the chattering class.
We obviously don’t agree on everything, even to this day, but we agree on this: We need each other; we’re stronger with each other; and we can do more for the world with each other.
Let me say it flatly: We have – the president and I, and all of you in this room, I suspect – we have, and we’ll continue to support, a strong, vibrant European Union. We believe the stronger the – a stronger EU means a stronger Europe, and a stronger Europe is fundamentally in the interests of the United States of America.
Everyone, everyone in this room knows the facts: The EU is our largest trading partner, and our trading relationship supports millions of jobs on both sides of the Atlantic; together – together, we have broadened and deepened our counterterrorism cooperation, kept 800 million citizens in the United States and the EU safe from devastating attacks since 9/11, although there have been attacks in Europe – although more remains to be done. It’s hard to imagine how it can get done without us staying together.
Together, we have put an unprecedented pressure on Iran through strong, coordinated sanctions. Together, we’ve worked to resolve political crises in South Sudan, Belarus, Burma, Yemen. And together, we’ve joined forces in response to the wave of popular uprising across the Middle East that will reverberate probably for several decades.
The work of this partnership intersects on many fronts with our leadership in NATO, the greatest military alliance in the history of mankind. We know that we had to adapt NATO to the – to this changing world and expand it from 12 founding members to 28 as a consequence of the profound changes that have taken place in the last two decades.
My colleagues are always kidding me because I’m always quoting Irish poets. There’s a great line that – (laughter) – and it’s not my grandfather’s – (laughter) – an Irish poet. William Butler Yeats has a great line in the poem about his – his Ireland in 1916. It’s called “Easter Sunday, 1916” (sic) talking about the first rising in Ireland in the 20th century.
There’s a line; he said, All’s changed, changed utterly; a terrible beauty has been born. All has changed, changed utterly since the early ’90s. And a terrible beauty has been born. And it will be shaped either looking ugly or beautiful in large part by the kind of cooperation and extension of cooperation the Atlantic alliance continues to engage in.
The end of the Cold War, the end of the bipolar world, the birth of a newly democratic and newly independent nations across the European continent, the emergence of trans-Atlantic threats – transnational threats, I should say, like nuclear proliferation and stateless terrorism – the most recent step came at Lisbon last November when NATO adopted a New Strategic Concept to help meet the 21st-century challenges.
President Obama and I firmly believe, firmly believe, that there must be no distinction between old and new members of NATO. So to adapt, we began to move, and all of us moved together, on making sure that the Article 5 commitments extended to every nation in NATO – not implicitly; explicitly. An attack on one is an attack on all because all NATO members deserve the same protection.
We also updated our mission to address the modern threats like ballistic – ballistic missile proliferation and cyberattacks. And we have finally settled the old debate about whether NATO should act outside of the treaty area by recognizing the alliance must be prepared to respond both within Europe and beyond Europe. That includes Afghanistan, where troops are bravely – excuse me – working to disrupt, dismantle and eventually defeat al-Qaida, and to help build up an Afghan security force so that Afghanistanis (ph) never again become the haven – or Afghanistan never again becomes the haven for terrorists.
In Lisbon, we agreed to a transition plan to – to Afghan control, and to start that transition this year. We agreed that in July we will start drawing down NATO forces in Afghanistan. We agreed that by the end of 2014, Afghans will have full responsibility for security throughout their country. We also agreed on a path forward on missile defense, a system designed first and foremost to guard against threats to Europe – to Europe and deployed U.S. forces. But that will ultimately in the process enhance and protect the American people as well.
We invited Russia to cooperate with us to develop a missile-defense capability. I spent an extensive amount of time with Prime Minister Putin and with President Medvedev not but two months ago discussing how we move forward on this, and I believe we will. We want Russia to be an integral part of the Atlantic community, a partner that shares interests with America, NATO and all of Europe, and a key to forging an arc of stability from Western Europe to the Pacific. We have a long way to go, but it’s something worth pursuing.
We reset our relationship with Russia. In the first speech the administration made, I was asked to make it in Munich immediately after being elected. We had announced at the Munich conference back in 2009 that we were going to reset, and it’s yielded significant results. It led to a New START treaty and to an unprecedented cooperation on counterterrorism and nuclear proliferation threats like Iran and North Korea. Missile-defense cooperation can be the next big step forward, and an active discussion is underway.
Meanwhile, Europe and the United States are also – excuse me – are also embarking on a new frontier of economic ties with Russia that complements this growing strategic relationship. Toward that end, I and the president are committed, and we’ve made it clear – I’ve made it clear to Medvedev, to President Medvedev and Prime Minister Putin when I traveled to Russia in March that the United States strongly supports Russia’s accession to the WTO, and that we will work with the Congress to lift Jackson-Vanik, an anachronistic situation which long ago accomplished its original objectives.
It’s in our interest for them to move west. Simply put, we think better bilateral relations with Russia has been better for the world and for Europe, and particularly Eastern Europe.
At the same time – at the same time we set this reset button, we made it clear that there are certain redlines: We do not recognize any nation having a sphere of influence, and we will – and it will remain our view that sovereign states have the right to make their own decisions and to choose their own alliances. So there has not been any ambiguity on that point with our friends in Russia.
As I said at the outset, this is a world in transition. Twenty years ago, Europeans from Berlin to Vladivostok began a difficult journey to freedom, journeys that captured the imagination and inspired the whole world. Today, these nations are free by and large, if not totally. And they can be a shining example for Egyptians and Tunisians and others who are embarking on a similar transition, and in an entire swath of the world.
That’s why we no longer think in terms of what we can do for countries in Eastern and Central Europe and the South Caucasus, but we – what can we do with them and with all of our Atlantic partners to continue this progress. Our relationship with Europe will be essential as we move from the confrontation to cooperation with Russia and as we navigate the transformation that’s taking place in the Middle East. That’s what we mean when we say, Europe is the cornerstone of our engagement and a catalyst for global cooperation.
The president’s National Security Strategy recognizes this reality. It says, and I quote, “the burdens of a young century cannot fall on America’s shoulders alone.” And thus far this year, our allies have played a leading role in NATO’s newest missions to protect the Libyan people from a murderous dictator. And as a consequence of our unity, we are joined by regional partners like Qatar and the United Arab Emirates and others with – with the will and the capacity to contribute, like Sweden. This is burden-sharing in action, and it benefits everyone.
But burden-sharing requires a sustained commitment to the alliance’s goals. We strongly believe that membership in NATO brings with it responsibilities, a responsibility that can only be met by devoting a sufficient amount of resources to the defense of that country.
For many years, only a handful of NATO’s members have reached the defense spending target of 2 percent of GDP. So we’ll continue to urge our allies, even in these difficult economic times, to devote resources that today’s challenges require so that we can all – so that we’re all capable of meeting those challenges together.
Folks, the arc of history is not very long here. NATO was formed only 60 years ago when Europe was in chaos. In that short timeframe together, we’ve made remarkable, astonishing progress.
