May 10, 2018
Former US President George W. Bush: "People in the United States Cannot Escape World Responsibility"
2018 Distinguished Leadership Awards
Distinguished International Leadership Award Presentation
President and CEO,
General James L. Jones, Jr.,
Interim Chairman, Atlantic Council;
Chairman, Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security
President George W. Bush
Former National Security Advisor to President George W. Bush;
Executive Vice Chair, Atlantic Council
Denning Professor in Global Business and the Economy, Stanford Graduate School of Business; Former US Secretary of State (via video)
Location: Washington, D.C.
Time: 7:00 p.m. EDT
Date: Thursday, May 10, 2018
Superior Transcriptions LLC
ANNOUNCER: Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome to the stage Atlantic Council President and CEO Fred Kempe. (Applause.)
FREDERICK KEMPE: As you sit, is my great honor to introduce, to open up the program, our chairman General Jim Jones. General Jones. (Applause.)
GENERAL JAMES L. JONES, JR.: Thank you, Fred. And ladies and gentlemen, excellencies, dignitaries and friends, welcome to the Atlantic Council’s 2018 Distinguished Leadership Awards. It’s great to have you all here. And it’s my great honor to open the Atlantic Council’s annual celebration of international leadership and tribute to the men and women who make the world our better – a better place. The Atlantic Council believes that the leadership of individuals can change history. This organization was founded in the early 1960s by some of the same premier leaders in American history – individuals like Dean Acheson, Lucius Clay, Henry Cabot Lodge, Mary Pillsbury Lord. Leaders like them have turned the tide of history in dark moments and anchored America to the cause of freedom in the struggle against communism.
So tonight’s dinner recognizes the remarkable work of the most recent crop of leaders who have offered their own contributions to making our world a better place. As we recognize the accomplishments of four outstanding individuals this evening, we hope to advance a new form of leadership that is equal to the challenges that we face.
So in that spirit, we honor the 43rd president of the United States, George W. Bush. (Cheers, applause.) We honor President Bush for not only international leadership, but particularly for his compassionate commitment to health in Africa.
President Bush’s leadership in creating the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief brought about the largest health initiative of one country, focused on one particular disease, and his legacy of leadership has provided for lifelong HIV treatment for more than 13 million HIV patients, enabled more than 2.2 million babies to be born HVI-free, and assist more than 6.4 million orphans, vulnerable children and their caregivers.
As President Bush’s former commander of the U.S. European Command and NATO, I would be remiss if I failed to acknowledge his leadership in expanding NATO to include Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Romania and Bulgaria.
Thank you, Mr. President. (Applause.)
Even as we celebrate the leadership of President Bush this evening, we keep him and Laura Bush and former President George H.W. Bush and the entire Bush family in our thoughts and prayers as the entire nation continues to mourn the loss of our former first lady, Mrs. Barbara Bush. (Applause.)
Tonight, in the military domain, we honor General Curtis Scaparrotti, Supreme Allied Commander Europe and commander of U.S. Forces Europe. General Scaparrotti’s remarkable legacy of leadership has impacted every theater in which he’s served, developing cadets at West Point, directing the Joint Staff in the Pentagon, commanding troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Republic of Korea and Europe.
His outstanding achievements and talents are all the more remarkable and needed as the United States prepares for an historic summit with the leadership of North Korea. General Scaparrotti’s legacy of leadership reminds us that the presence of U.S. forces in Europe and on the Korean Peninsula and our ironclad alliance commitments in both theaters underpin the prospects for peace and security in both of those regions.
And also tonight – (applause) – thank you. Also tonight we award Howard Schultz for his remarkable and transformative legacy as a businessman, philanthropist and social activist. As you may have heard, these dinners sometimes run a bit long, so we’d like to thank Howard Schultz for supplying the coffee later on this evening. (Laughter.)
Inspired by the coffee and community of Italian cafes, he pursued a dream of bringing his – the finest espresso drinks and café culture to the American market. His vision and determination built a global powerhouse with 25,000 stores in 75 countries around the world, including Italy.
Not content to just build a coffee company and an iconic brand, Howard Schultz wanted to create a company with a unique commitment to social justice. Under his leadership, Starbucks has served as a trendsetter in advancing youth and veterans’ employment, benefits for part-time staff, and incredible diversity.
