Full transcript: 2022 Distinguished Leadership Awards salute the people of Ukraine, Mario Draghi, and more


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JOHN F. W. ROGERS: Your excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, if I can have you take your seats we can begin our program. Good evening.

Thank you for joining us to celebrate truly extraordinary honorees at this year’s Distinguished Leadership Awards, for which we’ve gathered here in the magnificent Anthem here in Washington, D.C. Tonight we’ve come together to recognize individuals who embody the pillars of the transatlantic relationship for their achievements in the fields of government, business, humanitarian, and artistic leadership. These luminaries have made exceptional and distinctive contributions across the Atlantic and around the world, and it is with great pride that the Atlantic Council invites you to join us in applauding their achievements.

As we gather this evening, I don’t need to tell you that we are at a pivotal moment for our global community. As Russia continues to escalate its war in Ukraine, we are witnessing the largest mobilization of military forces and the fastest-growing refugee crisis in Europe since the Second World War. And every day we see images of the reckless and unnecessary loss of life and property as Ukrainians defend their country made up of people who only want peace, stability, and the right to decide their own future. Suffice it to say that Russia’s aggression runs counter to the foundational undertakings of the Atlantic Council, and this is to galvanize constructive leadership here in the United States alongside our longtime partners and allies to do nothing less than to guide and shape a better and a more prosperous world.

In some respects, it might seem inevitable that the Cold War ended as it did, ushering in an era that would advance democracy and open markets in unprecedented ways. But the outcome was only possible due to relatively consistent, principled, and self-confident United States and Europe, united in a common cause. It was that determination that produced the decisive deterrent, military strength, the magnificent example of democratic societies and open economies, and the attractive model of shared engagement in the new transatlantic and international institutions. And notwithstanding the myriad events and challenges since I say with confidence and a great deal of admiration for all of those who have made it so, that the Atlantic Council has never been more robust operationally, substantially, and financially. And in the face of such complex, daunting, and worldwide challenges, as we enter the third calendar year of the pandemic, accompanied by economic, societal, and political dislocation, the Council’s formidable strength comes at a time when our work has never been more imperative for the world order.

As the United States secretary of the Treasury, Janet Yellen has argued during her address at the Atlantic Council earlier this spring, there is an important lesson in the fact that the Bretton Woods international financial institutions were created while World War II was still raging. Even amid global crises such as the pandemic and Russia’s war in Ukraine, world leaders must think big, she said. And there is indeed no more urgent time to do so. Does then we ought not to wait for a new normal, Secretary Yellen declared. We should begin to shape a better future today. And Madam Secretary, you could not be more right.

To this end, our operational environment demands that we at the Atlantic Council lift our ambitions to 2022 to tackle what has been at the heart of our enduring mission since our founding in 1961. And in that spirit we are delighted to celebrate distinguished individuals this evening whose leadership is integral to the political and private sector discourses as well as the principles of basic humanity at this inflection point in our global community.

And first, we’ll bestow His Excellency Mario Draghi for the president—he was the president of the Council of Ministers of the Italian Republic, and I’m delighted to call a friend—with our Distinguished International Leadership Award. (Applause.)

We do so for his leadership of Italy as it continues to navigate the many challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic; for his efforts to solidify Italy’s significant role in Europe and beyond; as well as Prime Minister Draghi’s previous accomplishments as president of the European Central Bank.

Tonight we also present Claudio Descalzi, the chief executive officer of Eni, visiting fellow at Oxford, and a member of the General Council of the Confindustria and member of the global board of advisors at the Council on Foreign Relations with our Distinguished Business Leadership Award. And that is in recognition of the bold steps that Eni Corporation has taken towards a greener future and helping to enlighten and lead the way for a more responsible and sustainable path for generations to come. (Applause.)

And for the first time in the history of the Council, we are going to present a distinguished award to the entire nation—the Ukrainian people for their bravery and resilience. (Applause.) And President Zelenskyy has sent us a special video message, and Her Excellency the Ambassador Markarova is here in person to accept it. (Applause.)