After we crushed fascism, we dismantled communism, raised the standard of living for all of Europe, and provided the most universal application of human rights and prosperity Europe has ever seen in its entire history. And in spite of this, for over three decades, as I said earlier, I’ve been attending meetings where the question is, is the alliance still relevant? Is NATO still relevant? Can the trans-Atlantic relationship be sustained? Well, ladies and gentlemen, the truth is, the relationship remains as central to our interests – our mutual interests, in my view – as it ever has. And this alliance continues to serve the interests of its members.
I wanted my children – if you excuse, as we say in the Senate, a point of personal reference – my children and grandchildren to understand how remarkable this progress has been, and to fully understand that they had to be aware of what it was like prior to the alliance, prior to NATO, in order to make sure that their generation understood why this had to continue.
So years ago, when my grown sons were 15-years old each, like many of you, I took them to Europe. The first stop, in the case of each of my sons in successive years, was Dachau. I wanted them to see – I wanted them to see not only the inhumanity that was visited upon mankind, but how far we’ve come and the progress that was made in spite of that, and it was at that time not more than 40 years before.
I brought my – speaking of Finnegan, I brought my granddaughter, Finnegan Biden, on one of these trips recently into Prague so I could show her, let her see with her own eyes in the not-so-distant past how freedom triumphed over 20th-century tyrannies of fascism and communism.
It’s important that this generation and future generations understand how and why these accomplishments were made possible. Sacrifices and hard work and shared values was what made them possible. And ultimately, it was the recognition that together – together – we could change the face of the world.
Let me end where I began: The next half-century of transition will be just as consequential as the last half-century of the last century. Ladies and gentlemen, I think we’re going to look back, our children and grandchildren will look back and see how well did we navigate these incredible changes that run from the Caucasus all the way to China, from Tunisia all the way – from Morocco all the way to Pakistan and India. Because the changes are going to be profound – profound.
Advancing the lot of humanity is going to continue to depend upon, in my view, the solidarity of the Atlantic community. It’s going to fall to future generations and to organizations like the Atlantic Council to sustain this partnership. And once again, our children and our grandchildren will hear about why it’s not necessary, why it’s too difficult, why it requires too much effort.
Well, I’m here to tell you that if they don’t exercise the same degree of effort, attempt the same degree of solidarity and stay with it, the next 50 years will not be written as well as they might otherwise be.
I’m hopeful and confident that 50 years from now on your 100th anniversary, I will be your speaker – no. (Laughter.) On your 100th anniversary, you’ll have a speaker to testify to even greater security and prosperity that it helps to provide for all peoples.
Thank you again for allowing me to be with you. And may God bless you all, and may God protect our troops. Thank you. (Applause.)
ANNA ELIASSON SCHAMIS: Thank you, Mr. Vice President. It’s really an honor to have the vice president of the United States with us tonight to launch our 50th anniversary celebration. I’m the vice president of the Atlantic Council – (laughter) – Anna Eliasson Schamis – and I want to extend sincere gratitude to all of our guests here tonight. We couldn’t do our important work without your support. You are a critical part of the Atlantic Council family.
We will now give you a short break to enjoy your dinner. When we resume the program, the 2011 military, business and artistic leadership awards will be given. And we’re also in for a very special treat from the talented soprano Jennifer Lynn Waters.
So enjoy your dinner, and stay tuned for this wonderful evening. Thank you. (Applause.)
JOE SCARBOROUGH: All right. We are ready to begin the awards portion of our program. (Off mic.) Let us pray. All right. (Off mic.) There we go. (Off mic.) Thank you, Jenny. No. (Off mic.)
Ladies and gentlemen, it is our pleasure now to introduce you to the president and the CEO of the Atlantic Council, Fred Kempe. Now, over the past four years, Fred has presided over a period of enormous growth and accomplishment. And of course, he came from a successful career at The Wall Street Journal, where he was a prizewinning correspondent, a columnist, an editor and an associate publisher for Wall Street Journal Europe. And he’s also the author of three books.
MIKA BRZEZINSKI: Actually, Joe, if I could interrupt you, I’d like to mention that Fred is actually releasing a new book in May, a fourth book. His fourth book is called “Berlin 1961: Kennedy, Khrushchev and the World’s Most Dangerous Place.” And while we’re on the topic of books, my new book, which is called – (chuckles, applause) – shameless, really – “Knowing Your Value: Women, Money and Getting What You’re Worth” is actually going to be in your gift bags this evening. Ladies, read it; men, be afraid. (Laughter.) Be very afraid.
Alongside our books will be another brilliant book by Atlantic Council board member Tom Blair called “Poorer Richard’s America,” with a forward by NBC’s Tom Brokaw to make it completely incestuous.
MR. SCARBOROUGH: All right. So, now that the plug is over with – and I do not know how much money exchanged hands between Fred and Mika – let us introduce to you the president and CEO and soon-to-be bestselling author Fred Kempe. (Applause.)
FRED KEMPE: Thank you, Joe; thank you, Mika. And Mika and Tom Blair, I’m just delighted this many people showed up for our book party. (Laughter.) First, I’d like to thank the vice president of the United States, Joe Biden. He could have given a dinner speech. I think it’s a salute to the Atlantic Council, to all of you, that he gave a speech of huge importance and chose to give it here. And we’ll certainly put it up on our site tomorrow in full text. But let’s salute the vice president. (Applause.)
Also, I would be remiss if I did not thank the Atlantic Council staff for repeating this magic year after year. They make throwing an event of this magnitude look easy, but I assure you that it is not. And beyond the people doing this event, this is the ethos, this is the work ethic of the staff and every one of our programs and senders. And I want all of the staff of the Atlantic Council who are here to please stand. And join me in applauding them. (Applause.)
Now, I do want to thank my chairman, Senator Hagel. I can’t tell you what an honor it’s been to work with someone of such integrity, principles, focus. We’re just getting a hell of a lot done. I also want to thank him for the salute he gave my book. But I do want you to know, Senator, that no good deed goes unpunished. Sitting next to me is Charlie Rose and my publisher is so thrilled that Charlie Rose is interviewing me next year for my book. His show has a greater percentage of viewers who are actually book-buyers than anything on television, perhaps. And he leaned over to me and he said, you know, I think you’re getting a little too overexposed for my show. (Chuckles, laughter.) So, Charlie, forget anything that’s happened this evening.
It’s Anna Eliasson Schamis, my vice president, and her team who creates this magic. Anna, I wonder if you could come up and join me on stage to help acknowledge our supporters briefly. Thank you. (Applause.)
ANNA ELIASSON SCHAMIS: Thank you, Fred. It’s my great privilege to stand here with you and thank all of our supporters. In fact, if you ever decide to launch your own talk show – Morning Fred – I’d like to apply as your cohost. (Laughter.)
MR. KEMPE: How would Sunday brunch be? (Laughter.)
MS. SCHAMIS: It’s now my great pleasure to introduce our 50th anniversary and dinner co-chairs, who are with us here tonight. Please hold your applause until the end. Co-chairs, please stand so we can recognize your amazing contributions to the Atlantic Council.
