Atlantic Council’s Distinguished International Leadership Award for International Monetary Fund Managing Director Christine Lagarde
2019 Distinguished Leadership Awards
Distinguished International Leadership Award
John F.W. Rogers,
Atlantic Council Board of Directors
President and CEO,
International Monetary Fund
Location: Washington, D.C.
Time: 7:00 p.m. EDT
Date: Tuesday, April 30, 2019
ANNOUNCER: Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome to the stage Ms. Ivanka Trump. (Applause.)
IVANKA TRUMP: Thank you. And this has truly been a spectacular night, so I want to congratulate all of tonight’s honorees and award recipients and everyone who came to support the Atlantic Council this evening and the excellent work that they’re doing. So thank you all. (Applause.)
This evening I am deeply honored to introduce the next award recipient, a leader and a friend who has shaped my own thinking and who shares a passion for women’s economic development and so, so many other issues, as evidenced by that great video, Madam Christine Lagarde. (Cheers, applause.)
Twenty years ago she was elected as the first-ever woman to run the third-largest law firm – apparently Fred’s law firm – in the world. Today Madam Lagarde is a model of excellence, a visionary for global finance, and a pioneer for women around the world. In 2007 Madam Lagarde became the first woman in the eurozone to hold the position of finance minister. During the financial crisis of 2008 she guided the French economy with a steady hand decisive action, and fresh thinking. As Madam Lagarde often reminds us, if it had been Lehman Sisters rather than Lehman Brothers the world might very well look a little different today. (Laughter, applause.)
In 2011 Madam Lagarde was elected as the managing director and chairman of the International Monetary Fund, again the first time ever a woman has held this role. In the eight years since she has modernized the IMF and pushed the boundaries of economic analysis to empower women and to help leaders to overcome corruption with transparency and service to their citizens.
In every phase of her career, Madam Lagarde has faced opposition from resisters of change. But she has always responded with both poise and strength of character, bringing even her skeptics to the table for the common good.
I will never forget being at the G-20 main session last year in Buenos Aires with Christine. She was addressing the heads of state in attendance, all of whom happened to be men with the exception of Prime Minister May. Chancellor Merkel had been running late and had been delayed in arriving. Madam Lagarde opened the first session, which happened to be entitled “Women’s Economic Empowerment,” by saying “Lady and gentlemen.” (Laughter.) Point made.
Madam Lagarde is among a rare class of leaders who embody the best paradox of humanity. She is relatable, yet cerebral. She is warm, yet uncompromising. She is among the fiercest negotiators, yet an excellent consensus-builder. She has a heart big enough to serve the world and an intellect to make it better. She lives by the motto of her high school which is just a couple of miles down the road, Holton-Arms: I will find a way or make one.
Christine, this evening we thank you for paving a way to a brighter, more just future for women and for the world. I ask you to join me in welcoming to the stage Madam Christine Lagarde as we present her with the Atlantic Council’s 2019 Distinguished International Leadership Award. Congratulations, Christine. (Applause.)
CHRISTINE LAGARDE: Bonsoir, tout le monde!
- LAGARDE: Whew! (Laughter.)
This is the Atlantic Council. We speak all languages, we understand each other, and the purpose of it is to keep and bring people together. And I salute tonight, obviously, Ivanka, who has been such a wonderful, wonderful introducer to me, and who shares the same passion that I have to empower women and to help them around the world.
I would like to thank Fred Kempe, the Atlantic Council, and all the board members of the Atlantic Council. Thank you so much for the job that you do. (Applause.)
I would like to also recognize my fellow awardees of vintage 2019, and I really would like to say a special thank you and express my gratitude and my friendship to Adrienne, who is such a generous, passionate, and wonderful friend to many of us and to me, in particular.
Adrienne, bravo. (Applause.)
And I would like also to recognize an old client of mine, Fred. It was a pleasure to serve you as a lawyer, and it is extraordinary to see the expansion of your Paris base. It used to be that small – not small, actually. It was already big, and then you expanded it, and expanded it, and I see that you expanded it yet again. You are a genius entrepreneur in addition to being an extraordinary human being, so well done to you, of course. (Applause.)
Now NATO, of course, represented by its deputy secretary general, is a great, great, and terribly humbling awardee to be associated with, so I’m really humbled and privileged to be with such wonderful individuals and organization.
You know, as I was watching backstage these photos of mine, I was really a bit concerned at the beginning that they would show even more personal and intrusive photos – (laughter) – you know, those that would have described me as a – in my early professional life, those jobs that prepared me to be a good lawyer when I was a student and I had to earn my living: assistant fishmonger, backstage wardrobe assistant, lifeguard, switchboard operator. You just name it. (Laughter.) So no wonder, Fred, you selected me as a lawyer. Well prepared I was.
