Atlantic Council Global Citizen Awards 2019

Monday, September 23, 2019

New York, New York


Victor L.L. Chu, chairman of the Global Citizen Awards, Atlantic Council International Advisory Board member, and chairman and CEO of First Eastern Investment Group


Special announcement from Anna Deavere Smith, actress, playwright, and professor; Atlantic Council Artist in Residence

Introductory speaker:

Adrienne Arsht, executive vice-chair of the Atlantic Council


ANNOUNCER:  Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome to the stage chairman of the Global Citizen Awards and CEO of First Eastern Investment Group, Victor Chu.  (Applause.)

VICTOR L.L. CHU:  Your excellencies, distinguished honorees, John, David, Fred, and the wonderful team at the Atlantic Council, thank you, all of you, for supporting us with this program.  It’s particularly pleasing that we are here for the 10th time.  And thank you, many of you, for supporting us for the last 10 years.

It is a challenge for me to follow the most handsome political leader from Europe.  (Laughter.) I hope I can compensate a little by telling you a little bit about the origin of the Global Citizen Award.  Fred has already thanked our team for making this event and scheme stronger and better as we go on.  But I also want to thank our leadership team, led by Chairman John Rogers, Chairman Dave McCormick of the International Advisory Council, and particularly Fred, the president of – Atlantic Council.  But more importantly, behind these leadership are their better halves, and I’d like to recognize Deborah, Dina and Pam for their support in making this event better and stronger.  (Applause.)

Thank you.  I also want to recognize my own dear wife for supporting me over those years.  Would you be upstanding to be recognized?  (Applause.)  Otherwise I’ll be in deep trouble tonight.  (Laughter.)

Ladies and gentlemen, when Fred and I conceived this idea at Davos, about 12 or 13 years ago, we did not anticipate just how crucial the identification, celebration and promotion of principled, consistent and purposeful leadership would be.  And I’m pleased to say that with Klaus, who inspired us 10 years ago on this program, he has set a very high standard for honorees.  And as you can see, all the honorees here tonight really fulfill our definition of global citizenship.

Meeting the challenges of today and tomorrow requires collaboration, for people and statesmen to reach out their own political field to do global common good.  In receiving the inaugural award in 2010, Professor Schwab defined global citizenship as respect for human dignity and diversity, a service to causes larger than oneself, an exemplar for future generations.

So global citizenship is about value, commitment and kindness.  Like Brian said, it is something that we do to touch the heart.  Global citizenship embraces the values of justice, inclusion, diversity and kindness.  Let’s work hard together to make an impact every day so that future generations can live in a more peaceful and a better world.  

Thank you very much again.  (Applause.)

ANNOUNCER:  Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome back to the stage Atlantic Council President and CEO Fred Kempe.  (Applause.)

MR. KEMPE:  How lucky are we all to write – to work with such principled, purposeful, results-oriented individuals?  And in that spirit it’s my distinct pleasure to introduce a woman who defines the term “game-changer” for the Atlantic Council in our work around the world, Adrienne – Adrienne Arsht.  

Adrienne founded the Adrienne Arsht Latin America Center at the Atlantic Council which has become the go-to place for issues on the region. If you don’t know that already, you would have known that if you saw what we convened today on Venezuela – really, the most purposeful people doing the most purposeful work on one of the most pressing global issues we’re facing at the time.  And none of it would we be able to do, had it not been for this establishment of the Center.

If that was not enough, Adrienne then came to us with an idea to create a center focused on resilience, which has, as I said earlier, been transformed into the Adrienne Arsht Rockefeller Foundation Resilience Center of the Atlantic Council.  In addition to all that, she served dynamically as the executive vice chair of our board of directors to John Rogers.  Adrienne is an idea factory, and it is my pleasure to welcome her to the stage as she introduces the personification of her latest innovation.

Ladies and gentlemen, my dear friend Adrienne Arsht. (Applause.)

ADRIENNE ARSHT:  Thanks, Fred.

The Adrienne Arsht Rockefeller Foundation Resilience Center – we’re looking for a bit of an acronym that will do better – will focus on individuals, communities, governments and institutions and how they are resilient, how they can become more resilient, how to better prepare them to navigate and recover from shocks and stresses.

We will reach 1 billion people with resilience solutions to the challenges we face by 2030.  We will help build a more resilient world.  (Applause.)

As everyone knows, I have a passion for the performing arts. So let me tell you how resilience and the arts are intertwined.  You know the phrase, the show must go on.  Doesn’t that define resilience?  So let me now talk about the performing arts.