Bob Abernethy, Adrienne Arsht, Shaukat Aziz, Jose Maria Aznar, Tom Blair, Henry Catto, Manuel Fernando Espírito Santo, Tom Glocer, Boyden Gray, Bahaa Hariri, George Lund, Ezak Majid (ph), Alexander Mirtchev, Bob Moritz, Georgette Mosbacher, Husam Olayan (ph), Tuncay Özilhan, Dinu Patriciu, Brent Scowcroft, Jim Turley, Tzvetan Vassilev, Jacob Wallenberg, Mache Vituski (ph) and John Wren. (Applause.)
MR. KEMPE: Thank you, Anna, and thank you for pronouncing them all perfectly. (Laughter.) But I think if you heard those names, you – it captures the global – the trans-Atlantic and global nature of the Atlantic Council. There are people cheering in all sorts of different languages around here. (Laughter.)
Joe, you pointed out the growing relevance of our mission, even in our 50th year: renewing the Atlantic community for global challenges. President Kennedy talked about it in his State of the Union a half-century ago, where he worried – and if you read this State of the Union, it’s really quite amazing how deeply he worried – about the state of the alliance, even as he noted how crucial it was.
For his part, President Obama recently called the trans-Atlantic relationship “the global catalyst. Quote, “Neither Europe or the United States can confront the challenges of our time without the other,” said President Obama. It is with that – actually, let me go back to Senator Biden for one other second before I move on.
I want to echo one comment Vice President Biden made, and it was his salute to Ron Asmus, who died over the weekend at age 53. His death was a big loss to the German Marshall Friend – German Marshall Fund and our friends at the German Marshall Fund. It was a huge loss to the trans-Atlantic community. He was a friend of mine for 30 years, an inspiration to me so often, an architect of NATO enlargement and a friend of so many in this audience. He would not tolerate a moment of silence, but he would appreciate a round of applause. (Applause.)
It is in the context of our mission, renewing the Atlantic community for global challenges, that we launch the Atlantic Council’s 50th anniversary and announce two groundbreaking initiatives the vice president mentioned. It is my honor to be joined – and they will come up here at the end of all of these remarks – by our chairman, Senator Hagel, our international advisory board chairman, General Scowcroft, General Jones, Bahaa Hariri and former Pakistani Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz and George Lund, for this important moment in the program. Each of them was instrumental to these two initiatives.
As we celebrate the 50th anniversary, we are looking forward to the next half-century. We also want to take up President Obama’s challenge that the Atlantic community act more as a global catalyst because we know it’s not there and we know it’s essential.
In that spirit, we are announcing this evening a yearlong campaign to create the Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security, with its aim of harnessing America’s most important international relationship for this new set of global challenges.
And at this crucial moment in the Mideast history, we also launch the Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East, to bring together North America, Europe, Russia, the Middle East and North Africa in common efforts to address the crucial, urgent and long lasting challenges of that region. So this is not going to be fixed in weeks or months – this is going to be addressed in years with a great deal of strategic patience.
It is my privilege now to yield the floor to the chairman-designate – and we’re so grateful that he has taken on this job – the chairman designate of the Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security, General Jim Jones. (Applause.)
As you know, Jim is former national security advisor, former supreme allied commander, Europe and former Marine Corps commandant and, most important of all your accolades and positions, is former chairman of the Atlantic Council. You’re also the recipient of the Atlantic Council’s Distinguished Military Leadership award at our 2007 awards dinner, where – for those who were there, it was quite a moment in history – he sang Édith Piaf in his fluent French. I only mention that because General Jones made me promise that I would not. (Laughter.)
So please salute our dear friend, a fair singer and a great American, General Jim Jones. (Applause.)
GENERAL JAMES L. JONES: Fred, thank you very much for that introduction. And, no, Fred, for the thousandth time, I’m not going to be singing tonight – you’re very fortunate. And, actually, I’m surprised that anybody who was there that night came back to this gala. (Laughter.)
It’s a real pleasure to be here this evening for the announcement of the campaign for the Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security, and to be named as its first chairman-designate. I’m deeply honored to be part of building this center, which will not only pay tribute to one of the great statesmen of our time, but will also position this organization to shape the international security debate for decades to come.
The Atlantic Council is launching the Scowcroft Center to help the trans-Atlantic community adjust to a rapidly evolving landscape marked by new centers of power, influential non-state actors and technology and non-traditional security threats. Addressing these complex challenges requires serious nonpartisan and inclusive debate that can help devise the proper strategies for success. It requires a strategic engagement of new partners and a broadening of the trans-Atlantic dialogue on security to confront borderless threats and tackle our common challenges.
It also requires wisdom and humility to look at the world for the – for the way it is to better make it more like the world we want it to be. And it requires very strong and principled U.S. leadership in the world to advance not only our own interests and values but to make the world a safer place, which is, essentially, what American leadership in the 21st century will be about.
So in essence, the world today and the world of the future needs a Brent Scowcroft. And we are creating this center to embody the values and approach that have defined this remarkable American’s peerless career, earned him the respect of Republicans and Democrats in America and statesmen all over the world and made him the point of reference for national security advisors, not just in the United States but in a growing number of countries that seek to build a national security process in the mold created by Brent Scowcroft.
This center will build on the Council’s important traditions of fostering nonpartisan dialogue, by aggregating best thinkers and producing policy-relevant programming that responds to the needs of decision-makers. By expanding the Council’s scope of activities on international security to address the complex new threats and study new regions, the center will serve as an intellectual resource for the trans-Atlantic community as it seeks to transform itself for the challenges of a new era. I can think of no more worthy cause than to associate the name of Brent Scowcroft than that.
So, ladies and gentlemen, it is a great pleasure for me to introduce someone who has been a mentor and a close friend for many years. And I was fortunate enough to be the recipient of his wise counsel in the days leading up to my accepting President Obama’s offer to become his national security advisor. And throughout the time I was in office, I am deeply – I was deeply grateful to him for his having graciously agreed to serve as an anchor donor for the new Scowcroft Center of International Security forum. And I am proud to introduce now a gentleman who will join me in playing a leading role in the campaign for the Scowcroft Center: ladies and gentlemen, Mr. George Lund. Thank you.
GEORGE LUND: Thank you, General Jones. I am honored to serve as the vice-chairman of the Scowcroft Center and in leading this campaign with General Jones, and to be with all of you for this extraordinary evening.
When Fred Kempe approached me about building the Scowcroft Center, I saw immediately the great importance of this campaign and was motivated not only to take on a leading role in this campaign but also to make a founding commitment to the center. In doing so, I am privileged to join President George H. W. Bush and others who have stepped forward to make founding gifts to the campaign. And I look forward to visiting with many of you about it – this is a fundraiser, after all. (Laughter.)
