Atlantic Council Global Citizen Awards 2019

Monday, September 23, 2019

New York, New York


Frederick Kempe, president and chief executive officer of The Atlantic Council


Mark Rutte, prime minister of Netherlands

Introductory speaker:

Klaus Schwab, founder and executive chairman of the World Economic Forum


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

FREDERICK KEMPE:  Welcome back.  I don’t do this very often, but I was sort inspired by the first half of the evening and everything that the Atlantic Council’s been pulling off against an enormous set of challenges.  So I would like to have the Atlantic Council’s staff and leadership sprinkled throughout this room, with its leaders Damon Wilson, Carrie Kolasky, Julie Varghese, Andrew Marshall, and then the program and center directors, please stand – and everybody else from the staff – please stand.  (Cheers, applause.)  This is the best team in the business.  And the care, the precision, the dynamism you see with which they pull off this dinner, they do this with their substantive work every day.  So thank you so much.  

I hope you enjoyed the first half of the dinner.  Another round of applause for President  Piñera and Brian Grazer.  (Applause.)  I also want to salute – and he’s backstage, you’re going to see him in a minute – but I want to salute our inaugural honoree ten years ago, when we first experimented with this, the sort of embodiment of global citizenship.  And he’s backstage so he can’t take a bow but applaud him anyway.  And, Hilde, his incredible partner and partner in accomplishment, Klaus Schwab. (Cheers, applause.)  And then finally, and you’ll hear from him in a moment as well, 10 years ago Victor Chu came to me with an idea.  We founded this dinner.  Without Victor Chu, my dear friend and an amazing business leader, it wouldn’t have happened.  Victor, thank you so much.  (Cheers, applause.)  

And I want to thank you all for being here.  Through your presence and financial support you empower our results-oriented work to achieve our mission of advancing constructive U.S. leadership, working always alongside friends and allies to shape a better future. Not long ago I met with a great American statesman and Atlantic Council leader Brent Scowcroft, the man who hired him into this job a dozen years ago.  And he said to me, and this is a really important thing to hear from Brent Scowcroft, the only man in history who has been national security advisor to two American presidents:  Everything I’ve worked for in my life is endangered.  I’m counting on you and your team, he said to me.  So that’s a heavy responsibility.

But every day the people you just saw stand around the world wake up in the morning wondering how they can move the needle and how they can create a better world.  We have identified, the staff and the board of the Atlantic Council, five issues that we think add up to a defining, historic moment.  And I’ll list them rat-a-tat very quickly.  First, a new era of major competition.  Second, new challenges for open market democracies.  Third, uncertainties about the American role in the world after 70 years of relative consistency.  Fourth, doubts about the durability of the international order established over World War II – after World War II, which this week, UNGA week, is all about.  Fifth, questions regarding the role of what Klaus Schwab dubbed the fourth industrial revolution, the most disruptive and, at the same time, most promising period of technological change that humankind has confronted.

We’re adding a sixth, and we’re adding it not because we didn’t recognize it, but because previously we didn’t really have the tools to address it, and now we do.  And the sixth is the historic environmental challenges that President Piñera talked so movingly about that are endangering our planet through the Adrienne Arsht-Rockefeller Center Resilience Center that you will hear more about in a moment. (Applause.)

We see none of these challenges as a reason for despair.  We see all of them as a call to action because we’ve been through worse before.  And we are inspired by the purposeful leadership that tonight’s awardees represent.

I would also like to salute another group of global citizens, and those are our co-chairs for this evening’s awards, and they come from all corners of the world.  I’d ask you to hold your applause until I list them all, and I’d ask them to stand as I – and remain standing as I list their names.

From South Africa, African Rainbow Minerals represented by Patrice Motsepe; from Japan, ANA Holdings represented by Yoji Ohashi; Adrienne Arsht; BlackRock represented by Dominik Rohe; BlackStone; BrightSphere represented by Guang Yang; Dentons; DLA Piper represented by Mac Bernstein; Edelman represented by Richard Edelman; from Hong Kong, First Eastern Holdings, represented by Victor Chu; Hanesbrands represented by Joia Johnson – Winston, right, Joia?

Bahaa and Hasnaa Hariri, and happy anniversary to you tomorrow, Hasnaa and Bahaa!  (Applause.)

HSBC Securities represented by Gerry Mato; Hunt Consolidated Energy represented by Hunter Hunt; George and Kristen (sp) Lund; Goldman Sachs represented by our remarkable chairman, John F.W. Rogers – (applause) – Majid Al Futtaim represented by Ibrahim Al-Zu’bi from Dubai; William Maren; Dave McCormick and Dina Powell McCormick – (cheers, applause).  So on the applause meter, that’s pretty high.

From Turkey, MNG group of companies represented by Mehmet Nazif Gunal; Richard Attias & Associates represented by Richard Attias; S&P Global represented by Douglas Peterson; Jenny Wood (sp); from Switzerland, Sicpa Holding represented by Philippe Amon; from South Korea, SK Group represented by Tae-won Chey; Squire Patton Boggs represented by Robert Kapla; Wethington International represented by Olin Wethington; Zurich represented by Francis Bouchard.

Please join me in giving a loud round of applause to these global citizens.  (Cheers, applause.)

You empower our work.  Thank you so much.

With that, I invite you to turn your attention to the screens as we salute our next honoree – oh, just one other thing, I’m sorry.  Gift bags – pick them up.  We always give you books.  I want to salute the leader of Penguin Random House who is here, a member of our International Advisory Board, Markus Dohle, who always contributes books; “Call Sign Chaos” – if Jim Mattis is in the back – from them; Klaus Schwab’s “Shaping the Future of the Fourth Industrial Revolution” is there; “Face to Face” by Brian Grazer; and Steve Schwarzman’s new book that’s actually inspirational and very funny at the same time.  So pick up your bags on the way out.