And finally, and on behalf of all Ukrainian artists, we will present our Distinguished Artistic Leadership Award to the critically acclaimed singer-songwriter, actress, and activist Jamala for her lyrical work and presence helping to preserve and protect Ukrainian culture and identity from the Russian invasion of her country. (Applause.) In addition to this salute to Jamala, who has been called the voice of the Ukrainian people outside of her homeland, we are privileged to honor the courage and the resilience of the Ukrainian people more broadly with a special tribute that I spoke about.

In conclusion, let me also say how deeply grateful we are to this evening’s co-chairs, to The Atlantic Council’s Board of Directors and our International Advisory Board and all the generous friends of The Atlantic Council who have gathered tonight. Our work advances because of all of you. More than a singular event, tonight our collective mindset and resolve are symbolic and are a powerful statement towards a future that brings with it possibility of promise, of liberty, and hope. And so with that, I want to thank you again for being with us tonight and I look forward to what I hope you’ll find to be a wonderful and truly exceptional experience. Thank you. (Applause.)

ANNOUNCER: Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome US Secretary of the Treasury, the Honorable Janet L. Yellen. (Applause.)

JANET L. YELLEN: I’m deeply honored to present the Distinguished Leadership Award to my friend and longtime colleague, a gifted economist and tireless civil servant, the prime minister of Italy, Mario Draghi. (Applause.) I really got to know Mario over dozens of dinners at the Bank for International Settlements, during the time that he served as the governor of the Bank of Italy, and then as president of the European Central Bank. And this was no easy time in the world of central banking. The global economy was shaken by a financial crisis and the ensuing Great Recession. Mario was chosen as the first chair of the Financial Stability Board, a consortium created to build a stronger global financial system, one that would be less crisis-prone.

Mario also charted a course to save the European economy and the euro itself, relying on his unique ability to bring people together to forge consensus. He’s known for a famous line in central banking history, declaring, amid the European debt crisis, that the ECB would do whatever it takes to preserve the euro, and it’s often said that those four words cemented the future of the euro zone. But it was the following statement—and, believe me, it will be enough—that signaled Mario’s confidence and credibility—financial markets, Europeans, and the world knew that he and the ECB could be trusted to deliver.

The United States was fortunate to have Mario as a partner then, and we’re grateful to have him as a partner once again. Mario jumped back into public service, becoming prime minister of Italy in early 2021 amid an unrelenting global pandemic and deep economic strains.

In his first year, he oversaw Italy’s swift vaccination campaign, a series of relief measures to help workers and businesses, and a number of politically challenging reforms to modernize and green Italy’s economy, and on top of all of that, he led a successful G-20 year, a true testament to his commitment to multilateralism.

Now, in the face of Russia’s brutal and unjustified war against Ukraine, the United States has only strengthened our cooperation with Italy and with the rest of our European and global partners to stand firmly in support of Ukraine and the values that underpin our global economic order.

As we’ve rolled out an historic package of sanctions, I found great comfort in having a partner who deeply understands firsthand the plumbing of the international financial system, who fully internalizes the impacts and intricacies of the consequential actions we’re taking. I have deeply appreciated Mario’s counsel and wisdom throughout this latest challenge we are facing together.

Mario, thank you for your service to Italy, to Europe, and to all of us. I am honored to have worked so closely with you and I look forward to our continued partnership.

Without further ado, I ask you to join me in congratulating His Excellency, Prime Minister Mario Draghi, as I present to him the Atlantic Council’s Distinguished Leadership Award. (Applause.)


MARIO DRAGHI: Well, good evening to everybody, and thank you for being here. Chairman Rogers, dear John; President Kempe; Secretary Yellen, Janet; Minister Al Jaber; Ambassador Markarova; distinguished guests; ladies and gentlemen; it is a great, great honor to be here with you tonight.

I would like to thank the Atlantic Council for the award. I’m extremely grateful for the award and even more so for tonight, for this splendid evening here all together.

This prize—but I want to share this prize with my government, my country, my fellow citizens. Italy has come through some extremely difficult times in the latest few years. We faced the pandemic before anyone else in the Western world. We endured an economic shock that was much sharper than elsewhere in Europe. We now experience the return of war on our continent, which threatens our safety, our prosperity, our energy security. And this is happening for the first time since the Second World War.

Yet, as it has done time and again in its magnificent history, Italy has bounced back. And we are ready to do our part together with our European and transatlantic allies to overcome this tragic moment, to restore peace where there is evil.

