Transcript: The 2020 Atlantic Council Distinguished Leadership Awards

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Event transcript:


John F.W. Rogers
Chairman, Atlantic Council Board of Directors

Frederick Kempe,
President and CEO, Atlantic Council


Kristalina Georgieva,
Managing Director, International Monetary Fund
Distinguished International Leadership Award

Luis Alberto Moreno,
President, Inter-American Development Bank
Distinguished International Leadership Award

Lionel Richie,
Music Icon, Producer and Philanthropist
Distinguished Artistic Leadership Award


Madeleine Albright,
Member, International Advisory Board, Atlantic Council

Henry M. Paulson Jr.,
Former Secretary, US Department of Treasury

Robert L. Johnson,
Founder, Black Entertainment Television


Vanessa Williams,
Critically Acclaimed Singer, Actress, and Humanitarian

Other Speakers:

Denise Forsthuber,
Associate Director, Future Europe Initiative, Atlantic Council

Roberta Braga,
Deputy Director for Programs and Outreach, Adrienne Arsht Latin America Center, Atlantic Council

Clementine Starling,
Deputy Director for Defense and Resident Fellow, Transatlantic Security Initiative, Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security, Atlantic Council

Clintandra Thompson,
Web Manager, Atlantic Council

Reed Blakemore
Deputy Director, Global Energy Center, Atlantic Council

ANNOUNCER: Live from Washington, D.C., welcome to the 2020 Distinguished Leadership Awards, brought to you by the Atlantic Council. Tonight our staff and leadership welcome you as we celebrate and honor extraordinary individuals who have uniquely contributed to our mission of shaping the global future together.

And now Atlantic Council Chairman John F.W. Rogers.

JOHN F.W. ROGERS: Excellencies, friends, honorees, and ladies and gentlemen, good evening from our nation’s capital. I’m John Rogers. I’m the chairman of the Atlantic Council. It is my great pleasure to welcome you to this 2020 Distinguished Leadership Awards. It is, of course, a bit of an understatement to say that we’re doing things a little bit differently this year in light of the pandemic. But I’m nevertheless delighted to have the opportunity to address you tonight and look forward to seeing you in person at some time somewhere down the road in normal times, whatever that may mean.

Against that backdrop, and hosting this first-ever Atlantic Council virtual gala, we are honored to bring together this incredible audience to celebrate three individuals who exemplify leadership, vision, and character needed to navigate one of the most uncertain and volatile geopolitical environments ever faced by the United States, Europe, and our allies worldwide. The global impact of COVID-19 and the economic downturn, social unrest, a rise of nationalism, climate-drive weather calamities and, yes, record-breaking levels of swarming locusts all in 2020. And with a quarter of the year still left to come, dare we ask what else?

But of course, we are weeks away from a very divisive and a significant US election, which some say is a referendum on the great experiment of democracy itself. Early turnout is on pace for new higher levels of voter participation on both sides. So it goes without saying that the need for authentic and effective policymakers and governance globally has never been so stark, so necessary. Which brings us to our assemblage this evening, where we recognize the accomplishments and look to the leadership and commitment of our outstanding honorees who have never faded in their enthusiasm or backed away from a challenge, or in their resolve to affect real change in their respective fields.

They are Kristalina Georgieva, the managing director of the International Monetary Fund, who will be introduced by former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, a longtime Atlantic Council International Advisor Board member. Lionel Richie, a music icon, a producer, and a philanthropist, who will be introduced by Bob Johnson, the founder of Black Entertainment Television and the RLJ Companies. Ambassador Luis Alberto Moreno, who led the American Development Bank as president for fifteen years, who will be introduced by the 74th Secretary of the US Treasury Hank Paulson.

Let me congratulate all of you for joining the academy of Atlantic Council honorees, representing a range of backgrounds and experiences and career paths, and bound together around a central theme and common cause to make the world a safer, more secure planet for tis global citizens, bringing with it more widely shared prosperity and opportunity. And in that same spirit, we are particularly proud to feature a celebration of the life and legacy of Atlantic Council’s former chairman, Lieutenant General Brent Scowcroft, one of the most respected and admired figures in our nation’s foreign policy history.

Dr. Henry Kissinger, the Atlantic Council’s longest-serving board director, will be joined by Steve Hadley and Ginny Mulberger to honor General Scowcroft and his myriad of contributions to the Atlantic Council and to his country.

Finally, we pay tribute to the unsung heroes of 2020, the result of our global campaign to gather and shine a light on those individuals who have demonstrated extraordinary resilience and leadership during this unprecedented moment in time. And in doing so we are delighted to welcome critically acclaimed singer, actress, and humanitarian Vanessa Williams, who will perform in honor of our 2020 unsung heroes. So I know you join me in looking forward to this special segment of our program this evening.

And with that, let me offer my congratulations once again to all of this year’s honorees and a warm welcome to everyone joining us by videoconference tonight. Thank you, enjoy the evening, and let me now turn it over to our president, Fred Kempe. Thank you.

FREDERICK KEMPE: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. And thank you, Mr. Chairman, for your leadership.

What an impressive group of awardees. For the first time in the history of these awards we are streaming the event live into your homes or wherever else you’re watching. Some of you are wearing black tie and gown. Some of you are more casually attired. But in the next hour or so I hope you’ll see what we’ve witnessed at the Atlantic Council since we began telework in mid-March, and that is the Atlantic Council’s consistency of purpose and trajectory of innovation.

