As the global community continues to grapple with the coronavirus (COVID-19), the Atlantic Council is open for business. Our business, meetings, and events, however, are occurring virtually. For more information, please read an update from our President and CEO.

Each year the Atlantic Council’s Distinguished Leadership Awards celebrates high achieving leaders for their versatile contributions to the strengthening of the transatlantic relationship. These luminaries are honored for their achievement in the fields of political, military, business, humanitarian, and artistic leadership.


Remembering Lieutenant General (Ret.) Brent Scowcroft

Brent Scowcroft, chairman emeritus of the Atlantic Council, president of the Scowcroft Group, and a former national security advisor to the President of the United States, was a world-class strategist and a far-sighted, 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. On this occasion, we celebrate the legacy of Brent Scowcroft with some of those who knew him best.


This has been a challenging year around the world – the scourge of COVID-19 and the massive economic disruption it has caused, as well as an upsurge of protest in the long struggle against racism and inequality. It is important at a time like this to come together to mark the heroism, resilience and imagination of those who seek to help others and change the world.

On this occasion, the Atlantic Council pays tribute to its 2020 Unsung Heroes, after running a global campaign to gather and share individual stories and shine a light on those who have demonstrated extraordinary resilience and leadership during this challenging year of a global pandemic, economic recession, and anti-racist activism.

The selected nominees are:

Maria Kolesnikova, Belarus:  Maria Kolesnikova was one of the many faces of lected mass protests against Belarus president Alexander Lukashenko. Maria was jailed after she destroyed her passport to prevent authorities from deporting her to Ukraine.

Diana Berrent, 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.

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

The Azadi Project, Greece: The Azadi Project helps refugee women by providing hygiene kits and teaching them 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.

Miriam’s Kitchen, 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.

Kung Fu Nuns, Nepal: 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

Critically acclaimed singer, actress and humanitarian Vanessa Williams narrates and performs in our tribute to our Unsung Heroes.


New Atlanticist

Oct 14, 2020

Honoring global leaders and unsung heroes in a time of world crisis

By David A. Wemer

As the devastating global public health and economic crises of the coronavirus pandemic continue, the Atlantic Council took time on October 14 to celebrate two stewards of the global economy and a legendary performer and philanthropist for their leadership in helping their fellow global citizens.

Coronavirus Economy & Business

Distinguished Leadership Awards

Oct 14, 2020

Transcript: The 2020 Atlantic Council Distinguished Leadership Awards

By Atlantic Council

At the 2020 Distinguished Leadership Awards, the Atlantic Council honored global leaders and unsung heroes responding to the political, humanitarian, and economic crises of today.

Civil Society Resilience


Press releases

Social media toolkit

Press highlight

Washington Life magazine, June 2019

Past Distinguished Leadership Awards highlights

Global Citizen Awards

Sep 23, 2019

Atlantic Council celebrates ten years of global citizens making a difference

By David A. Wemer and Jasper Gilardi

An evening dedicated to celebrating the individuals who have helped drive positive change in their societies and embody the commitment to international cooperation that underpins the Atlantic Council’s mission.

Climate Change & Climate Action Resilience

Distinguished Leadership Awards

May 3, 2016

Former Defense Secretary Gates to America: ‘Reject Isolationism’

By Ashish Kumar Sen

More than 750 guests from fifty countries, including former heads of state and government, legislators, Obama administration officials, nearly forty Ambassadors, business executives, media, and civil society leaders attended the awards ceremony.



May 8, 2024

Full transcript: The 2024 Distinguished Leadership Awards recognize skillful leaders navigating a world of crises

The Atlantic Council honored government, military, and artistic leaders who are bolstering security and advocating for the most vulnerable globally.

Central Europe Crisis Management


May 11, 2023

Full transcript: 2023 Distinguished Leadership Awards celebrate the game-changing role of women in the world

By Atlantic Council

The Atlantic Council celebrated its first all-female honoree slate, inspired by the past year of remarkable accomplishments by women around the world.

Africa Economy & Business

Distinguished Leadership Awards

May 1, 2023

Atlantic Council announces 2023 Distinguished Leadership Award honorees

World Trade Organization Director-General Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines to be honored with International Distinguished Leadership Awards Adena T. Friedman, Chair and CEO of Nasdaq, will receive the Distinguished Business Leadership Award General Laura J. Richardson, commander of US Southern Command, will be recognized with the Distinguished Military Leadership Award […]

Distinguished Leadership Awards

Oct 14, 2020

Atlantic Council hosts 2020 Distinguished Leadership Awards

“Washington’s Oscars” celebrated global leaders and unsung heroes exemplifying courage and resilience amid the challenges of 2020