We are also announcing tonight the establishment of the Scowcroft Center’s first chair, and it’s named in memory of Arnold Kanter. And thanks to the – (applause) – and even better – even better, it is due to the friendship, generosity and love of Brent Scowcroft himself this chair has been established. And through this chair, we’ll continue to remember Arnie for his brilliant insights, kindly ways, provocative thoughts, generous humor, demanding standards and his universal readiness to help in any cause, great or small. It is especially wonderful to have his family with us this evening: Anne, Noah and Clare Kanter, and if they’re out there, maybe we can say hello to them. (Applause.)
And now to the business at hand: Tonight, we are launching this campaign and founding this center to pay tribute to General Scowcroft. I know he would like me to keep this short, but there’s no such luck tonight, my friend.
General Scowcroft is a soldier with a distinguished 29-year military career that concluded with his retirement from the Air Force as a lieutenant general. He is a statesman who, as national security advisor to President George H. W. Bush and Gerald Ford and deputy national security advisor to President Nixon, managed the national security and foreign policy process for three different presidents – a record without parallel in American history.
General Scowcroft is a scholar who holds a doctorate from Columbia and served as professor of Russian history at West Point. He is an inspiring leader who for over 30 years has provided vision, energy and direction, serving as a board member, then chair and now at – still chairing its international advisory committee for the Atlantic Council.
Perhaps most importantly, he is the consummate gentleman, always treating everyone with the highest respect and regard, from the commander-in-chief and foreign dignitaries to personal staff and interns. It is in honor of that Brent Scowcroft, the soldier, the statesman, the mentor, the leader and the gentleman, a man that so many of us in this room and around the world cherish and love, that we are building this center that will bear his name. It is my great pleasure to introduce General Brent Scowcroft. (Applause.)
GENERAL BRENT SCOWCROFT: I’m not the vice president – you don’t have to stand. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. My humble thanks to you both, George and Jim, for your kind and overly generous remarks. You’re both longtime, dear friends, and I’m grateful for your loyalty and commitment to the Atlantic Council and your leadership in helping to build this center.
I’m also deeply touched by the steps taken, which I am happy to support, for the Arnold Kanter Center – chair for the center – to commemorate the man who was a visionary leader for us all, and particularly for me. It is a special honor for me to have my name associated with the Atlantic Council’s work on international security. Those of you who know me realize I try to avoid this sort of thing, so I hope it tells you all how enthusiastic I am about the Atlantic Council at this point of history.
I am deeply touched by the new Center on International Security because I believe a new and complex security agenda is impossible to achieve without fresh and innovative trans-Atlantic thinking, which is what this new Atlantic Council is all about.
In today’s globalized world – and that’s a much overworked word, but it really is true, as the Arab Spring has showed us – it’s marked by borderless threats, rising powers, empowered non-state actors. In this kind of a world, it’s more important, more essential than ever that we take care of this, our closest and most important relationship and community of common values.
We, after all, are the people who have a common view of man and his relationship to society and government. But equally important will be the task of establishing deeper relationships, partnerships with emerging powers outside the Euro-Atlantic area, whose cooperation will be essential for building this new, safer world.
I look forward to watching the center become a leading source of bipartisan intellectual leadership in helping to renovate the trans-(alliance ?) security – military relationship for what our distinguished military leadership award, Admiral Jim Stavridis, refers to as the “new new world,” and that is true in every respect.
And now, it is my great pleasure to introduce to you this evening Mr. Bahaa Hariri, a prominent business leader, visionary philanthropist, and the eldest son of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri. He’s the founding sponsor of the new Rafik Hariri Center on the Middle East at the Atlantic Council. The Hariri Center will pay tribute to the legacy of Rafik Hariri, who was tragically assassinated in 2005 at the pinnacle of an illustrious career as statesman, businessman and philanthropist.
A self-made man, Rafik Hariri was the epitome of reform in the Middle East. He advocated for political plurality, economic progress, and rejected the sectarian divisions that so trouble the region.
The center will work to bring North Africa, Europe and the Middle East closer together and further political progress, regional integration and economic reform across the region as a whole. Crucial to the center’s creation was the leadership of the former prime minister of Pakistan, the eminent Shaukat Aziz, who as a member of the council’s international advisory board and together with Fred Kempe and Bahaa Hariri, developed the vision for this new center.
It is now my distinct pleasure and honor to introduce to you the founding sponsor of the Rafik Hariri Center, Bahaa Hariri. (Applause.)
BAHAA HARIRI: Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, I am very pleased to attend the annual Atlantic Council gala and be present in your midst tonight. The Middle East is an important part of the world and is facing numerous challenges. I cannot think of a better time to be part of the Atlantic Council’s initiative to launch the Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East, which will focus on the challenges and opportunities facing the Middle East and North Africa region.
Through the center, we will work on the convergence of efforts between the U.S., Europe and Russia and our region to move towards our ambitious but definitely attainable objectives. Ladies and gentlemen, my late father, Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, believed in peace, harmony and tolerance, and he gave his life promoting the cause of peace in the region. The setting up of the center is a tribute to his efforts, and I am proud to be part of this very important initiative.
Let me conclude by thanking the Atlantic Council, Brent Scowcroft, Chuck Hagel, Fred Kempe and my friend Shaukat Aziz for their effort to make the Rafik Hariri Center a reality. Thank you. (Applause.)
MR. KEMPE: Bahaa, thank you for your great commitment and support. I think those of us who have met your father, and I did as a Wall Street Journal correspondent when he was a business leader, know what a tragedy it was for the region, his death, but we also know what you’ve entrusted to the Atlantic Council, and we know how to value that. So thank you very much.
So I want to invite up to the stage those who were crucial and will be crucial to the future of this – these two centers. So General Scowcroft, if you could come back for a moment, General Jones, Bahaa Hariri, Shaukat Aziz and George Lund, if you could please join me on stage. I think they’re going to come back here. We’re just going to have a – while you’re applauding them and thanking them for this initiative, we’ll also have a couple of photos taken of them, unless of course they’ve all kind of disappeared – (laughter) – to celebrate somewhere else – (chuckles).
MR. : Thank you, Fred.
MR. KEMPE: I think they are coming. The – well, Joe and Mika, what do you do at a moment like this? (Laughter.) There we go. Here they – they’re coming, there we go – (applause).
MS. : (Inaudible.) (Cheers, applause.) At the other end – the other end. (Applause.)
MR. KEMPE: (Chuckles) – so just when you think nothing can go wrong. It is my privilege now to turn to the distinguished leadership awards of the evening. It is a personal pleasure also to introduce the winner of the Atlantic Council’s 2007 award for military leadership – oh no, I’m sorry – the – I do apologize, things were going so well – (laughter) – and you should never really get a print journalist working in the sort of televised, teleprompter age. Let me turn back over to my colleague, my friend and the chairman of the Scowcroft Center, General Jim Jones. (Applause.)
GEN. JONES: Thank you, Fred. You might want to put that to music. (Laughter.) Ladies and gentlemen, it is my turn now to present the distinguished leadership award for the evening. It is a personal pleasure to also introduce the winner of the Atlantic Council’s 2011 award for military leadership. And this year, it is being awarded to a very deserving and uniquely talented military leader, Admiral Jim Stavridis.