I want to tell you, I first met Anna Deaveare Smith when I went with Sandra Day O’Connor to see Anna perform.  From the moment I saw her do her storytelling, I looked for a way to work with Anna.  When her last show, Pipeline to Prison, finished its run, I pounced.  I invited her to dinner; politely asked, so what are you doing next?  And before she could respond, I said how about doing your performance on resilience? And so that’s the way this began two years ago.

For those of you not familiar with her work, in addition to her award-winning roles in television, things like Nurse Jackie, West Wing, and films, American President, Anna has developed a method of storytelling that creates indelible insights and memories.  She interviews people on a particular issue.  It could be health care, the prison system, and now resilience.

She begins to speak the words of her interviewees.  She studies their physicality and ultimately embodies them completely.  It is really extraordinary to watch her do this.  She collects characters along the way in her journey to address an issue.

But now enough of my words describing her.  Let’s watch a video of some of Anna’s thought-provoking performances.

(Begin video segment.)

ANNA DEAVERE SMITH:  The large project called On the Road: The Search for American Character, my grandfather told me when I was a girl that if you say a word often enough, it becomes you.  So for a very long time I’ve been trying to become America, sort of word for word. And I’ve made about 18 plays this way. Some of your audience will remember my plays about the Crown Heights riots and the Los Angeles riots.

MR.     : Fires in the Mirror.

MS. SMITH:  – and also Fires in the Mirror, Twilight: Los Angeles, and Let Me Down Easy about health care.

When asked about bilingual education, who said if the English language is good enough for Jesus Christ, it’s good enough for everybody. (Laughter.)

I said I am appalled for every patient who comes on this unit.

I want you to know that this is the place that you can come to recall to life, in whatever fashion you have, the person we sent off.

Everybody said it should have killed me, and it ain’t even knocked me out!

So it’s in that vein that I’m interviewing people – the teachers, cops, kids, parents – about what’s going on in stories and trying to think about ways, with their help, of how we can turn this all around.

Open your eyes.

It is impossible to talk about the criminal-justice system without talking about education.

Prison don’t do nothing but make you a worser, worser person.

You want to change, you got to do it by yourself.

Even if I didn’t make it down the pole, the statement would still be made.

It’s a movement, and it’s not going to stop.

Most teenagers get incarcerated all because of your mouth. It’s prison or death. (Cheers.)  We’re going to keep demanding justice.  A message to Black America, don’t expect nobody to open the door for you.  You can’t wait for the leaders to make it better.  We have to make it better.  (Applause.)

(Video segment ends.)

MS. ARSHT:  Just imagine where she’s going to take resilience.  It is with great pleasure and excitement that I make the official announcement that Anna Deavere Smith will be joining the Atlantic Council as the first-ever artist in residence.  She will – (cheers, applause) – she will work on a project entitled “Stories of Human Resilience.”  It is my pleasure to welcome to the stage my dear friend, the incomparable and very special, Anna Deavere Smith.  (Applause.)

ANNA DEAVERE SMITH:  Thank you so much.  Thank you. It’s quite – it’s quite an honor to be with you tonight.  And you know, Adrienne, how much I admire you and your resilience.  I want to tell you one quick thing.  The first time I had lunch with Adrienne she came in wearing red, you know, and she’s so beautiful and dramatic.  And I just made a comment that I just didn’t have the nerve to wear red. And at the end of the lunch, at the Hay-Adams in Washington, just as she stepped into her car, she turned around and she said to me, give red a try.  (Laughter.)  And soon afterwards, I found in my dressing room at the theater a very, very beautiful burgundy scarf, as a way to introduce me to the courage to wear red. And based on how she said that, I start every semester that I teach saying to my students:  Confidence is overrated.  Give doubt a try.  (Laughter.)

I’ve been artist in residence a lot of different places, from MTV networks to Grace Cathedral in San Francisco.  But I’ve never had the opportunity to be in the company of such a global reach as this room and the Atlantic Council.  And I want to congratulate all of the global citizens for your honor tonight and to thank you for the work that you do.  I’m very excited about working with Fred Kempe, and Kathy McLeod, and Robert Pullen.  Just the notion that you are going to affect 1 billion people by 2030. Stories of resilience, resilience of the earth, resilience of good things like peace, resilience of bad things like war.  Resilience of good things like health, resilience of bad things like disease.  

I’m sitting next to Mitch Landrieu tonight, the former mayor of New Orleans, a city that was pretty much left for dead – (cheers, applause) – after Hurricane Katrina.  You better believe me he’s going to be one of my first interviews.  Or my city, Baltimore, Maryland, really struggling. So – (applause) – there’s a lot to learn about how we as humans have faced the challenges that threaten us in the past, the challenges of now, and how we will face the challenges of tomorrow. It’s a great gift to be here tonight and to be working with you, Adrienne.  Thank you so very much.  (Cheers, applause.)