And finally tonight, we will recognize the remarkable artistic contributions of seven-time Grammy winner and Medal of Freedom awardee Gloria Estefan. (Cheers, applause.)
It would not be an overstatement to say that Gloria Estefan is one of the most influential cultural icons in the Western Hemisphere, if not the world. She has sold more than 100 million albums in two languages over a career spanning five decades. Born in Cuba before immigrating to the United States in the early ’60s, Gloria Estefan brought the sounds of Cuba to a mainstream American market. In addition to her musical accomplishments, she is also a film star, an accomplished author, a businesswoman, and a great philanthropist. Thank you, Gloria. (Applause.)
So the Atlantic Council, ladies and gentlemen, is extremely proud to be able to recognize these four very special leaders and to add them to our star-studded collection of past honorees. These leaders also represent what we endeavor to do every at the Atlantic Council, and that is, very simply, to make an impact.
The word “think tank” is far too passive to describe the Council. The Atlantic Council is a dynamic and results-oriented strategy-based action tank working each day alongside our friends and allies to secure the future. It is that culture and that determination to make a difference that draws so many of us to the Atlantic Council.
So, with that, I’d like to ask all of my fellow board members of the Atlantic Council to stand so that we can applaud you for everything you do for this institution. (Cheers, applause.) Thank you. (Applause.)
And if I may, I’d also like to ask all of the staff members of the Atlantic Council here to stand as we applaud their daily efforts to produce cutting-edge work. (Applause.)
So, ladies and gentlemen, it’s now my honor to turn the stage over to their leader, Atlantic Council Supreme President and CEO Fred Kempe. (Laughter.) The reason I interject the title “supreme” is because, first of all, we’re ordering – we’re honoring a supreme allied commander. I was one of the recipients of the first Military Award, and ever since then Fred Kempe has reminded me that the title “supreme” is really the coolest military title there is. (Laughter.) And so when I walk in the room it’s “Your Supremeness.” It’s “the supreme commander is here.” And so I could only gather after all these years that he really likes that title. (Laughter.) So, without any vote or just by the power of the chairmanship, I am, for tonight, awarding the title – (laughter) – of supreme president and CEO to Fred Kempe. (Laughter, applause.)
But only for tonight. (Laughter.) Actually, for over 11 years under the leadership of Fred Kempe and the work of his great dedicated staff, the Atlantic Council has become one of the most influential think tanks in Washington and, in fact, around the world. Those of you who are longtime friends of the Atlantic Council know that when Fred assumed the role of president and CEO in 2007, the Council’s great brand had fallen on hard times. Its mission was not clear, and its population was diminishing, and its economics were in disastrous shape. But Fred brought an entrepreneurial spirt and focused leadership to the Council that has underpinned the organization’s absolutely remarkable growth.
Since taking over the Council, Fred has grown the size of the staff and fellows; has expanded its centers and programs to address global and cutting-edge issues of relevance to the Atlantic community, and in fact the international community; has markedly improved the quality and relevance of its work. He even moved the Council into a beautiful set of headquarters commensurate with the organization’s restored statue – stature, I should say. And although I must say that they are a bit fancier than anything I’ve ever enjoyed in the Marine Corps, but it’s very nice to see it is. (Laughter.) So, for all that progress, friends of the Atlantic Council owe Fred and Pam a great deal of gratitude.
And so it’s now my honor to turn the floor over to our supreme president and CEO, Fred Kempe. (Laughter, applause.)
MR. KEMPE: So any of you who know General Jones, he told me he was going to tell that “supreme” joke in front of all of you. And I offered him 100 bucks not to. (Laughter.) So clearly I underestimated the price. (Laughter.)
So thank you, General Jones, Jim. Or, as I typically said while clicking my heels at the Atlantic Council whenever he passes and saluting “mon general.” (Laughter.) Jim, did you hear those heels clicking back there? He actually really likes to hear them click loud. (Laughter.)