To highlight the team that makes this happen the MCs tonight who will connect the parts of the program will be next-generation leaders, some of whom you saw in those opening segments. They will include Roberta Braga from the Adrienne Arsht Latin America Center, Denise Forsthuber from our Future Europe Initiative, Clementine Starling from our Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security, Clintandra Thompson from our communications team, and Reed Blakemore from the Global Energy Center. If any of you are worried about the future, get to know not only these individuals but dozens of others they represent. Nearly 65 percent of our staff is under thirty-five, and they are remarkable.

Our chairman, John Rogers, spoke of all the challenges we confront this year, including locusts. At the Atlantic Council, we have recorded this moment and we have regarded this moment as a call to action, a moment to double down on our mission of galvanizing constructive US leadership alongside friends and allies to shape a better future. At a time when the world has been most in need of the Atlantic Council’s unique community and our nonpartisan, values-driven, solutions-oriented work, we’ve stepped up our efforts more than ever before. We’ve doubled the readers of our publications. We’ve exponentially grown our global audience, from our smallest, most-curated events to our large, global-leader events. We’ve had 500-plus virtual public and private events since mid-March with at total audience of 1.5 million.

Before we get started tonight I want to salute those in our global audience who are previous recipients either of our Distinguished Leadership Awards, which are presented each year in Washington, D.C., or our Global Citizen Awards, presented each year in New York. This year we’ve combined the awards into this one virtual event. Previous honorees in tonight’s audience include Dr. Henry Kissinger, as John Rogers said our longest-serving board member, Nobel Prize winner, former secretary of state and national security adviser; Adrienne Arsht, Atlantic Council executive vice chair; Paul Polman, former chief executive officer of Unilever; and Fred Smith, chairman and chief executive officer of FedEx.

The military awardees in our audience are spectacular: General Stéphane Abrial, former NATO supreme allied commander transformation; Joseph—and he’s also a board member of the Atlantic Council—General Joe Dunford, Joseph Dunford, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and one of our newest Atlantic Council board members; General Joseph Ralston, former supreme allied commander Europe; General Curtis Scaparrotti, former supreme allied commander Europe and a board member.

I am so delighted that you chose to be with us this year for this extraordinarily different virtual Distinguished Leadership Awards. Every year, these awards are made possible by our co-chairs, our Distinguished Leadership Awards co-chairs. You will see their names displayed on your screens throughout the evening.

On behalf of everyone at the Atlantic Council I express my gratitude to these co-chairs, not just for making this event possible but for contributing so much to empower our work. I’d particularly like to pause to recognize the daughter of General Brent Scowcroft, Karen Scowcroft, and General Scowcroft’s granddaughter Meghan. Karen, I know you’re watching with your daughter Meghan, age twelve, as we—as we pay tribute to the extraordinary life of your father, a man who touched the lives of so many of us gathered here virtually this evening. He will live on in our work in his legacy at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security forever more. Bless you, Karen. Bless you, Meghan.

For those of you who would like to follow tonight’s event on Twitter and send out alerts, please use the hashtag #ACAwards or the hashtag #UnsungHeroes2020. We are also streaming tonight live on Facebook, LinkedIn, and YouTube. Tonight’s will be the largest audience these awards have ever had thought personally I do hope we’re all going to see you in person as soon as possible.

Ladies and gentlemen, I now have the pleasure of introducing our first segment of our 2020 Distinguished Leadership Awards, honoring the remarkable Kristalina Georgieva.

(A video presentation is shown.)

DENISE FORSTHUBER: Good evening. I’m Denise Forsthuber, associate director of the Atlantic Council’s Future Europe Initiative. It is my honor to introduce this first segment, highlighting two talented and inspirational women who have worked tirelessly to improve people’s lives throughout the course of their careers. Tonight we celebrate Ms. Kristalina Georgieva’s nearly thirty-year career of extraordinary public service, as well as her bold leadership of the International Monetary Fund as it moved swiftly to address the far-reaching economic and societal impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Her unwavering commitment to protecting the health of the global economy and the world’s most vulnerable in this historically uncertain time exemplifies the very essence of distinguished international leadership.

To introduce Ms. Georgieva, it is my honor to welcome Atlantic Council International Advisory Board member, chair of the Albright Stonebridge Group and Albright Capital Management, and perhaps most importantly the United States’ first female secretary of state, Madeleine K. Albright. Madam Secretary, thank you for joining us from your home in Washington, D.C. and for allowing me the opportunity to welcome you tonight. It’s a pleasure to be sharing this platform with you. The floor is yours.

MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: Thank you, Denise. And good evening to you all. We gather at a time when the principles to which the Atlantic Council is dedicated are being tested. In the Americas, in Europe, and across the globe too many heads of government have moved away from global collaboration and towards a philosophy of going it alone. These hyper-nationalists argue that interdependence is an illusion, a fiction invented by soft-headed intellectuals to undermine sovereignty and erase singular national identity. This thesis is nonsense, but for officials seeking to enhance their authority, it can be good politics.

