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

WASHINGTON, DC – October 14, 2020 – This evening, the Atlantic Council hosted its annual Distinguished Leadership Awards, which honored Kristalina Georgieva, managing director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF); Luis Alberto Moreno, outgoing president of the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB); and Lionel Richie, music icon, producer and philanthropist. The most significant event on the Washington calendar celebrating global leaders was hosted live in a virtual setting from the nation’s capital with hundreds of guests tuning in from around the world.

Each of the evening’s honorees delivered moving remarks about the importance of principled leadership during difficult times.

Kristalina Georgieva was honored for a lifetime of public service and, most recently, her remarkable leadership of the IMF through COVID-19’s economic challenges. On accepting her award, Georgieva pledged her commitment to be a leader for the benefit of others and reminded the audience that “change is unstoppable. You can choose to be in front of it or be rolled over by its advancement.” Managing Director Georgieva was introduced by former US Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright. View Ms. Georgieva’s remarks here

Luis Alberto Moreno received a Distinguished Leadership Award for his 15 years of game-changing leadership at the IADB working to improve lives in Latin America. “If my legacy has been to help strengthen the bank, to help strengthen the region, especially as it faces this historic urgency, then I derive a measure of satisfaction for this unforgettable chapter in my career,” Moreno stated. President Moreno’s award was presented by former US Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson, Jr. View Mr. Moreno’s remarks here.

The Atlantic Council awarded the 2020 Distinguished Artistic Leadership Award to Lionel Richie in honor of his legendary music career and lifelong dedication to philanthropic giving. Upon accepting the award, Richie emphasized “it is very important that we just take fame and power and recognition to give back.” He thanked the Council for the recognition as it demonstrates that “what the world needs now are people who understand the plight of the voiceless.” Mr. Richie was introduced by Bob Johnson, the founder of Black Entertainment Television and the RLJ Companies. View Mr. Richie’s remarks here

The Atlantic Council also honored the life and legacy of Lt. Gen.Brent Scowcroft, the only individual to have been appointed twice to serve two American presidents as national security adviser and one of the most important forces behind the sustained relevance and strength of the Atlantic Council. The salute to the life of Lt. Gen. Scowcroft was led by Henry A. Kissinger, former US Secretary of State and the Council’s longest serving board member. The tribute to Lt. Gen. Scowcroft can be viewed here.  

The final highlight of the evening was a special tribute to the Atlantic Council’s Unsung Heroes of 2020—a culmination of a worldwide campaign to gather and share individual stories of everyday citizens who have contributed impressively to their communities amid a year of unprecedented challenges. This tribute was narrated by and featured a performance from critically acclaimed singer, actress, and humanitarian Vanessa Williams. Video of the 2020 Unsung Heroes tribute can be viewed here.  

The heroes celebrated by the Atlantic Council included Belarusian pro-democracy activist Maria Kolesnikova, who became one of the many faces of the mass protests against president Alexander Lukashenko; Diana Berrent, founder of Survivor Corps, which mobilizes COVID-19 survivors to assist the medical and scientific community combat the pandemic; The Melville Family Foundation, which improves the lives of Black and Hispanic children in southern Dallas through economic assistance, ensuring food security, and promoting academic excellence; The Azadi Project, run by Atlantic Council Millennium Fellow Priyali Sur, which helps refugee women learn digital skills to facilitate their integration into the local labor force; Miriam’s Kitchen, which provides meals, housing, and support services for the homeless community in Washington, D.C.; and theKung Fu Nuns, a group of Buddhist Drukpa, who provide remote villages with critical food and material assistance while promoting gender equality, environmental sustainability, and compassionate social action.

Click here for a library of resources from the 2020 Distinguished Leadership Awards, including transcripts, event photos, video, and social media content.