I would also like the thank Janet for the extremely generous speech, which I do not deserve. Fortunately, I was in the backstage so I couldn’t blush openly. (Laughter.) Her words bring me back to the early ’70s, 1970s, during my early years in the US. when I was a graduate student at MIT and Janet was an assistant professor at Harvard.

As a young man from Rome, everything I saw in Cambridge was new. Three things struck me the most and have remained with me ever since: The openness of this welcoming country, the United States of America; the generosity of my mentors, the late Franco Modigliani and Paul Samuelson, Bob Solow, Stan Fischer, all of whom I would like to thank tonight; the brilliance of my fellow students Paul Krugman, Larry Summers, and the one I was closest to Pentti Kouri, alongside many others. And tonight, I—(…)—if my closest friend, Francesco Giavazzi, is sitting with us tonight.

At MIT, I learned to look ahead, to think with rigor, and more than anything else given my kind of character to challenge conventional wisdoms no matter how settled they are. These lessons resonate with me today as we grapple with one of the worst crises since the Second World War.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has caused what we used to call a paradigm shift in geopolitics. It has strengthened the ties between the European Union and the United States, isolated Moscow, raised deep questions for China. These changes are still ongoing, but one thing is certain: They are bound to stay with us for a long, long time.

We must continue to support the bravery of the Ukrainians as they fight for their freedom and for the security of us all. We must continue to inflict costs on Russia, moving swiftly with our latest package of sanctions. But we must also do all we can to reach a ceasefire and a long-lasting peace. It will be up to Ukrainians to decide the terms of this peace, and no one else.

Meanwhile, we have to prepare ourselves for the world we’ll live in tomorrow. We must be ready to continue to stand with Ukraine long after the war ends. The destruction of its cities, its industrial plants, its fields will require enormous financial support. Ukraine will need its own Marshall Plan, much like the one that contributed to the special relationship between Europe and the United States. And we’ll need to ensure its democratic institutions remain strong, stable, and lively. Ukraine is our friend. Ukraine will remain our friend.

The difficult times started well before the war, but each of these crises carries major consequences for Europe. It carries risks, but also opportunities. Let me give you one example.

The pandemic has brought the European Union together in ways that were unthinkable even a few months ago. I’m referring to our joint vaccination effort, a model for the world; and to the next-generation EU, a first seed of that Hamiltonian moment which two centuries ago helped make the modern United States. The war in Ukraine has the potential to bring the European Union even closer together. It’s quite clear that there is no way we can cope with the challenges—with many challenges, serious challenges, that we have to face in the future years on a national basis. It’s quite clear that what is needed now is a joint effort, which will pull together—which will pull us together much more than it did in the past.

There is one thing I want to say. We’ll have to streamline our defense spending, avoiding inefficiencies and duplications; speed up the energy transition; relaunch the economic recovery; address longstanding and new inequalities. These radical transformations require change in our institutions and may require changes in our funding—founding treaties. We must remember the urgency of the moment, the magnitude of the challenge. This is Europe’s hour and we must seize it.

The choices the European faces are brutally simple. We can be masters of our own destiny or slaves to the decisions of others. What makes me optimistic is that we know we are not alone. At a time of profound change, some things stay the same: The close relationship between the European Union and the United States, that timeless bond that strengthens us both. Thank you. (Applause.)

ANNOUNCER: Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Metropolitan Opera soprano Maureen McKay. (Applause.)

ANNOUNCER: Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome former NATO Supreme Allied Commander and Atlantic Council Executive Chairman Emeritus General James L. Jones. (Applause.)

JAMES L. JONES: Good evening, ladies and gentlemen.

I want to add my thanks to all of you for being here tonight on a night where our thoughts are with the people of Ukraine as they continue to suffer from Vladimir Putin’s heinous and unforgivable assault on their lives. The Ukrainian people are fighting a war of preservation as Vladimir Putin continues to attempt to erase the history of the Ukrainian people, a gross affront to Ukrainian independence and certainly to their democracy.

As a former NATO supreme allied commander, the Russian invasion was not a shock to me personally. Russian forces have spent years increasing their aggression towards the Ukrainian people. However, what has shocked me and the world are the absolute atrocities carried out by Russia, causing unimaginable suffering and unprecedented human crisis.