The problem for leaders with authoritarian tendencies is that they are less likely than their democratic counterparts to admit—let alone emphasize—the value in cooperating with others. Instead, they treat appeals for international comity as signs of weakness or betrayal. But the coronavirus pandemic has reminded us that strong steps by national governments and vigorous multilateral measures are complementary, not contradictory. The world needs both, which means in turn that we must have leaders worthy of the public trust.

Tonight we are celebrating global figures who have earned that trust by working to adapt and reinvigorate international tools, and I am so honored to now be able to introduce one of them.

Kristalina Georgieva has served as the managing director of the International Monetary Fund since October 1st, 2019. That means she was only in the job a few months before a once-in-a-century pandemic hurtled the global economy into chaos and recession. Fortunately, in Director Georgieva, the IMF has a leader who did not require any on-the-job training. Indeed, she has made her mark over the past thirty years by helping to shepherd large international organizations through periods of remarkable change.

In the 1990’s and 2000’s, she worked at the World Bank, helping the economies of Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union emerge from communism’s long shadow. In 2010, she served on the Europe Commission, shaping the agenda of the European Union while responding to both the euro area debt crisis and the 2015 refugee crisis.

As a proud daughter of Bulgaria and as a long-time professor there, Kristalina has brought an invaluable perspective to international institutions that have been overwhelming(ly) staffed and led by Americans and Western Europeans.

I got to know Kristalina well when she left the commission to serve as the World Bank’s CEO and acting president. I was struck by her wisdom, her strength, and her commitment to the values we celebrate tonight, and above all, the idea of collective advancement based on the reality that the most urgent challenges transcend borders and cannot be dealt with by any nation acting alone.

As director of the IMF, Ms. Georgieva is confronting an unprecedented set of crises, but also knows we have an incredible opportunity to renew faith and trust in international institutions. Now that is a tall order, which is why Kristalina recently told the Financial Times that the IMF needs a big bazooka. (Laughter.) While I cannot arm her with such a weapon, I can present her with a much-deserved recognition.

Kristalina, it is now my pleasure to bestow on you, virtually, the Atlantic Council’s Distinguished Leadership Award.

KRISTALINA GEORGIEVA: Thank you, Madam Secretary, for your kind words. Thank you for the privilege of knowing you. And my sincere thanks to John Rogers, to Fred Kempe and the board of the Atlantic Council for this award. I am greatly honored to receive it alongside my dear friend, Luis Alberto Moreno, until recently president of the Inter-American Development Bank, and the amazing Lionel Richie.

An award from an institution founded to build public support for the Atlantic alliance is invaluable for someone who grew up on the other side of the iron curtain. I felt the impact of this alliance as the curtain was lifted, and I took my improbable journey from Karl Marx University in Bulgaria to the helm of the IMF.

What I learned is that change is unstoppable. You can choose to be in front of it or be rolled over by its advancement. I benefitted from change others led, and I am committed to do my part to lead change for the benefit of others. I am extremely fortunate to have a fantastic team at the IMF as we face a crisis like no other. We will do our part, not only to overcome this crisis, but to make the world we live in a better place for everyone. I will lead the fund to promote the right macroeconomic, financial, and structural policies—yes—but also to be grounded in values that matter in service to humanity: compassion, courage, collaboration.

Compassion—for the people we serve whose lives our policies and programs affect. I will always listen to their voices and work to translate their aspirations into practical actions, listen to all, but especially to those with dire needs and least access to the high corridors of power.

Courage—to do what is right, never to give up mustering support for it, even from people who are not immediately convinced or are even against my plea; also having the courage to admit being wrong when this happens. Do whatever it takes to fulfill the mission my team and I are charged with, and to paraphrase my predecessor, Christine Lagarde, be ready to belly dance if this will achieve bigly results like increasing the IMF’s quotas.

Cooperation—to leverage all of the talents and overcome our differences, solve problems that may appear unsolvable. It is at the heart of the post-war multilateral system, and the system’s rules-based approach has delivered peace and prosperity to hundreds of millions of people.

Great progress has been made. Much of the world has enjoyed long periods of peace, and more than a billion people lifted themselves out of poverty. But the current crisis could put these gains at risk, especially when it comes to poverty and inequality.

The crisis, though, is also an opportunity. We can avoid going down to the wrong path if we are guided by our values and if we work together for a world that is more prosperous, more resilient, more inclusive.

Secretary Albright famously said, “It took me quite a long time to develop a voice, and now that I have it, I’m not going to be silent.”

Over the last decades, I found my voice, and I am determined to use it for the good of people and for the good of our planet. Thank you for trusting me with this award.

MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: Kristalina, thank you for those remarkable words, and your spirit, and the sisterhood. And I’m grateful now for the opportunity to engage you very briefly in a conversation. And I thought I’d simply ask you—very simply—what you fear most about this very moment we are in, and what gives you the most hope as we head into 2021—to really explore more some of the issues that you spoke about.

KRISTALINA GEORGIEVA: What I fear most is that we may allow a divergence in the world that have been converging over the last decades with the rich getting richer, the poor getting poorer, both within countries and across countries. I worry about losing what we have succeeded to achieve in terms of gender equality. We see that women are disproportionately hurt by this crisis. Young people may be a lost generation. So my hope is that we will have the determination to prevent this from happening.