Joking aside, General Jones, day in and day out, over the course of your remarkable career – soldier, Marine commandant, supreme allied commander Europe, national security adviser – I swear to you there is no single human being who has ever had all of those roles. You have embodied the ethos of the Atlantic Council. Thank you so much for your principled – thank you so much, General Jones. (Applause.) You are principled, purposefully, nonpartisan, globally engaged, consistently seeking common cause solutions to the world’s greatest challenges – and you’re also a hell of a lot of fun. (Laughter.) You’ve long been a pivotal leader in our organization, and you graciously answered the call of the Atlantic Council Board of Directors to step in again as our chairman, following the departure of Governor Jon Huntsman, now serving as U.S. ambassador to Russia. You inspire us every day. Thank you for that. (Applause.)
For nearly 60 years, the Atlantic Council’s been propelled by the belief that the United States cannot lead alone, and that we must pull together with like-minded global friends and allies to shape the future or accept that other forces will shape the future or chaos may fill the void. And for those six decades, nearly six decades, we’ve engaged the international community and built partnerships to advance the rules-based international system created from the rubble of World War II by far-sighted U.S. leaders and their global friends – many of whom also, as General Jones said, helped build the Atlantic Council.
We gather tonight at a time of global uncertainty, when truths and assumptions we thought to be ironclad are now thrown into question. The great statesman Dean Acheson, among the Atlantic Council’s founders, wrote the famous book, “Present at the Creation.” As we sit here tonight – and I must say, I’m awed sitting and standing here before this amazing community of influence – as we stand here – as I stand here tonight, and as you sit here, we must fear that we are present at the destruction of this order that brought us unparalleled peace and prosperity over the last 75 years. Or, this is the Atlantic Council purpose, can we be – can we muster the creativity and political will to be there at the reinvention, at the reinvigoration, at the rethinking of how we can build upon what we’ve constructed.
From the renewed threat of major power conflict, to uncertainty about America’s role in the world, from the fraying of Western-style democracy to the erosion of the global order, to the opportunities and challenges inherent in the coming era of technological change unlike any we have faced before, these are the challenges that our 12 programs and center roll up into what we’re taking on in a results-oriented, dynamic way. General Jones was right, we hate the term “think tank” because it’s just too passive. It’s not sufficient. It’s a good starting point, but insufficient.
Our longest-serving board member, Henry Kissinger, recently at the Atlantic Council said it’s the most unsettled global situation since the end of World War II, where the U.S. role in the world and relationship with the world is the most unsettled as well as it’s been since World War II. But we at the Atlantic Council don’t see these as reasons for despair; we see it as a call to action. We operate under the guiding principle that it is not and cannot be business as usual. Our 12 programs and centers are driven by the conviction that if we work constructive, we can secure a peaceful and prosperous future. Likewise, we believe we will suffer the consequences shall we fail to raise – to rise to the challenges. Through the papers we write, the ideas we generate, the future leaders we develop, the communities we build, the Atlantic Council shapes policies, choices and strategies to create a more free, secure and prosperous world.
Our longtime chairman and eminence grise, Brent Scowcroft, recently told – by the way, he sends you all his greetings. I saw him very recently and he was at a very recent offsite meeting of the board of directors, and he said to this offsite of the board of directors that he considered all these challenges that we’re talking about such a defining moment in history and he called it a new founding moment for the Atlantic Council. We agree, and we thank all of you for being here to support our efforts. (Applause.)
I’m not sure why he hired me but what the hell, it’s been a good ride. Thank you, General Brent – thank you, General Brent Scowcroft. Thank you. In his absence, please thank General Brent Scowcroft for everything he’s done for our country and for the Atlantic Council. (Applause.)
So we think that we’re at an inflection point perhaps as important as 1919, 1945, 1989 – end of the First World War, Second World War, Cold War – where outcomes were uncertain and leadership decisions had outsized importance. 1961 was the first dinner of this kind, launching the new Atlantic Council, and it was John F. Kennedy in front of a crowd like this one at the Mayflower Hotel and it was all about the rising threat, losing our nuclear monopoly, facing ideological struggle across the developing world, facing a new Berlin crisis.
We face just as uncertain times today and we must rise again to the challenge. Our results-oriented mission of working together with friends and allies to secure the future has never been more relevant or more urgent or more in question, and that brings me back to our gathering tonight and to you.