In recent years, the Atlantic Council has given the honor to Admiral Mullen, General Mattis and General Petraeus, all great – and General Abrial – all great American warriors who are part of the pantheon of superb modern military leaders. And I also think they join a group of leaders such as Grant, Eisenhower and Marshall, people who not only served their country on the battlefield but also left a larger imprint beyond the military sphere and left America and the world a bit better off than before.
I think Jim fits the same mold: an officer firmly grounded in the naval and military arts but who has also lifted his gaze above and beyond the military matters to take into account the political, economic, social, cultural and geopolitical implications of his job. He is cultured beyond the art of war, a man who speaks multiple languages, has a distinct knowledge of great food and wine, is a gifted athlete who lettered in tennis and squash at the Naval Academy and has a reading list on the NATO website, fiction and nonfiction, that even puts Oprah Winfrey to shame. (Laughter.)
When Jim took over the Supreme Allied Commander Europe and as combatant commander of the United States European Command, the Washington Post called him a renaissance admiral, and I think that’s a real fitting description of Jim. He has commanded a destroyer, a destroyer squadron, a carrier strike group and taken them on combat deployments and back.
In short, he is a practical military leader, but he also serves – he also authors four books – this is a book party tonight, don’t forget – (laughter). He is a believer in learning the ancient history and culture of America’s partners and allies in order for us to better understand them, but he’s also an avid user of the latest technology.
In recent years, much of Washington has spoken about the importance of a whole-of-government approach, in that preventative operations and efforts cost less in blood and treasure than the combat operations which might become necessary down the road if you don’t work on the front end of security problems.
Jim, on the other hand, has acted on those ideas and implemented them in the real world. As commander of the United States Southern Command, Admiral Stavridis instituted and implemented a set of novel initiatives that not only brought a more cohesive focus to America’s security and defense efforts in South America, but he also deepened America’s relationship on that continent by capacity-building efforts, joint exercises and exchanges.
Jim took over SACEUR at a momentous time in the alliance’s history. NATO is currently facing the age of austerity, with defense budgets shrinking across the alliance, and the alliance is busier than ever. Currently, NATO is engaged in multiple operations spanning the globe, including efforts to stabilize and rebuild Afghanistan, rebuild the peace in Kosovo, monitor in patrolling the Mediterranean as part of the effort against global terrorism, protecting Libyan civilians, counter piracy off the coast of Somalia, and helping to rebuild Iraq’s security forces.
Admiral Stavridis has handled these and other challenges with much aplomb. Despite the current challenges, I think NATO is in great hands with Jim as the skipper. The United States, NATO and the trans-Atlantic community are so very fortunate to have a leader like Admiral Jim Stavridis to help guide us through these very trying times.
Jim, on behalf of all of us here, we thank you and honor your service. We congratulate you on this award. I’d like to invite you to please join me on stage to receive on the Atlantic Council’s 50th anniversary the Atlantic Council’s 2011 distinguished military leadership award for your extraordinary service to the United States, the trans-Atlantic community, and the world.
(Applause, music plays.)
ADMIRAL JAMES G. STAVRIDIS: Thank you very much. Please, thank you very much. General Jones of course was SACEUR number 14. I am SACEUR number 16, and I would say between us, you have the long and the short of it – (laughter). In fact, you know, I would suspect some would say, as I de-elevated this microphone, that we were seeing metaphorically the decline of the alliance – (laughter) – from this enormous point of stature to today’s world. But I’m going to try and look a little taller for all of you.
It has been an extraordinary evening, and I thank all of you for your attendance tonight. Above all, I truly thank General Jones for that wildly over-gracious introduction. I, too, want to add my voice in congratulations to General Scowcroft, who has been also to me a mentor and a friend; Fred Kempe, who I think has energized this organization; Senator Chuck Hagel, another mentor and friend; and all of the team here at the Atlantic Council.
I also – and a point of personal reference, as former senator, now Vice President Biden said, I’d like to acknowledge two former secretaries of the Navy in the House, Richard Danzig and Sean O’Keefe. I worked for both of them – (applause) – they are two wonderful, wonderful mentors of mine.
I – of course, as SACEUR, like General Jones, I have the opportunity to travel widely in Europe, and I get to go occasionally to the opera. And recently, I saw “Don Carlos.” Domingo Placido, this is for you. Don’t worry, I’m not going to sing tonight, but I do want to reveal that I have been quietly taking some opera lessons on the side, and I hope to come back here in a couple of years and live up to the standards of Edith Piaf – of Placido Domingo and do “la donna è mobile” right here on this stage in a couple of years, so – (applause) – yeah.
In all seriousness, I accept this award not for me – I am not deserving of it – this is an award that is representative of 150,000 – that’s 150,000 – NATO airmen, sailors, soldiers, Marines who are on active service today in Afghanistan, in Libya, in the Balkans, in counterpiracy missions. This is an extraordinary moment for the alliance, and on their behalf, I am privileged to accept this.
I will tell you that I believe in this alliance. I think it is a fundamental plank in the trans-Atlantic relationship about which Vice President Biden spoke so eloquently earlier today. I also feel that we are not simply focused on the missions of today. We are looking actively at cyber, at missile defense, at the increased use of unmanned aircraft, at new technologies that connect us. In all of these ways, this is an alliance that is not only performing operationally today but is in every sense looking to the future.
And in the midst of all our appropriate concern about the economic crises we face, let us not forget that this alliance, this NATO alliance, represents half of the global gross domestic product of the world, $32 trillion in GDP represented by the NATO alliance. Seven million men and women who are under arms, either active or reserve, tens of thousands of aircraft, hundreds and hundreds of oceangoing warships. This is a very robust and successful alliance.
And I will use my very brief remaining time to simply say a word about our most current operation, which is Libya. As we all know, we have been engaged for many years in Afghanistan; we’ve been many, many years in the Balkans; we’ve been at sea in counterpiracy; we were engaged in Iraq training Iraqi security forces. But just over five weeks ago this alliance took on a new mission: to take and support the United Nations Security Council resolutions 1970 and (19)73 to establish an arms embargo, a no-fly zone, to protect the people of Afghanistan.
And I would argue that we have done that fairly well in the five weeks that we have been engaged in this mission. We have launched 5,000 sorties, we have conducted 2,000 strike sorties, we have almost 20 warships on patrol doing the no-fly zone. And I think for this American audience it is worth highlighting that this is being conducted very much under the European side of this alliance in the lead on the strike missions and very much in the lead at sea.
Of the 18 ships on station tonight, all of them are European. Of the strike sorties that are being flown this week, all of them are European or Arab. The United States is providing a vital role in intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, refueling. But this is very much the European side of the alliance stepping up and taking on this very challenging task, and I think performing it – in an arms embargo, a no-fly zone and indeed in this protect the people of Afghanistan mission – successfully.
