The Atlantic Council presented its annual Global Citizen Awards on October 1 to four dynamic individuals whose exceptional and distinctive contributions have been instrumental in addressing some of today’s most pressing global challenges.  

This year’s awardees were Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos; former US Secretary of State and National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger; European Central Bank President Mario Draghi; and Maestro Yu Long, Music Director of the China Philharmonic. The star-studded lineup at the event included US Vice President Joe Biden and International Monetary Fund Managing Director Christine Lagarde.

The annual awards dinner, held at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, convened an influential gathering of nearly five hundred top government, business, military, media, and civil society leaders from around the world.

Atlantic Council Chairman Jon M. Huntsman, Jr. and President and CEO Frederick Kempe opened the evening with remarks about the importance of uniting around the common challenges that threaten global stability.

“Tonight we celebrate a fundamental idea that through common purpose and inspired leadership we can navigate our way to better outcomes together,” said Huntsman.

US Vice President Joe Biden described Atlantic Council Global Citizen Award recipient, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, as a "man of peace." (Imagelink)

Biden introduced Santos, the first honoree of the night, and spoke movingly about Colombia’s trajectory toward peace. “President Santos is a man of vision and a man of service who has affirmed once and again that he is a man of peace,” said the Vice President.

Speaking about the challenges his country has faced, Santos remarked that “it has not been easy and we have had to make big sacrifices, but we have always had the United States on our side. [The Global Citizen Award] encourages us to continue because we have a long way to go.”

Kissinger, the Atlantic Council’s longest serving Board Director and renowned strategist and diplomat, received the Distinguished Service Award. Atlantic Council International Advisory Board Chairman Brent Scowcroft, himself a former National Security Advisor, presented the award to Kissinger.

Kissinger said: “The Atlantic relationship, initially developed as a primarily military and strategic relationship, today has to be extended into a conceptual question: what are we trying to achieve, and what sacrifices are we willing to make? For without some sacrifice of the present for the needs of the future, great things cannot be achieved.”

Atlantic Council President and CEO Frederick Kempe (left) and Atlantic Council International Advisory Board Chairman Brent Scowcroft at the Global Citizen Awards dinner in New York City on October 1. (Imagelink)

World Economic Forum Founder and Executive Chairman Klaus Schwab took the stage next. Schwab, the inaugural recipient of the Council’s Global Citizen Award, described a global citizen as someone who is “not just here to solve global problems [but rather] engages truly with compassion.”  

Lagarde presented the award to Draghi, remarking that “through the challenges Europe has gone through in the last few years, [Draghi has] moved Europe in the direction of stability.”  

Commenting on the importance of international cooperation, Draghi said “because we work as a union, we can address problems that would otherwise overwhelm us if each country worked alone.”

International Monetary Fund Managing Director Christine Lagarde presented the Atlantic Council's Global Citizen Award to European Central Bank President Mario Draghi saying he had "moved Europe in the direction of stability.” (Imagelink)

In recognition of his personal commitment to uniting communities through music, the Council honored Yu whose world-renowned conducting and artistic skills have inspired countless lives around the world. He was introduced by Global Citizen Awards Chairman Victor L.L. Chu.

Chu recognized the night’s honorees saying, “They represent the highest honor of global citizenship—people with talents who are willing to reach out from their immediate spheres of expertise to promote peace and harmony throughout the globe.”

Yu remarked on the importance of musical education as a way to empower future generations. “Music education should be an all-round effort,” he said, “because the love of music can be translated as a love of humanity.” He then introduced Johnson Li, a twelve-year-old piano virtuoso who concluded the evening with moving performances of He Luting’s Cowherd’s Flute and Chopin’s Minute Waltz.

The Atlantic Council’s Global Citizen Awards dinner recognizes global leaders who have made exceptional and distinctive contributions toward strengthening the transatlantic relationship. Previous honorees include former Israeli President Shimon Peres; Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto; Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi; then-US Senator John Kerry; former UN High Commissioner for Refugees Sadako Ogata; former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri (posthumously); musician Quincy Jones; and Her Majesty Queen Rania Al Abdullah of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.