By being with us tonight, you’ve taken a place in our community to support the work we do and the values that drive it. And look around you – what an impressive accomplished community it is. You are among more than 800 guests from more than 70 countries, to include – and please hold your applause – Former Prime Minister of Pakistan Shaukat Aziz, Former Prime Minister of Sweden Carl Bildt, Former President of Poland Aleksander Kwasniewski, Former Prime Minister of Denmark and Secretary General of NATO Anders Fogh Rasmussen, Former Secretary General of NATO Lord Robertson of Port Ellen, Former Prime Minister of Australia Kevin Rudd, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross, U.S. Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin, Canada’s Finance Minister Bill Morneau, Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas, Representatives George Holding and Richard Hudson of North Carolina, Representative Martha Roby of Alabama, Representative Elise Stefanik of New York, Representative Michael Turner of Ohio. Thank you so much, all of you, for being here. (Applause.)
And, of course, countless other senior officials, business executives, ambassadors, media, civil society leaders, it is your strength that drives us forward. So without further ado – I hate that term “further ado” – enjoy the evening. Please turn your attention to the screens as we move into tonight’s dinner program. (Applause.)
ANNOUNCER: And now, a special message from former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
CONDOLEEZZA RICE: Greetings. Hello to all of you who have gathered here this evening to pay tribute to these outstanding Americans. The people being recognized tonight truly embody the best of what our country means.
I’m especially honored to have the opportunity to introduce someone who has led our country in the most difficult of times with dignity, dedication, and a deep love for the United States. It was, remarkably, almost 20 years ago when I first joined with Texas Governor George Bush as he embarked on a journey to lead America into the new century. None of us knew then that our service would come at a time of deep peril for our country.
But after those awful attacks of September 11th, President Bush did not give in to despair, nor did he allow his fellow citizens to do that either. Instead, he summoned the best in us, leading America to show its compassion in the President’s Emergency Fund for AIDS Relief that saved millions of lives. He led us to champion freedom from tyranny for all. And he reminded us that greatness starts at home, refusing to give in to the soft bigotry of low expectations and insisting on a high-quality education for all of America’s children.
George W. Bush showed what true leadership means and requires – being true to yourself and doing what you think is right, even if it’s not popular. It is not telling people what they want to hear or playing to their fears. It is telling them the truth and calling on them to see the world not just as it is, but as it should be.
True leadership means knowing how to empower the people who are trying to support you. Just as importantly, it means knowing how to make hard decisions, both as commander-in-chief and as decider-in-chief.
And ultimately, true leadership requires being, deep down, a good person. Character matters. And it is evidenced most clearly in how leaders treat the people around them. They assign worth, dignity and respect to every person, and they treat them accordingly.
It helps, too, to be humble and to have a good sense of humor, never to take yourself too seriously, even when you are the occupant of the Oval Office – maybe especially when you are the occupant of the Oval Office.
As I can attest from first-hand experience, George W. Bush embodies all of these qualities and more. Through his many years of distinguished service, he has proven himself to be a true leader and a great American. I am so grateful to have worked with him and to count him among my dearest friends.
Congratulations, Mr. President, on this well-deserved recognition. And may God bless you, your family and the United States of America, our country, which you have served so well. (Applause.)
ANNOUNCER: Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome to the stage former U.S. National Security Adviser to President George W. Bush, Mr. Stephen Hadley. (Cheers, applause.)
STEPHEN HADLEY: Good evening. In 2001 almost 3,000 people were killed in the 9/11 attacks, and the intelligence community predicted that 9/11 would be the first of a series of mass-casualty attacks on the U.S. homeland, and that some of them could involve weapons of mass destruction. These dire predictions did not come true. Instead, our nation strengthened its defenses at home and took the fight to our terrorist enemies abroad so we did not have to fight them here at home. And as of today, there have been no further 9/11-style mass-casualty attacks on the American homeland. (Applause.)
In 2002 world health experts projected that HIV/AIDS would kill millions of people in sub-Saharan Africa. Economists predicted that this would be – this would decimate the emerging middle class and set back economic development a generation or more. These dire predictions also did not come true. Instead, our nation helped launch both the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB, and Malaria, and a bilateral American effort called PEPFAR, the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief. Under this program, over 85 million people have been tested for HIV/AIDS and over 13 million people have received treatment, compared to only 50,000 people in Africa receiving treatment when PEPFAR began. (Applause.) As of today, over 13 million lives have been saved, and we are turning the tide on this pandemic.