And so far I have been impressed by how we have come together to pour enormous support—fiscal support, monetary support—to put a floor under the world economy in a synchronized manner so those who say collaboration is dead are actually proven wrong. We have to sustain this support. My big message to everybody is please spend. Do not withdraw support for the economy prematurely. We are not out of the woods yet. But also, keep the receipts and spend wisely.

It is so commonsensical that we—when we put big fiscal stimulus in place, it should be for the economy of tomorrow not the economy of yesterday. It should be for green. It should be for smart, digital. It should be for fair economy. And I am—I am an optimist, Madam Secretary. I have seen so often that majority of people have this goodness in them, but goodness is quiet. Anger/hate, very loud. So I see as part of our job, especially women, to amplify these voices of optimism and strength and goodness and transform the world for the better, as the founders of my institution did after the Second World War.

MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: I have to say, you asked me what pin I was wearing tonight. And I wore it in your honor because it is the globe being held up by your hands, things that you are doing. Thank you so much for everything that you do.

KRISTALINA GEORGIEVA: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you, Madam Secretary. So proud of you.

DENISE FORSTHUBER: Ms. Georgieva, Secretary Albright, on behalf of the Atlantic Council thank you for your thoughtful and candid remarks this evening, and congratulations on this award. You both are an inspiration to women around the world and have certainly paved the way for many, including me, who aspire to make a difference and strive ourselves to shatter the glass ceilings above us. I’m confident my colleague Roberta, who will lead us into our next segment, would agree.

ROBERTA BRAGA: I absolutely would. Thank you, again, Ms. Georgieva and Secretary Albright. It’s now my distinct pleasure to highlight two more extraordinary individuals who have made their own mark on our global community.

Good evening, everyone. I’m Roberta Braga, deputy director for programs and outreach at the Adrienne Arsht Latin America Center. Today we honor His Excellency Luis Alberto Moreno as he steps down from his remarkable fifteen-year career as president of the Inter-American Development Bank, as well as his more recent contributions to combating the COVID-19 crisis in Latin America. Let us now watch a brief video illustrating President Moreno’s personal and professional milestones.

(A video presentation is shown.)

ROBERTA BRAGA: During his tenure at the IDB and as Colombia’s ambassador to the United States, President Moreno worked closely with former US Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson. Together, they bolstered socioeconomic advancement and advocated for conservation across Latin America. Today, they continue to improve lives in the region by promoting sustainable and climate-resilient development while also encouraging governments to adopt a green recovery as we reemerge from the pandemic.

Ladies and gentlemen, coming to us live from Georgia, please welcome Chairman of the Paulson Institute and President Moreno’s longtime friend and peer Henry M. Paulson Jr.

HENRY M. PAULSON JR.: Roberta, thank you.

Good evening, everyone. What a wonderful event. First, a big thank you to my good friend John Rogers for the invitation to participate in tonight’s event. And another thank you to Fred and the Atlantic Council for all the work you’re doing to strengthen the transatlantic community and craft solutions for today’s global challenges.

Tonight, it’s my honor to introduce Luis Alberto Moreno for the Distinguished International Leadership Award. Over the course of my career I’ve had the privilege of working with a number of outstanding leaders in business and government, and Luis Alberto is one of the very best. He understands business. He understands finance. He understands government. And he understands diplomacy.

I met Luis Alberto some twenty years ago, when he was Colombia’s ambassador to the United States. Since then I have worked with him often and seen up close and personal the traits that have made him so very successful.

For one, he’s a bundle of energy with a unique talent for connecting with people across cultures, national boundaries, professions, and industries. He works equally well with heads of state and CEOs as he also does with the staff members who support them.

He is results-oriented and does whatever it takes to get meaningful things done. I’ve always admired leaders who transform organizations. And when so many of our multilateral institutions haven’t adapted to meet the needs of the modern world, the IDB is a model of effectiveness thanks to Luis Alberto. His fifteen-year tenure has been defined by transformational leadership. Under his watch, the IDB played a key role in Latin America’s recovery from their financial crisis as he managed the largest capital increase in the IDB’s history. It created a new arm to support the bank’s private-sector-related activities. It reformed its innovation laboratory to mobilize financing, knowledge, and connections. And importantly, it became a major driver of sustainable development in the region.

In short, Luis Alberto has positioned the IDB and the Latin American region as a core partner in the transatlantic community. And so I’m delighted and honored to bestow upon him the Distinguished International Leadership Award.

Luis Alberto, one of the highlights of my career has been working with you to further the cause of conservation in Latin America. You are a great friend to me and many others and a human dynamo who will continue to be a difference-maker for many years to come. Congratulations on this richly-deserved award.

LUIS ALBERTO MORENO: Thank you very much, Hank. And what an honor it is to be introduced by Secretary Paulson, a longtime friend. Hank is certainly among the people that I have always had at the top of my list as I’ve worked with him and learned from him during my time not only as president of the IDB, but before that. Your achievements both in the public and the private sectors make you certainly one of the true leaders of our generation.

I equally wanted to thank John Rogers and the Atlantic Council for choosing me to join this very select group tonight. Under the leadership of your president, Fred Kempe, the Atlantic Council continues to reaffirm its indispensable role in helping decision-makers navigate a treacherous global landscape.