We are at early days in this operation, but my hope is that the NATO effort will create the environment which will allow the political, the diplomatic and the economic efforts to create the conditions so that Libya can move forward.
So that’s a quick report on the latest operation, only one of many. A hundred and fifty thousand who are tonight, while we enjoy and celebrate in this magnificent setting, 150,000 from 28 nations operating around the globe – on their behalf I accept this award.
And I will say, in closing, that tonight men and women from across this alliance sail at sea, they fly in dangerous skies, they march down dusty streets, they climb high mountains and they take for all of us the opportunity to preserve our freedom , which we cherish, and our lives, which they defend. On their behalf I accept this award. Thank you very much; it’s been a pleasure being with you. Thank you very much. Thank you.
MR. SCARBOROUGH: Admiral, thank you so much for your extraordinary service to America and the world, particularly at a time of NATO operations in Afghanistan and the Balkans and the Middle East. We certainly do salute you for all of your work.
Now, our next honoree also represents what is so great about our country.
MS. BRZEZINSKI: We now turn our attention to our Distinguished Business Leadership Awardee Muhtar Kent, who is chairman and CEO of one of the most important public diplomacy brands this country has ever had. He took a job at Coca-Cola in response to a classified ad, after having served his military duty in Turkey where his diplomat father was called the Turkish Schindler for having risked his life to save Jews during World War II.
MR. SCARBOROUGH: Now, we are very excited. As you know, Fred Kempe is very focused tonight on one thing and one thing only: selling his next book. And Fred said that Charlie Rose was going to be here tonight and that Charlie was actually the host of the show that sold the most books, which, Fred, I think is actually a very cute thing to say, when in reality it’s actually number two in that category. Let’s cancel Fred for next week.
MS. BRZEZINSKI: Now stop.
MR. SCARBOROUGH: Ladies and gentlemen, seriously, please welcome the host of the award-winning “Charlie Rose Show,” coincidently titled after a man named Charlie Rose. Charlie, come on up.
(Applause, cross talk.)
CHARLIE ROSE: I always said the best thing you can do is follow someone who said something about you. I just want to say that I am honored to be here and when I think about the people who’ve been at this podium this evening, and the people who will follow me, I am deeply honored to share the same podium.
I am a bit envious of the people who just left here because I get up every morning and watch them and they have all these phenomenal guests, and I wish that I could come over and kidnap them and bring them to 11 o’clock. When I look at their career you know, you know they’ve got this extraordinary future and potential. For example they might be anchors of the evening news – I hope they won’t be at 11 o’clock – or they could take over a morning show, you never know.
I am also proud to be here because of my friend Muhtar Kent. He is, as you know, since 2008 the CEO of the Coca-Cola company. When Winston Churchill, and many of you know this, went to 10 Downing in 1940 to be prime minister, he said: Everything I have done up until this moment has trained me for this moment that I begin. And so it might be with Muhtar as a CEO.
We know that nothing compares to the dark days of 1940. But if you can say in 2011 experience matters, international experience matters more. He runs a company whose fortune rose from a secret formula. He has a secret formula too: hard work, contagious enthusiasm, restless energy, balanced optimism and an appetite for travel around the world.
Born to a diplomatic family in New York, raised in Turkey, in Thailand, in India, in Iran and Sweden, and educated in London; he is as international as the company he runs. And we all know, in today’s world, running a company now in its 125th year, selling things in 200 countries, the world’s most recognizable brand, is more challenging than ever.
It is a far different world from 1978 when a 26-year-old Muhtar Kent, son of a Turkish diplomat, read a classified ad in a New York newspaper and he went to Atlanta. And he started to work and learning the business from the ground up, or as he might say, from the truck up – he rolled out on trucks at 6:00 a.m. to call on customers where he learned to sell the brand for which now he has become the steward as CEO and chairman. Muhtar is applauded on Wall Street; because of the numbers that he delivers, Coca-Cola and diet Coca-Cola are now number one and number two of the highest selling beverages in the world.
He deserves our admiration for something that is much more important than the bottom line. It is the line that runs from Atlanta and connects to towns and villages in Africa, in Turkey, in Mexico and in China.
It is the firm recognition and commitment to be a corporate leader in this century, for him means to be committed to the idea that we are on this planet together. He believes that, when he sets up – when he sets up the Coca-Cola idea, when he sets up the Coca-Cola brand, that when a disaster happens, as it did in Japan, he and two of his directors go to Japan and begin a fund that provides $31 million in relief. That’s part of living on the planet and caring about other things beyond the company, but using the resources of the company.
Muhtar believes that when he addresses the imperative of meeting the challenge of water security by committing Coca-Cola to water neutrality, one-to-one by 2020, he believes that when he joins the debate on climate change to create global awareness, he is also serving the country. He believes that, when he leads other CEOs to be part of the debate in a global society to invest in innovation and education, entrepreneurship and trade. He believes that when he leads the U.S.-China business council and meets with Hu Jintao to chart a future when they will be more dependent, not less dependent, these two largest nations.
He believes that when he makes the empowerment of women a priority. He believes that when he sits down with his company executives, several years ago, and asks what forces will shape our planet to meet the demands of our time. He then created the 2020 Vision, recognizing a world in which population and demographics and resources, both natural and human, are critical.
Muhtar Kent knows that it is possible to be good and to do well. He knows that doing good will add to the quality of our lives and that doing well is much easier when billions of people on the planet are moving towards the middle class. Think of all those possible new Coke drinkers. I’m sure he has.
Ladies and gentlemen, would you please take a moment to turn your attention to a short video about the company and the man we honor this evening.
MR. ROSE: Ladies and gentlemen, please join me in celebrating my friend and the Atlantic Council’s 2011 Distinguished Business Leadership Awardee, Muhtar Kent.
MUHTAR KENT: Thank you, Charlie. You know, when Fred approached me a few months ago and said, we’d like to have you come to the 50th anniversary gala and would like to honor you, first I was flabbergasted. And I said, are you sure? But then he asked me, after a long discussion, who would you like to have – be introduced by? And I didn’t think too much, it was in the first few minutes, and I said, if you have to do this, Fred, it’ll be Charlie Rose because he is such a great friend. And thank you, Charlie. (Applause.) Thank you.
Thank you, Fred, General Scowcroft, Senator Hagel, the great team at the Atlantic Council for this very, very incredible honor. Distinguished leaders, secretaries, excellencies, leaders, good friends, what a great privilege and honor it is to be sharing tonight’s awards with Admiral Stavridis and Placido Domingo. I can’t think of two people who better personify grace, integrity and also commitment.
A four-star Admiral – you heard him; a three-tenor – you’ll hear him; and a Coke guy. (Laughter.) Between three of us, maybe we can keep the world safe and in perfect harmony. (Laughter, applause.) Admiral Stavridis, Placido Domingo, please accept my very warmest wishes of – and personal wishes of congratulations, compliments on receiving this great award. Let me also express my personal gratitude for the fine work that is being advanced so meaningfully over the past half-a-century by the Atlantic Council. Happy 50th anniversary, Atlantic Council. (Applause.)