In 2004 public health officials reported more than 300 million clinical malaria cases and more than 1 million malaria deaths per year. The common expectation was that these numbers would only increase, but these dire predictions also did not come true. Instead, our nation launched the President’s Malaria Initiative to partner with the Global Fund and other institutions in focusing on sub-Saharan Africa. And as of today, more than 6.8 million malaria deaths have been averted and 1 billion malaria cases have been prevented in what Nobel laureate economists call the best return on investment on the planet. (Cheers, applause.)
These dire predictions did not come true, and instead millions of lives were saved because of the vision and leadership of this year’s Distinguished International Leadership Award recipient, the 43rd president of the United States, President George W. Bush. (Applause.)
PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: Thanks, Chief. I appreciate the globe. (Laughter.)
I want to thank Fred and the Board of Directors for honoring me with this award. As Hadley will testify, I really don’t like award banquets. (Laughter.) I have had the greatest honor anybody could have, and that is to be the president of the United States. That’s award enough. However, I’m honored you select me.
I’m also honored to be honored with Harold Schultz. I call him “Starbucks man.” (Laughter.) You need to call him Mr. Schultz. (Laughs, laughter.)
I call him General Scarp. “Scaparrotti,” it’s kind of hard for a Texan to say. (Laughter.)
And mi amiga, Gloria Estefan. (Cheers, applause.)
I’m really here for two reasons. One is to highlight the success of the PEPFAR program. And, two, to encourage Washington, the White House, the State Department, the Congress, to make sure this program continues to be strong, to save lives. (Applause.) When Hadley invited me here, he didn’t tell me it was black tie. (Laughter.) He finally confessed. And he said, look, this is an important crowd in Washington. I don’t want you wearing that old ratty tux you used to wear to the White House Correspondents Dinner. (Laughter.) I looked at Hadley and said: Hadley, read my lips. (Laughter, cheers, applause.) No new tuxes. (Laughter, cheers, applause.)
Laura’s sorry she can’t be here. She sends her very best. She’s doing great. And so does a previous Atlantic Council honoree, a man I call 41 sometimes, usually call him dad. (Laughter, cheers, applause.) He’s doing well. He’s doing well. Of course, he misses mom. I don’t know if you heard what mom said the last time I ever saw her. We were in a hospital in Houston. The doctor walks in. And mother looks straight at the doctor and says: You want to know why George W. turned out the way he did? (Laughter.) The doctor was somewhat perplexed. (Laughter.) And she says: Yes, Mrs. Bush. She said: Because I drank and smoked when I was pregnant with him. (Laughter, cheers, applause.) My whole family thanks you for your prayers and condolences. All is well with her soul and all is well with ours. (Applause.)
In my quest to become a better painter – (laughter) – I have been studying Winston Churchill. (Laughter.) It occurred to me that I am receiving a special award on a special date – May 10th, the date in 1940 in which the man who coined the term “special relationship” became prime minister of Great Britain. In his first address as the prime minister, Churchill said: I hope I may be pardoned if I do not address the House at any length today.” I’m going to show the same courtesy. (Laughter.) Churchill received an honorary degree from Harvard. I guess the Yale trustees were asleep. (Laughter, applause.)
He spoke about the ties of blood and history and common values that bind our nations together – law, language, literature, justice, compassion, morality and, above all, a love of freedom that connects us across the Atlantic. He also noted we are united by a common tongue, though I always had a little probably with the tongue part. (Laughter.) Churchill said in his lifetime two world wars had shown that oceans no longer protected the new world from problems of the old. The only way for peace was through partnership and engagement. If we are together, nothing is impossible. If we are divided, all will fail. That’s why the Atlantic Council is important today. And I appreciate your good works. (Applause.)
It’s very important for our fellow citizens to remember these words from Winston Churchill. America is indispensable for the world. And the dangers of isolation loom. The price of greatness is responsibilities. One cannot rise to be in many ways the leading community in the civilized world without being involved in its problems, without being convulsed by its agonies and inspired by its causes. If this had been proved in the past as it had been, it will become indisputable in the future. People in the United States cannot escape world responsibility. I wholeheartedly agree.