No, what actually surprised me when I was watching these photos is those who were missing, and I would like to take the opportunity of this evening – not for too long – to say publicly thank you to them. They are the ones who brought me here, and I would like to really say thank you to my mother. I know everybody does that, but my mother was a bit special. She was a very distinguished professor of ancient Greek and Latin, and yes, I had to have my seven years of Latin and five years of ancient Greek – (laughter) – to be a decent human being – (laughter). So she was strict but very sensitive as well – only five years of ancient Greek – (laughter). She was an accomplished skier, race car driver – yes, Adrienne, my mother was doing those things, too – and she was just an amazing role model to my brothers and myself. She singlehandedly raised the whole family after my father passed away very early on in our lives, and she did that with courage, with generosity, and with resilience. And those three attributes, to me, embody what a leader should demonstrate.
The second person I would like to say thank you to here is the person who hired me as a baby lawyer at Baker McKenzie. She, too, was an incredible role model, and she taught me three things: how to dress, how to address, and how to redress. (Laughter, applause.) And I haven’t forgotten any of those three. I still remember those three today. The most intriguing one, by the way, is redress, and friends of mine who are sitting in the room actually would probably remember what they called the little knife of Christine. (Laughter.) When you want to take out the – (inaudible) – send the bastards. (Laughter.) I shouldn’t have said that. (Cheers, applause.)
Now, what I thought I would also tell you tonight is talk to you about the leaders that, thanks to my various jobs, in the course of my life I’ve met, particularly lately as managing director of the IMF. No, I’m not going to talk to you about presidents and prime ministers and chancellors and highness, princes and kings or popes. I’m going to talk to you about, all right, three.
The first one is Maximiliana Taco. She’s this Peruvian lady that you saw walking with me hand in hand. She lived in the high plateaus of Peru. Her entire family had been decimated by the terrorists. She didn’t know how to read. She didn’t know how to count. She didn’t know how to write. And whenever she was earning a bit of money growing her guinea pigs and she was taking money to other places where she could buy something, she would be robbed.
So she had the courage, the generosity and the resilience to actually be taught through a microcredit program in Peru how to use a little credit card specific to that microcredit system. And then she told all her neighbors how to use that system and how to combine that with the mobile telephone in those days so that the whole community could farm safely and could be self-sustainable. That’s a leader to me.
The second person that I’ll remember always is the one I met in Indonesia last year when we had our annual meetings in Lombok. Now, little did we know that Lombok would have a devastating earthquake. So when I arrived there, I went to visit on site to see by myself and for myself what the disaster and what the damage was. And that’s where I met the one I call the lady of Lombok.
Everything had been destroyed – no house left, nothing to harvest. Everything was gone. And there she was, together with the neighbors and the community, picking up the pieces and beginning the rebuilding of the community and the rebuilding of the houses. She came towards me. She reached out. And I thought she was going to ask what we can do, what the IMF can bring, because we do give a lot to charities as well. No, she didn’t ask. She didn’t beg. She did not complain. She looked at me and she said, good luck, madam. May you travel safely. That’s also courage, generosity and resilience.
And the last one that I want to share with you is those firemen whom I met Wednesday a week ago, 24 hours after they had eventually put out the fire in Notre Dame. And the colonel of the firemen that I met that day had been up for over 48 hours, and he was still driven, determined. And he explained to me that a group of 20 young men, all in their early 20s, had volunteered to climb up the two towers in order to water from the top to save the structure of what was much more than a building, but this beloved symbol of peace, tolerance, respect, faith, worship, a place where my parents got married.
That also to me was courage, generosity and resilience. It was to the peril of their lives, but they had no hesitation. And the colonel said to me, if I had been only 20 years younger, I would have been with them too.
So inveniam viam aut faciam. That’s what Holton-Arms’ motto says: I will find my way or make one. That’s also what I like to do, heading the IMF now and leading a group of unbelievably talented and dedicated people whose life it is every day, everywhere, to actually show courage, to show generosity, and to show resilience. We together try to make the place a better world. We remind all those we work with that we are in this together, and that those sacrifices that were made 75 years ago or a century ago between this country and Europe was not in vain, and that those bonds are forever. Thank you. (Applause.)
ANNOUNCER: Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome to the stage Ms. Nova Payton, performing, “The Impossible Dream,” accompanied by the congressional chorus and the American Pops Orchestra. (Applause.)
(Music: “The Impossible Dream.”)
ANNOUNCER: Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome to the stage Atlantic Council President and CEO Mr. Fred Kempe. (Cheers, applause.)
- KEMPE: So one more round of applause for Nova Payton, Luke Frazier, American Pops Orchestra, and the Congressional Chorus. (Cheers, applause.)
This is a magnificent event. It only has meaning, and we know that at the Atlantic Council, if we turn it into action. With your help we can. And we can – and we are determined to help create a better world. Thank you so much for being here tonight. We’ll see you next year. And we’ll work with you all the days in between. Thank you. (Cheers, applause.)