What a milestone. And as a representative of a company that has conducted business on both sides of the pond, of the Atlantic, since 1920, almost a century, Coca-Cola truly appreciates the efforts made by so many great leaders here in this room tonight to help bridge a better understanding as well as cooperation between America and the rest of the world, Europe and the rest of the world. It’s not always the easiest work, or the most glamorous work, as we’ve heard from Admiral Stavridis, but it’s absolutely essential work. And we thank you for it.
At Coca-Cola we are celebrating also an anniversary this year, in 2011. We are celebrating our 125th anniversary. (Applause.) Thank you. And we’ve learned a couple of things over the past century-and-a-quarter. And maybe the most important thing that we’ve learned is that when you are a global enterprise operating in a complex multinational environment, you need all the partnership, all the cooperation and also all the multilateral help that you can get.
And the film that you just saw really speaks to that point. We are best when we come together to create a shared value for our business, for our communities and also for the organizations that actually support us.
I like to think of it as the golden triangle. I call it the golden triangle: the golden triangle of business, of government and of civil society. And we need more of it every single day as the world gets more complex, and as things also connect faster around the world. Partnership, actually, for a better future.
So tonight’s award would not have been possible without the contributions of so many people, so many organizations around the world who worked with us on a range and host of issues.
Charlie mentioned some of them: water conservation, water neutrality by 2020, for a company that depends so much on water like us.
To packaging: recycling innovations, a plant bottle, a bottle made out of plants.
Climate change: initiatives that reduce our carbon – grow our business, reduce our carbon.
Community development programs: across the world, empowering women, developing education, developing entrepreneurial spirit around continents like Africa.
We thank them all. All those organizations.
But most importantly, I’d like to thank the true recipients of this award here. The recipients, the true recipients of that award are the 700,000-strong men and women of the Coca-Cola system around the world. The Coca-Cola system is the fourth-largest private employer in the world. (Applause.) Those 700,000 people, they are spread across 206 nations, and they are the true recipients of this award.
Once again, I thank the Atlantic Council. I couldn’t think of a better two people, two wonderful leaders to – receiving this award with, like Admiral Stavridis and Placido Domingo. And I want to thank from the bottom of my heart, on behalf of the 700,000-strong members of the Coca-Cola family around the world, to the Atlantic Council.
Thank you very much for being with us. Thank you for supporting Atlantic Council. Thank you. Thank you very much.
MS. BRZEZINSKI: Thank you, Muhtar, for your commitment and for your leadership on so many pressing global issues.
So ladies and gentlemen, we now turn to the final honoree of the evening: Maestro Placido Domingo, also known as a heartthrob to intelligent, discerning women everywhere. (Laughter.)
It always excites me to be with people who are the best at what they do – (chuckles) – but aside from being one of history’s best tenors, his directing and humanitarian accomplishments have also resonated around the world.
MR. SCARBOROUGH: Now, here to introduce him is his friend, General Colin Powell, who, I understand, actually performed for Maestro Domingo to return a favor. Of course, recalling here the breadth of General Powell’s career might take up a great part of this evening, so I’ll simply say: As a soldier and a strategist, a diplomat and a statesman, a civic leader and as a role model, General Powell, by the range of his achievements and the dedication to his service, has provided an inspiration around the world.
MS. BRZEZINSKI: The Atlantic Council 2005 recipient of the International Distinguished Leadership Award, former secretary of state, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, honorary director of the Atlantic Council, and one of the most celebrated men in this country and around the world: General Colin Powell.
GENERAL COLIN POWELL (RET.): Good evening, everyone. Thank you. Please. Please. Please, thank you. Thank you very much. Thank you.
Thank you, Mika and Joe, and good evening everyone.
I want to tell you a story. A few years ago, I came home from the office, and as I walked into my home, I noticed that on our private telephone line, the voice mail thing was blinking. It was my birthday, so I assumed one of my children had called and left a message because I wasn’t there. So I hit the button, picked it up, and the voice said: Colin, this is Placido. Happy birthday to you. (Laughter.)
Alma has warned me that I shouldn’t sing the whole thing. (Laughter.)
But Placido, my heavens, Placido Domingo singing happy birthday to me. And it was one of those cassette recorders. I could have it forever. (Laughter.) It was a collectible. It might even someday be eBayable. (Laughter.) I just couldn’t tell.
So I got in my car, I ran around the corner to a drugstore, and I bought a replacement cassette. I ran back to the house, I wanted to hear it again, and it had been erased. (Laughter.) I don’t know who did it. It was somebody who lives with me – (laughter) – and has lived with me a long time. (Laughter.) But it was gone, and I was devastated.
The next year, April 5th, the phone rings. This time I’m home. Colin, this is Placido. Happy birthday to you.
And he did it again. And he’s done it every single year when he is within striking distance of me.
But it’s not just me. I don’t know how many people he does it for. And I wish he could do it for all of you, but that would be quite impossible. But he does it for me. And it is that kind of man that I have come to know, love and admire as a dear friend. A thoughtful man, a generous man, a man who loves people, and is loved in return. And he is loved not just for his art, but for his heart.
We all know Placido Domingo as a well-renowned, multifaceted artist, and his repertoire, 134 roles, is unmatched by any tenor in history. He has made more than 100 recordings of complete operas and compilations of arias and duets. He has received 12 Grammy Awards and has made 50 music videos. He has even voiced the role of Monte in the classic Disney film “Beverly Hills Chihuahua.” (Laughter.)
He has been recognized in so many ways, to include an American Presidential of Freedom (sic) and an honorary knighthood from Queen Elizabeth, in addition to the highest honors that he has received from his native lands, Spain and Mexico. As general director of both the Los Angeles Opera and the Washington National Opera, Maestro Domingo has led his artists throughout the world in more than 450 opera performances and symphonic concerts.
So it is my pleasure to have this opportunity to give him one additional award. The Atlantic Council Award for Distinguished Artistic Leadership allows us to recognize the importance of artistic exchange in trans-Atlantic relations. It reminds us of how the artist and his art can serve the global community, transcend international boundaries and cultural differences, by inspiring us all with their art.
Placido has been, and always will be, the perfect embodiment of that spirit. He has inspired countless young artists through the Domingo-Cafritz Young Artist Program with the Washington National Opera and through the Domingo-Thornton Young Artist Program of the Los Angeles Opera.
Since his founding of Operalia in 1993, he has launched numerous young careers through his renowned international voice competition. His support of the Hear the World initiative has raised international awareness on the topic of hearing and hearing loss. His generosity and inspiration have helped relief efforts for earthquake victims in Mexico, have helped relief efforts for rebuilding New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina, and have helped relief efforts for victims of the conflict in Darfur. He can always be counted on to help when needed.
And standing by his side for 49 years, an artist in her own right, his beloved wife, Marta. And we’re so happy that she is with us here this evening as well. (Applause.)