Many others make that work impossible—or possible, but including my good friend Adrienne Arsht who is of the art of the possible and whose vision and passion has made this a go-to source of insight on the region that is closest to my heart.

I equally want to thank Jason Marczak, who’s been leading the Adrienne Arsht Center for Latin America and who’s taking this program to new heights.

Let me equally congratulate my fellow award recipients.

My dear friend Kristalina Georgieva, who’s being honored in the same category as I am. As we all know, Kristalina is not only leading the IMF during the most critical junction in our lifetime—and certainly from its inception and in today’s global economy—and certainly, believe me, it makes me sleep well at night, as it should others, knowing that the IMF is in her hands.

And at the same time, I would also like to congratulate Lionel Richie, whose music continues to inspire people around the globe and who demonstrates what giving back looks like. I had the chance to work with Lionel and with Quincy Jones, a dear friend, on Haiti with the earthquake. But we all remember his music and how many of us just danced all night long.

I have developed my entire professional life to Latin America and the Caribbean. And as Hank mentioned I spent the last fifteen years of that journey as president of the IDB, helping to create a bank with a sharper focus on the tools to chip away at entrenched economic and social challenges.

We seemed to have the wind to our sails a decade ago. The region had weathered the 2008 financial crisis, and for the bank’s part we had secured, as Hank mentioned, our largest capital increase. Leaving the IDB under these circumstances has been difficult, but it has been a privilege during my last seven months to help the bank pivot, refocus, and muster all of its strength.

This year, the bank intends to approve and disburse a record lending for the region’s public needs, social safety nets, productivity and employment, and fiscal measures to help ensure stability. I leave the bank with pride in what we have done to set the foundations for building back better. We helped establish a digital transformation agenda in our region and we helped nurture entrepreneurship, innovation, and the private sector across our countries. We, too, helped turn development into sustainable development in areas ranging from agriculture all the way to infrastructure. We also built a bank infrastructure and the human capital that has allowed the IDB to devote all of its powers to tackling the pandemic.

Of course, I’m equally humbled when I consider just how much needs to be done and the thought that so many may sink back into poverty. The IDB, as Kristalina was just mentioning earlier this week in the Financial Times, needs a capital increase, as does the fund. It needs a bazooka, she mentioned. And I hope that governments support this to ramp up, among other things, the digitalization and the connectivity in our countries, and how the IDB must redouble its work on the so-called preexisting conditions that have made our region so vulnerable such as weak interregional supply chains, high label informality, and gaping inequality.

I always call myself an optimist and even in these dark days, that hasn’t changed because opportunity can and must come out of this catastrophe. If my legacy has been to help strengthen the bank, to help strengthen the region, especially as it faces these historic urgencies, then I derive a measure of satisfaction for this unforgettable chapter in my career.

I equally want to thank my family and thank all for being here. This allows not only for me to have my mother and my brothers, but especially my children and my wife, who I adore, to be with us connected today. Thank you again to the Atlantic Council for this great honor.

HENRY M. PAULSON JR.: Luis Alberto, you’ve done so much for so many, and no one—there’s no one that understands the Latin American region better than you. So I have a couple questions for you.

First, as you look at Latin America and you look at the post-COVID recovery, you know, what worries you the most as you look forward?

LUIS ALBERTO MORENO: Well, Hank, we are kind of like in this pandemic tunnel. We are in a moment where we have perhaps the largest amount of—us, per population, the largest amount of COVID cases. But what truly worries me is the preexisting political conditions that were there before the pandemic; the fact that even though we are—every country’s fighting to flatten the curve of the pandemic, equally true is that the amount of unemployment, of poverty that is happening as a result of this is huge. And that will come along with amounts—larger amounts of debt, so countries are going to be in a very tough circumstance.

I do, however, believe that there is also opportunity, and there is opportunity coming as it did back in the 1930s when the US was very focused in this hemisphere. And I hope that we can see Latin America be a larger focus in the US recovery and a way forward. And I also look at how our education levels have increased, at how digitalization has advanced significantly; I mean, when you look at the numbers of things that are happening in terms of electronic commerce, in terms of how still our democracies are resilient, and especially how the private sector—especially the younger generations—having a set of changes of values where they are looking more and more at issues of inequality. Populism always existed in Latin America fundamentally because of inequality, and that creates a political cleavage that creates populism of left and right. I think this is the one thing, that we have to close this gap to be a more cohesive society.

HENRY M. PAULSON JR.: Yeah, and we need to end this on an optimistic note here. And of course you wouldn’t have been doing the things you’re doing—none of the leaders here today would be doing them—if we weren’t optimists, right? So as big as the problems are, we’ve always got to look at the positive side. So tell me, what’s the single thing that gives you the most hope as you look forward?

LUIS ALBERTO MORENO: Well, I think to me the biggest source of optimism, Hank, is how the COVID essentially put a light on a lot of things that we knew were there but we never saw them front and center. Equally, the fact that we today more and more, both with climate change and with COVID, we got to let science drive the discussion. So I’m really positive in the sense that it will take time, it will be not a straight line, but I truly believe that the fact that we take stock in a bigger way of what our own realities are and how we as societies cannot afford to have very few people having a lot and the many having less. This has been an endemic problem of Latin America. This is, I think, the beginning of a profound change.