Ukrainians have sacrificed so much to try and secure their freedom. We know they are at the frontlines as we gather here this evening fighting for their lives. Against the onslaught of Russian armor and missiles, the Ukrainian people have displayed a tenacity to fight and a resistance that is perhaps unmatched in our time. Their will to withstand no matter the hardship is a testament to the strength of the Ukrainian people. Until the safety of their nation’s future is secure, the Ukrainian people have told us and shown us that they will not yield.

JAMES L. JONES: It is now my great honor to welcome our next guest to the stage. She, like the Ukrainian people, is known around the world for her strength and conviction. She’s often quoted Thomas Paine’s Reflections on the Revolutionary War, stating that the times have found us. The times have indeed found us, the world and the Ukrainian people. She has recently returned to Washington after leading a congressional delegation to the front lines in Kyiv. She met with President Zelenskyy and was awarded a high Ukrainian civil honor, the Order of Princess Olga, for her commitment to the Ukrainian people. Hours after returning to the States, she signed and sent to the president a Lend-Lease Act, legislation that was a model of cooperation in the fight for democracy in World War II and a model for us today to proceed with much-needed aid to the Ukrainian people. We are very honored to have her with us tonight. Ladies and gentlemen, the speaker of the House, the Honorable Nancy D’Alesandro Pelosi. (Applause.)

NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): Thank you, General Jones, for your kind introduction, more importantly, for your great leadership and patriotism and courage for our country. Your words were so moving about not being surprised by the assault of Russia but the brutality of it. Thank you so much for putting it all in perspective for us. Again, your commitment to national security and public service is exemplary. It’s an honor to be introduced by you.

And thanks also to the Atlantic Council team—the Board of Directors Chair John Rogers and President and CEO Fred Kempe. We are blessed to be joined by Ukraine’s fearless champion in our national—in our nation’s capital, Ambassador Oksana Markarova. With her brilliance, poise, and resolve, she has offered a master class in how to respond when democracy itself is at stake. Thank you, Madam Ambassador, for your service to your nation and to the world, and congratulate—(applause)—and congratulations to all of the honorees.

Prime Minister Mario Draghi of Italy—how proud I am as an Italian American to be on the same stage that he was on and heard his very poignant and wise remarks. Congratulations, Mr. Prime Minister. And—that’s applause, too. (Applause.) And congratulations to Claudio Descalzi, CEO of Eni.

I’m here, though, to talk about the Ukrainian artist. As speaker of the House, on behalf of my colleagues, one of whom is here, Jason Crow, who came with us to visit President Zelenskyy last week—as speaker of the House, it is my great privilege tonight to present the Atlantic Council’s Distinguished Leadership Award to the extraordinary people of Ukraine.

Each and every day, the world remains in awe of the bravery, heroism, and determination of the Ukrainian people. Enduring unimaginable suffering and facing long odds to victory, courageous Ukrainians have stepped forward to protect their people, secure their homeland, and defend democracy for their nation and for the world. Make no mistake, the fight for freedom in Ukraine is a fight for freedom in the world, and America will be with them until the fight is won.

When I said—(applause)—when I said that to the president of Ukraine when we were there until victory is won, he said one month. One month. Presentation of this award tonight is elevated by the presence of members of our recent congressional delegation to Poland and Ukraine. I mentioned Jason Crow. There, we had the high honor of meeting with President Zelenskyy, and we expressed our endless respect for his leadership and for the admiration of his people. And, yes, General, I did tell him that the times had found him, just as Thomas Paine said the times had found our revolutionary heroes so many years ago.

We also pledged to continue to meet Ukraine’s urgent needs, including with our robust bipartisan aid package that the House passed last night, strongly bipartisan. (Applause.) And with the recognition of this special award we take another step to honor their fight for freedom.

And now it is my great honor to present this award to the people of Ukraine for their strength and resilience. But first, we have—we are honored to have video remarks from President Zelenskyy, and to accept the award in person here tonight please welcome Ambassador Markarova to the stage. (Applause.)


NANCY PELOSI: Repeat after us: Slava Ukraini! (Applause.)