So with that I invite you to turn your attention to the screens as we salute our next honoree, Prime Minister Mark Rutte of the Netherlands. (Applause.)

(Music plays.)

ANNOUNCER:  Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome to the stage the inaugural recipient of the Global Citizen award, World Economic Forum founder and executive chairman Professor Klaus Schwab.  (Applause.)

KLAUS SCHWAB:  Dear friends, just imagine a prime minister who, as you have seen, takes his bicycle to go to the office.  If he has to make a longer distance, yes, he has a car, but it’s a 12-year-old second-hand Volvo, and he’s driving himself; every week going to the school, a school of immigrant children, to teach some history.  Where do you find still such a prime minister in the world?  You find it in the Netherlands, and it’s Mark Rutte. (Applause.)

Mark, you have a triple role.  First, of course, you are the prime minister of the Netherlands. And the Netherlands, even a small country but still belonging to the 20 – not to the G-20, but to the 20 most important economies in the world.  But you play a key role in the politics of your country since 10 years, having been nominated prime minister in 2010 and having been before engaged in business and in politics, of course.

But you are also a solid rock in Europe.  Thank you for providing a certain stability, particularly during a very challenging time for Europe, where we have to manage Brexit.

And finally, we should not underestimate the significant role the Netherlands is playing on the international scene.  You are one of the big donors.  You are at the forefront in terms of cyber – of food security, water, gender, and so on.

Mark Rutte, you are a very private man.  And when I did my research about you, it’s very difficult to find data.  But someone – it was the former president of the European Parliament – said you are a cool man.  And I said you are one of the longest-serving politicians and prime ministers in Europe, but I was told by an authoritative source you are also probably the best-looking prime minister in Europe.  (Laughter.)

But much more important, particularly in our world – much more important particularly in our world of today you are a principled man, and I would say we have two categories of politicians.  The first category is are those who are driven by a radar system, which means they send out signals and send the determinants of behavior according to the signals they get back.  But you are not a radar man.  You are a compass man, someone who has clear values, who follows his values.  So you are a real statesman.

So it’s a great honor and pleasure for me as the first inaugural recipient to hand over to you on behalf of the Atlantic Council the Global Citizen Award 2019.  (Applause.)

PRIME MINISTER MARK RUTTE:  Klaus, esteemed members of the Atlantic Council, ladies and gentlemen, thank you so much for bestowing on me one of the Global Citizens Awards for 2019. It is, indeed, a great honor and a great privilege.  I must confess, though, that I am actually a man of habit and tradition.  To give you an example, I was born and raised in the city of The Hague.  I still live there and I have no intention to move anywhere else.  (Laughter.)

So some of my best friends had a hard time picturing me as a trendsetting global citizen.  But as you pointed out, Professor Schwab – dear Klaus – this prize is all about strengthening international and especially transatlantic relations, and yes, that is close to my heart.  It is a fundamental truth that transatlantic cooperation makes us stronger than when we are apart, and that’s not rocket science but simple common sense, as world history since 1945 has shown.

Perhaps the most important lesson I’ve learned in my years as prime minister of one of the world’s most outward looking trading countries is that national interests are often best served by international cooperation, and this is true when it comes to free and fair world trade.  It’s true in the fields of safety and security with NATO as a prime example, serving the interests of all members states including the U.S. 

But it’s also true when we look at the SDGs or at the Paris Climate Agreement.  The late Kofi Annan once said, I’m often asked what can people do to become a good global citizen, and I replied that it begins in your own community.  So what we do at home and how we operate abroad are, indeed, connected, and if we do the right things the right way in the right order together, then suddenly one plus one can add up to three.  I had applause here in my text but you’re not responding. (Applause.)  Thank you.  

Now, it’s almost a cliché to say that global balance of power is changing rapidly.  But that’s the thing with clichés.  They are true and we have to deal with that reality.  When I was a guest of this great Atlantic Council in Washington last July, I had the opportunity to speak about his at length.  And my key message remains that in today’s world it’s in our own interest and in our common interest to keep the transatlantic bond strong and vibrant, because we need each other to safeguard our democratic and free societies, to protect and bolster free and fair world trade.  And last but not least, to make the post-war multilateral system fit for purpose once again.  

Because U.N., meeting this week here in New York, but also NATO and the WTO were all grounded on the principles of a bipolar world, a time when there were clear boundaries between East and West and between a first and a third world.  And since then, reality has changed.  But the underlying system has not evolved to keep up.  And that’s causing problems the friction.  Today we live in a multipolar and volatile world, a world of shifting coalitions.  It’s up to us, the responsible politicians of today, to make sure we respond to this new reality by making all the necessary changes and improvements but without throwing away – out the baby with the bathwater.  And I believe this is one of the main tasks we face across the Atlantic region.  

Ladies and gentlemen, when I heard that the Atlantic Council had been kind enough to make me a global citizen, and that the ceremony would take place on Wall Street, my thoughts immediately turned to the Dutch women whose name is engraved in a 9/11 monument just a few blocks from here. Ingeborg Lariby was only 42 years old when she died on that horrific day that reshaped an era.  She truly was a global citizen, born to Dutch parents, building a life for herself here in New York, with friends all over the world. In her obituary in The New York Times she was eloquently described as native of the Netherlands, citizen of everywhere.

It’s a thought that should appeal to us all because wherever we come from we all gain from an international outlook and an open mind. And so I see this honor not as a lifetime achievement, or a lifetime achievement award, but as an incentive prize. Thank you.  (Applause.)