HENRY M. PAULSON JR.: OK. You’re a man of great wisdom. I sometimes wonder whether it’s the energy I admire most or the wisdom, but I admire them both. And I can assure you—assure you—that there are going to be a lot of people relying on you for both in the years ahead, and you’ve got still very big things in front of you. So again, thanks for all you’ve done and all you are going to do. Thank you, Luis.

LUIS ALBERTO MORENO: Thank you to the Atlantic Council. Thank you, Hank.


ROBERTA BRAGA: It’s wonderful to hear what’s brought you hope, President Moreno, especially during this unusual and challenging time. Sir, it’s been an honor working with you. Thank you for your friendship, for your partnership, and for your support of our work at the Adrienne Arsht Latin America Center. Your optimistic brand of leadership and your efforts to spur economic and social change will certainly be felt across the region for years to come.

(Speaks in Spanish.)

Thank you for joining us from Florida while on a well-deserved vacation with your family.

And now my colleague Clementine will lead us into the next segment of our program, a tribute to one of the foremost figures in our country’s foreign policy history and our former chairman, Lieutenant General Brent Scowcroft.

CLEMENTINE STARLING: Thank you, Roberta. As you so kindly mentioned, I’m Clementine Starling, deputy director for defense and resident fellow at the Transatlantic Security Initiative within the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security.

It is my honor to introduce the next segment of our program, focused on our Center’s namesake and a person I greatly admired, Lieutenant General Brent Scowcroft. Brent Scowcroft was a world-class strategist and a farsighted, bold thinker—a model of selfless service, high integrity, and unflagging commitment. He held office during some of the most extraordinary times in American history, facing challenges as great as any we have confronted in the last seventy years.

He’s been called a soldier, a scholar, and a statesman, and he was. But what made him special was the way he lived those roles. He was trained for battle, but he worked for peace. As a teacher, he focused not just on imparting truth but inspiring a future generation of truth tellers. And as a renowned advisor and decision-maker on the world stage, he served with a kind heart and a selfless spirit —rare qualities, indeed.

He offered vital support to the Atlantic Council at critical times. Why? Because he had a vision for what the Council could and should be. It drove him and it drives us.

Tonight, we celebrate the legacy of Brent Scowcroft with some of those who knew him best.

(A video presentation begins.)

FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE AND NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER HENRY A. KISSINGER: One of the best decisions I made in my public life—perhaps the best—was to invite Brent Scowcroft to become my deputy security adviser. He was, of course, of great administrative ability, great human insight, and a subtle, impish sense of humor. We went through a number of crises together, first as associates but very soon as partners and friends. We had a number of Middle East crises, the resignation of President Nixon, the opening to China, and constant challenges from the Soviet Union. Brent helped traverse these issues and added calm direction and inspiration to them.

After his service with me he was appointed security adviser by President Bush, the only individual who has ever been asked to be security adviser of two different presidents. And in that capacity he was active in the unification of Germany and the Kuwait war and in the disintegration of the Soviet Union.

Wherever Brent served, he added dignity and stature. His outstanding traits were honor and patriotism, which enabled him to separate fact from fiction and the essential from the trivial. For decades he was the national conscience. For half a century he was my friend and inspiration. Everyone whose life he touched will remember him and the triumph of his career of character over circumstance.

(Music plays.)

PRESIDENT GEORGE H.W. BUSH: What makes him so unique and well-qualified, well-regarded among his peers is that he possesses great talent and ability for remaining humble and warm.

FORMER NATIONAL SECURTY ADVISER ZBIGNIEW BRZEZINSKI: This is a great guy. This is a terrific guy. This is a born leader. This is a man with a sense of direction and purpose and decency.

FORMER DEFENSE SECRETARY ROBERT GATES: In a town of oversized egos and undersized backbones, Brent’s low-key, self-effacing demeanor, his steadfast integrity and common decency, but also his resolve and his moral and political courage, truly set him apart as an example to all who aspire to high levels of public life.

(Music plays.)

GINNY MULBERGER: Brent cared deeply about the Atlantic Council and its mission. Over many decades he acted to help resolve conflict, build agreement, and attract talented people, including his work with every Council chairman over the past twenty years. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that he saved the Council on more than one occasion. He has a vision for its purpose and a reason to ensure that the Council not only survived but flourished and would grow to work with another generation.

He was by nature a private person, attending as needed but not relishing the pomp and circumstance that goes with official Washington. That wasn’t his style, but it also didn’t fit with the personal ethic or selflessness Brent taught.

Family was everything to him. He traveled to New York every weekend to see his daughter and granddaughter, and cared patiently and lovingly for his wife.

I want to end with what I believe was his greatest gift, the gift of judgment. He had a strategic view of what was in the best interest of this country and also what was in the best interest of the world in which we live, and he dedicated his life to it. That, coupled with his fine humility and unsurpassed capacity for kindness, was his greatness.

FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER STEPHEN J. HADLEY: Brent Scowcroft was the creator of the modern national security adviser. He established the model: The honest broker enjoying the confidence of his national security colleagues while running a fair and open decision-making process; the trusted counselor sharing his advice privately for the president; the modest professional working largely behind the scenes and offstage—a power player, to be sure, but with his ego well in hand, ready to give credit to others for success and to accept responsibility for failure.