OKSANA MARKAROVA: Say it again: Slava Ukraini!

NANCY PELOSI: Slava Ukraini! (Cheers, applause.)


ANNOUNCER: Ladies and gentlemen, as we break for dinner, please enjoy music from the American Pops Orchestra and Luke Frazier. The program will resume after a short break.

[Dinner break]

ANNOUNCER: Ladies and gentlemen, here’s Atlantic Council President and CEO Fred Kempe. (Applause.)

FREDERICK KEMPE: Oh, I just love it, people together in person, talking to each other; not getting quite enough of it. And thank you for going through our stringent testing regimes and vaccination regimes, to the extent possible, and taking care of all of us.

So what a remarkable evening it’s been thus far. (Applause.) Congratulations first to Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi in receiving the Atlantic Council’s highest honor. (Applause.) Mr. Prime Minister, thank you for your leadership.

Thank you to the Ukrainian people and President Zelensky for inspiring us with your bravery and resilience, reminding us not only that our freedoms are very fragile, but also that our freedoms are worth fighting and worth dying for. (Applause.)

We saw in that remarkable video—which, by the way, President Zelensky produced for us yesterday and arrived at the Atlantic Council this morning—we saw in that remarkable video President Zelensky’s extraordinary leadership skills in rallying his country. Most recently, his leadership was evident in the successful efforts to rescue civilians from the Azovstal complex in Mariupol and his ongoing efforts to save the heroic fighters in Mariupol, which we should support energetically. (Applause.)

Thank you, Ambassador Markarova, for accepting our first award for an entire people; first time we’ve ever done that. And you know, Ambassador, that the Atlantic Council doesn’t just organize a dinner to honor the people, doesn’t organize a dinner for the video of Zelensky, but through our Eurasia Center and John Herbst and Melinda Herring—(cheers, applause)—through—well, you know, they’ve been leading the charge since the 2014 occupation of Crimea—through our Digital Forensic Research Lab, through our GeoEconomics Center doing sanctions, Digital Forensic Research Lab fighting disinformation and looking at sanctions; from our Scowcroft Center working on strategy, and arms, and what Ukraine needs—we’ve pulled the whole Atlantic Council together with the very aspects we have—our Europe Center looking at the role of the U.K., of Germany, of France—so we are an organization that actually looks to shape the global future with our allies and partners.

Thank you as well to Treasury Secretary Yellen, Speak Pelosi, General Jones for your introductions. And brava to the Metropolitan—(laughs)—it’s written on my cards Metropolitical Opera. It’s the Metropolitan Opera soprano, Maureen McKay. The Metropolitan Opera, Prime Minister Draghi—the Metropolitan Opera gave her the night off to come to us in order to honor you with her beautiful singing. (Applause.)

And as always, thanks to Luke Frazier and the American Pops Orchestra, and also the remarkable Robert Follett (sp). (Cheers, applause.) Most of all, thanks to all of you for gathering tonight as a community—a community of common cause. More than five hundred of you from more twenty-five countries, former heads of state, sitting cabinet members, members of Congress, CEOs and business executives, civil society and media leaders, and performing artists.

In another context, back in 1968, Dr. Martin Luther King, at Washington’s National Cathedral famously said, quote, “The arc of human history is long, but it bends toward justice.” It is the business of your Atlantic Council, at this inflection point in history, to bend that arc a little more rapidly, a little more surely toward justice and freedom globally in concert with like-minded countries and individuals across the world. That has been our purpose for sixty years, and this is our sixtieth anniversary. (Applause.)

Our mission has always been to shape the global future together with partners and allies. At this moment of Putin’s ongoing war in Ukraine—premeditated, unprovoked, criminal—we face a historic challenge that is both an opportunity and a threat, as Prime Minister Draghi said. The opportunity is that by supporting Ukraine’s survival as a democratic, sovereign, independent country through the most impressive rallying of the transatlantic community and its global partners in my lifetime, we can also shape a more promising future globally and inclusive future globally. It could be a future where the sanctity of borders, human rights, individual freedoms, human progress, and rule of law triumph over the law of the jungle.