As you may have seen in the Washington Post this past Sunday, he has been doing this for 54 years. And the Post reporter asked the question: How does he keep that marvelous voice going? How does he keep going?
And his response is: He doesn’t know. But he says he knows one thing. If you rest, you rust.
Placido, I don’t think you’ll ever rest or rust.
Ladies and gentlemen, on behalf of the Atlantic Council, it gives me great pleasure to present the Award for Distinguished Artistic Leadership to Maestro Placido Domingo.
MR. DOMINGO: Thank you, Colin. Really, among the things that’s made me happy being in Washington for 15 years has been your friendship and Alma and how many times you have been with us in the opera.
And yes indeed, this 5th of April I was flying from Mexico to Tokyo. And when I arrived to Tokyo, of course it was p.m. on the 6th. And I realized, oh, it was Colin’s birthday yesterday. So this year, I didn’t have the happy birthday that I always send him.
But he did something very special to me also. When I was, a few years back, when I was – yes, I think it was something like my 60th birthday, yes – he returned to me and he came to the party that the Washington National Opera was giving to me, so all the members of the board – and he sang happy birthday for me. (Laughter.) And he did it well, and I don’t tell him to do only the few bars, you know?
Well, ladies and gentlemen, these words are impressive already: ideas, impact, influence. I mean, and everybody certainly that has been here is full of those great things, and I cannot tell you, I mean, how impressed I was, first of all, by the speech of Vice President Joe Biden, and after so many of you that has been going here to the podium. Senator Hagel, I know that many of the members of the board of the National Opera, they came together to give me this surprise, and they talked to you, and thanks to you, I am very honored to receive this wonderful, extraordinary award.
And I am really very – it’s great, the satisfaction (being ?) near the Admiral Stavridis and Mr. Muhtar Kent for their accomplishments. I was very impressed, Admiral, because there is something that you always think when you are a little boy, you want to go on a ship, and you want to make – you know, so that’s the first thing I did when I was eight years old, almost, I crossed the Atlantic between Spain and Mexico. And so I was always a great admirer of all the people that were involved in the marine, and my God, what an accomplishments you have done. I mean, not just crossing the ocean, but doing all the important things that your career has made.
I just want to say that it is amazing, the amount – the great amount of very important people. I, of course, in these years in Washington, I have been able to meet a lot of politicians, a lot of ambassadors, the presidents, and also a lot of great friends that I have made through the company, through the Washington National Opera, which I have been very proud to be there.
I want to say that even though this year, it makes my last year, I should say that it should be my last as having administrative duties, but certainly no artistically. Artistically, I will be coming, I hope – I already am engaged by the people that will be just coming to direct the company. I hope I will be coming as a singer and as a conductor, but especially, I hope that I will be – that I know is a guarantee, because this wonderful group that, thanks to Calvin and Jane Cafritz, has been formed, the Domingo-Cafritz Young Artist, I will be having – that will be my responsibility to be artistically leading there and advising them.
And it’s one of the greatest satisfactions to see how this privilege that the artists we have, which it is to arrive to the heart of people, to arrive directly, to make you forget about any problems during the time that we are singing, during the time we are performing. This is something that I have always, since many years back, thought: to make the new generations, really make them happen and advise them, help them to come through. And this is what, thanks to the Washington National Opera, once we talk to them, and we talk about this young program, they agree. And that’s something that I will be still doing, not only as part of a duty, but a part of a great, great love that I do have for all those young artists.
The Operalia competition that I have had also has bring many of the great names today. And I think that this, the award, it should go to all of those, you know, which – they have this privilege to make people happy, to make each one of you that love music, that love theater, that love any kind of art. And then we are directly to arrive to your heart.
So I want to know, and I want to say that the career is not an easy one, it’s a difficult one, and all these people that has been coming after my generation, I appreciate them much, and I love, and they will be a great artist.
This Atlantic Council – it has been the 50th anniversary. As you hear now, Marta and me, we are 49 years married. And I can tell you that I owe to her – (applause) – I owe to her most of what I have been able to accomplish, and also to my family, because it was a very difficult life, do you know? When you live in the same city, you are able to see your family every day, you know, the children and so on. And so for Marta, it was really difficult to be two weeks with the children, two weeks with me, then the children coming to see me, then I was going to see the children. So they have been so absolutely understanding about my career that it is really a great fact, you know, that they are the ones that they are responsible for me.
So I just want to say it, how grateful I am to everybody that has made possible this great award, and to everybody in the Washington National Opera, which have collaborate to make this company together really a very important one, one of the really important ones in the United States, and really, also, even around the world, knowing this opera company.
And with the new responsibility that we have has been the national – you know, it’s the Washington “National” Opera, so that means, of course, nation. So every day, we hope we will able to be recognized as a company of the nation. We know the great opera company in the United States is the Metropolitan Opera, but I think a national company, it can make some of the things that are very, very important.
I just want to – as I said, there’s so many important people, but I just want to – since there is this trans-Atlantic importance of all these wonderful, incredible, important things that we have heard tonight. This of course, the traveling – I am traveling all around the world and certainly, for me, being an European, being born in Madrid, in Spain, and to be – grow up in Mexico and then making most of my career around the world, but basically, very much in the United States – I feel very much part of that Atlantic Council.
And I just want to say that there is another countryman which is here with us, and he believes so also, because he’s part of the Atlantic Council, and this is president José María Aznar, which was the president from Spain from 1996 to 2004, and now he – I’m very, very proud and really that you are at this very important council dedicating your time. Thank you, José María. Thank you.
Ladies and gentlemen, one of the things that Marta told me when I was just coming to here, she tells me, please be brief. And I think that my work is not speaking, really – has been singing and conducting – but I’m not going to sing today because this afternoon I was doing the dress rehearsal of “Iphigénie en Tauride” at the Opera House.
But I just want to ask two participants of the Domingo-Cafritz Young Artist Program to express the feelings which really – they are really a promising soprano and a pianist. She was singing a performance of Madame Butterfly just about a month ago, and it was so impressive in it, and is going to be accompanied at the piano by Robert Mollicone. And the soprano is Jennifer Lynn Waters, a member – both members of the Domingo-Cafritz Young Artist.
(Laughter, off-side conversation.)
(Applause, background noise.)
MS. BRZEZINSKI: Are you going to sing Stairway to Heaven now?
MR. SCARBOROUGH: No, no. All right.
MS. BRZEZINSKI: (Laughs.) OK, just making sure.
Thank you, ladies and gentlemen, for supporting the Atlantic Council on its 50th anniversary and being here this evening to celebrate our honorees.
MR. SCARBOROUGH: And we hope we’ll see you next year –
MS. BRZEZINSKI: Fifty years.
MR. SCARBOROUGH: – at the awards dinner when the Atlantic Council concludes its 50th anniversary celebration. Thank you for being there and, again, a big thanks to our honorees for their service to America and the world.
MS. BRZEZINSKI: Good night.