Brent’s personality, temperament, and character perfectly fit the model that he established for the office: A person of humility, but with enormous personal and intellectual gifts; someone who treated everyone with respect, from foreign leaders to personal staff; a confident man who attracted the nation’s finest to his NSC staff and was secure enough to listen to them; someone who always brought a unique perspective to the conversation while insisting on intellectual rigor; and always asking, so, what is the strategy? And when your answer failed to meet Brent’s high standards, as it almost invariably did, Brent would tell you frankly that you had not persuaded him but then, with that wonderful smile and great laugh of his, cheerfully invite you to come back and try again anytime.

A person of bipartisan instincts, he worked across the political aisle and at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue, strong in his conviction that America at its best could be a force for good in the world.

And finally, that rarest of commodities, especially in Washington: A wise man, someone to whom it was worth listening. That was Brent Scowcroft. We will not see his like again.

(Video presentation ends.)

CLEMENTINE STARLING: As a member of the Scowcroft Center team, I can’t imagine a more fitting or heartfelt tribute to the founder of our program. Brent mentored and shared his wisdom with so many of us, for which we will be endlessly grateful. He will remain our inspiration as we fight for the enduring values that he embodied, and we will continue our work, carrying on his legacy of working with allies and partners to create a more secure and peaceful world.

I now pass to a fellow Atlantic Council next-generation leader to introduce our final honoree for the evening. Clintandra, over to you.

CLINTANDRA THOMPSON: Thank you so much, Clementine.

The next honoree certainly inspires our third and final honoree this evening. I’m Clintandra Thompson, web manager and co-chair of the Atlantic Council’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Council. I am delighted to introduce our next segment of our program that celebrates the legendary career of music icon, producer, and philanthropist, Lionel Richie.

His multigenerational influence on the music industry and personal commitment to a range of humanitarian causes certainly exemplifies the very essence of distinguished, artistic leadership. Lionel Richie is everything we hope to highlight with this award.

Let’s take a moment to review why.

(A video presentation begins.)

(Music plays.)

LIONEL RICHIE: Get this: thirty-five years later, I’m going to do the same thing I did when I started my career.

(Music plays.)

Working with His Royal Highness, I must say to you today, we have known each other for a number of years, and I’ve been involved with the Prince’s Trust, and I’ve seen exactly the work that has been done, and it’s amazing. But I never thought in my lifetime that I would actually be faced with a situation where, what do I do with the rest of my life. And after “We are the World,” I kept thinking, well, that was pretty amazing, but now how do I take that to the—how do I take that to the next stage? And then of course I received the phone call, and the phone call says would you like to be a part of the global ambition of the Prince’s Trust? I am taking on the mantle for the rest, and so I accept this wonderful honor, and I look forward to working with you, sir, and the Prince’s Trust, in getting this done around the world. Thank you so much. (Applause.)

(Music plays.)

It all started with a little group called The Mystics that morphed over into the Commodores, that morphed over into forty years of music. Now where are we going? Only God knows. But the beautiful part about this is I’m sitting in the front seat of this, and I can’t wait for you to take the journey with me. It’s going to be so exciting, and I just tell you that I have things on the drawing board—can’t tell you yet—but I’ll see you, looking at me, looking at you, looking at me.

(Video presentation ends.)

CLINTANDRA THOMPSON: To provide introductory remarks for Mr. Lionel Richie, it gives me immense pleasure to welcome the founder of Black Entertainment Television—otherwise known as BET—and RLJ companies, and his personal friend, Mr. Bob Johnson.

ROBERT L. JOHNSON: It is an overused cliché that this honoree needs no introduction. Lionel Richie, by definition, is the quintessential honoree who never requires an introduction. Our honoree, based on facts, is a universally acclaimed musical icon and genius, a poetic lyricist, and multi-talented singer of songs that spanned generations of listeners, embrace and captivate global cultures and challenge all humanity to recognize, truly, we are the world.

Witness these accomplishments and accolades of our honoree. Lionel Richie is one of only two song writers in history to achieve the honor of having a number one record for nine consecutive years with more than one hundred million albums sold worldwide; an Oscar, a Golden Globe, four Grammy Awards, and a Kennedy Center honoree in 2017.

Lionel Richie is known for his mega-hits such as “Endless Love,” “Lady,” “Truly,” “All Night Long,” “Stuck on You,” “Hello,” “Dancing on the Ceiling,” and co-wrote one of the most important pop songs in history, “We are the World.” Among accolades, one of the accomplishments Lionel Richie is actually most proud of is his bachelor’s degree in economics from Tuskegee University.

One cannot be called by fate to possess and to share the blessings of such awesome musical talent without recognizing that this calling has a purpose. Lionel has fulfilled that purpose through personal and cooperative philanthropy throughout his illustrious career. His commitment and support for causes has played a critical part in helping to make the world better.

A few examples: In spring of 2019, Lionel was named Global Ambassador for the Prince’s Trust, a charity founded by Prince Charles, prince of Wales, that helps young people all over the world achieve their dream and transform their lives.

Lionel was honored at the 23rd Annual Power of Love Gala in Las Vegas that raises funds for the Cleveland Clinic to provide resources for patients in the fight against cognitive disease. In 2016, he received one of his biggest honors when named MusicCares Person of the Year. MusicCares is a charity that has provided more than $80 million in help and financial resources to music people in times of need.