In that spirit, I want to thank tonight’s dinner co-chairs of this—co-chairs who are in attendance. Please stand as I call your names, but also I’d ask the audience to hold your applause. We’re actually pretty happy to say it’s a very long list—I think my finance chair, George Lund, is the happiest person in the room tonight—(laughter)—and it’s one that provides us the wherewithal to do our work. So thank you so much for being here.

Here are our co-chairs for the evening: Adrienne Arsht, Airbus—(applause)—I knew you wouldn’t be able to hold your applause—Airbus represented by Jeff Knittel. Bank of America and Larry Di Rita. (Applause.) Beretta represented by Francesco Valente and Stefano Itri. (Applause.) Ahmed Charai. (Applause.) Chevron and Karen Knutson. (Applause.) Edelman represented by Richard Edelman. (Applause.) Eni represented by tonight’s honoree, Claudio Descalzi, who you will hear from in a moment. (Applause.) Fincantieri represented by Giampiero Massolo. (Applause.) Georgetown Entertainment represented by Franco Nuschese. Goldman Sachs represented by our board chairman, John F. W. Rogers. (Applause.) Bahaa Hariri represented by Safi Kalou. (Applause.) Hunt Consolidated represented by Hunter Hunt. (Applause.) Kirkland Ellis—(applause)—represented by Ivan Schlager. KNDS represented by Robert Schultz and Ron Phillips. Krull represented by Alexander Mirtchev. Leonardo represented by Bill Lynn and Paolo Messa. (Applause.) Lockheed Martin represented by James Taiclet. (Applause.) Majid Al Futtaim represented by Alain Bejjani. (Applause.) Mapa and Mehmet Nazif Günal. (Applause.) Mercer represented by Martine Ferland. News Corp represented by Almar Latour. One American Bank represented by George Lund. Ahmet Oren. (Applause.) Penguin Random House represented by Markus Dohle. (Applause.) I don’t know, somehow he always gets the biggest round of applause. Raytheon Technologies represented by Greg Hayes. (Applause.) SAIC and Nazzic Keene. Squire Patton Boggs represented by Ed Newberry. (Applause.) Textron represented by Mary Claire Murphy. (Applause.) Thales represented by Alan Pellegrini. (Applause.) Clyde Tuggle. (Applause.)

Grazie mille to all of you. (Applause.)

Finally, I would just like to ask one other group to stand for your applause, and some of this group will have—will be standing for the second time. If I could ask all of the following to stand: the board directors and the International Advisory Board members of The Atlantic Council and all the members of The Atlantic Council’s remarkable staff. If you could please stand. (Applause.) I’m honored to work with all of you, best team in the world.

Finally, and as I reflect on our incredible Atlantic Council community, we wish to salute three members of The Atlantic Council family who passed away recently. Peter Ackerman, DeVier Pierson, and of course Secretary Madeleine Albright.

Peter served as an Executive Committee member of our board and chair of our Personnel and Compensation Committee. He was a passionate fighter for freedom through our work with him in the Scowcroft Center and through his highly effective work on nonviolent civil resistance.

There are few people you can say this about but I love the work we did together, but most of all I loved our disagreements. They were always intelligent and spirited debates.

DeVier was one of those people whose contributions were more often felt than seen, whether as general counsel to President Lyndon Baines Johnson or as one of the most meaningful Atlantic Council board members in our sixty-year history. He served on the board for twenty-seven years, much of that time on the Executive Committee chairing our Personnel and Compensation Committee during almost my entire time at The Atlantic Council. The tougher the challenge, the more effective was DeVier’s always calm and wise response.

We will miss both Peter and DeVier.

As you’ll see by the slides that I hope will now be running on the screen, Secretary Albright played an ongoing role at The Atlantic Council, speaking and leading task forces on everything from the future of Europe and Afghanistan to major work on the Middle East, chaired together with Steve Hadley. They were our bipartisan group. The Democrat Madeleine Albright, the Republican Steve Hadley, very often not agreeing with each other but knowing that all good in America happens in the center, happens among radical centrists. It was while traveling through the Middle East with her, meeting with heads of state at every stop, sitting very often in traffic jams where you talk to each other for long periods of time that I was lucky enough to witness up close her tireless commitment to positive change and her remarkable impact on both the very powerful and the merely aspirational. At almost every stop and by popular demand she would meet with young women in these countries, often at the end of the arduous day.