Fifteen years ago this month, our nation took on a dire world responsibility. As Condi and Steve mentioned, an HIV/AIDS pandemic threatened to wipe out an entire generation on the continent of Africa. My administration believed that of those to whom much is given, much is required. We believed that we’re all God’s children and every human life is precious. So in 2003, we decided that the greatest, wealthiest nation ever had a moral responsibility to intervene.
We recognized, too, that the United States had a national security imperative to act. Societies mired in disease breed hopelessness and despair, leaving those forgotten by wealthy nations susceptible to recruitment by radical extremists.
As I said when I signed the law authorizing PEPFAR on May 27th, 2003, America is the nation of the Marshall Plan, the Berlin airlift and the Peace Corps. As we saw on 9/11, how people live overseas can affect us here at home. When we confront suffering, when we save lives, we breathe hope into the devastated populations, strengthen and stabilize society and make our country and the world safer.
A decade-and-a-half on, PEPFAR has had great results. You all have heard them. Thirteen million people now live who would have died had it not been for the generosity of the American people. Across Africa, people who had been given up for dead are leading healthy and productive lives. Entire villages that had been abandoned are now thriving. Calling to mind the story of Jesus raising his friend from the dead, Africans have come up with a phrase to describe the transformation. They call it the Lazarus effect. The sad news is most Americans have no idea that their generosity has such an amazing effect.
I have come tonight to draw attention to this great and compassionate act. Some Americans may ask, is this really in our national interest? Why are we spending money abroad when we’ve got big problems here at home? Those are legitimate questions. Here is my answer: I believe that spending less than two-tenths of 1 percent of our federal budget to save millions of lives is the moral, the practical and in the national security interests of the United States. (Applause.)
People say we shouldn’t spend money on programs that don’t work at home or abroad. I completely agree. But we should invest in programs that are efficient, effective and results-oriented. PEPFAR is a program ‒ such a program. It works. And it’s going to have positive implications for our country for decades to come. And we have got to continue to support it. (Applause.)
So I woke up in Crawford the day after watching President Obama get sworn in and it was quite a shock. (Laughter.) I had to get the coffee. (Laughter.) Shortly thereafter, we discovered this startling fact: That women who have had HIV are five times more likely to develop cervical cancer on the continent of Africa, which is a preventable, treatable disease. And it broke my heart to think about the Lazarus effect taking effect in a village and then all of a sudden a preventable disease taking the life.
And so at the Bush Center, we’ve decided to do something about it. We decided to work with public/private partnerships utilizing the PEPFAR platform to deal with women’s cervical cancers, the leading cause of death of women on the continent of Africa. (Applause.) Half a million women have been screened; 32,000 have been treated for lesions; 147,000 have been vaccinated against HPV, the virus most responsible for most cases of death.
Over the past year, the Bush Institute has worked with Ambassador Deb Birx and PEPFAR on a bold new strategy. This week we’re announcing the next phase of our partnership with PEPFAR and UNAIDS, a plan to effectively eliminate cervical cancer amongst HIV-positive women within a generation. (Applause.)
Laura and I have been over to Africa five times since we left Washington. I wish – I wish a lot of our citizens could go and realize how appreciative the people are for our generosity. It’s the best kind of diplomacy there is. It’s soft power at its most beautiful.
We were recently in a clinic in Namibia, and it’s a maternity clinic. And there were, like, 120 women, all who had HIV-AIDs, with their babies, not one of which had HIV. (Applause.)
And so I’m honored to get this award. I really would like to dedicate it to the generosity of the American people and ask you to spread the word about what this great compassionate nation has done.
I want to conclude by talking about that speech Churchill gave at Harvard. (Scattered laughter.) Nothing wrong with Harvard. (Laughter.) “To the youth of America, as to the youth of all the Britains, I say you cannot stop. We have now reached a stage in the journey where there can be no pause. We must go on.”
Well, we’ve turned the tide against HIV-AIDS, but the gains are still fragile. We cannot stop. We have now reached a stage in the journey where there can be no pause. We must go on.
Thanks for having me. (Applause.)