Lionel’s unselfish generosity has inspired him to live up to his favorite words of wisdom from Aristotle: Goodness lies not in abundance; abundance lies in goodness.

I am honored beyond words to congratulate and salute my friend, my brother, Lionel, as he receives the Atlantic Council 2020 Distinguished Artistic Leadership Award.

LIONEL RICHIE: Thank you so much, Bob, for your kind words and warm welcome. And also, thank you for using a great part of what I had planned for my speech. But you did a great job in kind of summarizing where I wanted to go.

But I also want to thank the members of the Atlantic Council for honoring me with this prestigious 2020 Distinguished Artist Leadership Award.

You know, getting to this part of your life and your career, it is very important that we just take fame, and power, and recognition to give back. And that is exactly what I’ve been trying to do throughout my entire career because there are so many people who need a voice, who need someone to speak on their behalf, and every chance I get, I like to take that opportunity to give them their voice, to give them their light.

And so today I’m very, very honored to receive this award, and thank you so much to everyone. I will now cherish this because it means so much to me that you understand what the world needs now are people who understand the plight of the voiceless.

Thank you so much, everybody. God bless you.

REED BLAKEMORE: Thank you, Mr. Richie, for using your global platform to touch so many around the world. To echo you, you have certainly given a voice to the voiceless, especially in a year marked by a pandemic, economic recession, and a continuing fight for justice and equality.

Hello, I’m Reed Blakemore, deputy director of the Atlantic Council Global Energy Center. We have all been awestruck by the many faces of courage in these toughest of times. More than ever it is important to come together to mark the heroism, resilience, and the imagination of those who seek to help others and to create a better world.

The Atlantic Council’s first-ever tribute to the unsung heroes of 2020 is a culmination of a worldwide campaign to gather and share individual stories of everyday global citizens who have contributed impressively to their communities. With this tribute, we look to recognize and highlight six of these inspiring stories.

(A video presentation begins.)

VANESSA WILLIAMS: At the Atlantic Council, it’s our mission to help shape the global future. But without hope, there is no future. And without sacrifice, there is no hope. That’s true now more than ever, which is why we ask you to help us recognize some of the amazing people around the world who have sacrificed and fought for a better, healthier, and more equitable future for all of us.

Hello. I’m Vanessa Williams, and I join you in paying tribute to the unsung heroes of 2020. And we’ve chosen a few to celebrate tonight, selected from your nominations.

ANNOUNCER: In Belarus, pro-democracy activist Maria Kolesnikova was one of the many faces of the mass protests against Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko. Maria was jailed after she destroyed her passport to prevent authorities from deporting her to Ukraine.

From New York, Diana Berrent was the founder of Survivor Corps, the largest grassroots movement in America, dedicated to mobilizing COVID-19 survivors to help stem the tide of the pandemic and support the medical and scientific research community. Diana launched the group while in isolation following her own battle with COVID-19.

In Dallas, Texas, the Melville Family Foundation works to improve the lives of disadvantaged Black and Hispanic children by providing critical access to food, academics, and economic opportunities.

In Greece, the Azadi Project helps refugee women by providing hygiene kits and teaching them the digital skills that help them to be productive members of their new communities. It’s run by Priyali Sur, a Millennium fellow at the Atlantic Council.

In our own Washington, D.C., we salute the employees and volunteers of Miriam’s Kitchen, who work every day to end chronic homelessness in Washington, D.C. by providing meals, housing, and support services, and are now fighting to keep their communities safe and healthy during the pandemic.

And far from D.C. in the Himalayas, the Kung Fu Nuns regularly venture far from their homes—even during the pandemic—to deliver food and medical aid to families in remote villages in Nepal. These women traveled thousands of kilometers by bicycle to spread a message of female empowerment, diversity and tolerance, and environmental sustainability.

VANESSA WILLIAMS: Join us in celebrating these and others who are making a difference through their resilience and imagination, courage and action, and love.

(Video presentation ends.)

ANNOUNCER: And now, please welcome back the incomparable actress and singer Vanessa Williams to perform in honor of the Atlantic Council’s unsung heroes of 2020.

(Music by Vanessa Williams: “Save The Best For Last.”)

FREDERICK KEMPE: Thank you, Vanessa Williams, for saving the best for last.

On behalf of our chairman, John Rogers, and the board of the Atlantic Council, on my own behalf, on behalf of my executive vice president Damon Wilson and all the staff of the Atlantic Council, thank you for joining us this evening. Thank you to the co-chairs that make so much of our work possible and this evening possible. And thank you so much to our awardees. Congratulations on your honors. And the MCs—if we have ever made you believe more in the future, I think seeing these remarkable MCs should do that.

This closes the official program, but I encourage you each to continue socializing at your virtual tables if you can. On behalf of the Atlantic Council, thank you for joining us. We don’t believe in social distance. There is geographic distance, but I think you’ve seen among us tonight there was no social distance. We do hope to see you personally again next year at our awards dinner and hope to see you engaging in all of our Atlantic Council work and events until then. Thank you. Until then.

Watch the full event:

Image: Atlantic Council President and CEO Frederick Kempe gives opening remarks at the virtual 2020 Distinguished Leadership Awards.