We have many friends here from the Middle East, so you know every often when you have these security details leading your driving through town in a place like Riyadh sometimes it doesn’t actually get you faster to where you’re trying to get, so we talk for a long period of time. When I asked her how she could keep such a schedule meeting with these young women in all the places we were going so late in the day—because, frankly, I was pooped—she answered me, quote—and this is Madeleine’s words—“How could I say no to them? You never know whose life you might influence that day.”

President Clinton chose her as our first female secretary of state. Turn your screens and listen what—to what the other two female secretaries of state had to say about Madeleine.

HILLARY R. CLINTON: I am so delighted to extend my greetings to everyone gathered for the Atlantic Council’s Distinguished Leadership Awards celebrating the life and legacy of my dear friend and mentor Secretary Madeleine Albright.

As ambassador to the United Nations, secretary of state, professor, mom, grandmother, mentor, Madeleine counseled and cajoled, inspired, and uplifted so many of us. She could cut right to the heart of any issue with clarity and courage, and she was always in a hurry to do good. A dozen times a day she would ask her team what’s next, turning her boundless energy and intellect to yet another crucial global challenge.

During what would be our last phone call two weeks before she died, she talked about the importance of rallying the world against Putin’s invasion of Ukraine and the urgent work of defending democracy at home and everywhere else. If Madeleine were here today, I think she’d tell us that we, too, must be in a hurry to do good, to stand up to dictators and demagogues from the battlefields of Ukraine to the halls of our very own Capitol, to stand up for women’s rights and the autonomy to determine our own lives, and to live up to the ideals of the country she loved and served.

Thank you all so much for giving me a chance to add my words of praise and honor on behalf of dear Madeleine.

CONDOLEEZZA RICE: Thank you for allowing me to join you at the Atlantic Council in honoring our friend and our colleague Madeleine Albright.

Madeleine was a force. Madeleine was an original. I first knew of Madeleine before I even met her because her father, Joseph Kerbel, who had rescued this failing piano major and taught her about the world of things international and diplomacy, said to me one day: I have a daughter that I’d love you to meet. She’s studying with Zbig Brzezinski. You would like her, he said. And oh, how right he was. Madeleine and I would become great friends, even though, as she once told this story in the wicked sense of humor that she had, we did find ourselves on different ends of the political spectrum.

Madeleine called me one day and she said, I’m trying to get some people together to advise the Dukakis campaign, and you’re a great young Soviet specialist. Would you be willing to join us? I said, Madeleine, I don’t think that’s possible. She said, why? I said, Madeleine, I’m a Republican. And she shrieked and she said, how could that be? We had the same intellectual father. That was Madeleine.

But in fact, she didn’t care where you stood on the political spectrum as long as you, like she did, valued freedom, valued democracy, valued equality, and valued the chance for each and every human being to enjoy the blessings of liberty. All of us—all of the organizations, all of the people that she touched, all of the lives that she changed—will always have her memory at our heart. We’ll always be able to say that we knew this force, Madeleine Albright. She lived a consequential life. She lived a life that mattered. She lived a life that we can all admire and be so happy that we got to be a part of it.

Thank you.

FREDERICK KEMPE: Thank you for the—for Secretary Clinton, for Secretary Rice, in honoring Secretary Albright. That’s a really meaningful moment, I think, for a lot of us.

Ladies and gentlemen, please turn to your screens again for the next element of our program, our Distinguished Business Leadership Award. Let me just say, the introducer of this next award, Dr. Sultan Al Jaber, is one of the individual leaders in the world that I admire most. And he’ll be introducing one of the business leaders in the world I admire most, Claudio Descalzi. So I’m looking very much forward to this element of the evening.

ANNOUNCER: Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome UAE Special Envoy for Climate Change, Minister of Industry and Advanced Technology, and Group CEO and Managing Director of Abu Dhabi National Oil Corporation, Dr. Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber. (Applause.)

SULTAN AHMED AL JABER: Your excellencies, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, good evening. It indeed gives me great pleasure that I join you for this very special occasion.

Allow me first to thank my very dear friend, Fred Kempe, and the Atlantic Council for inviting me this evening for this very special moment.

When Fred, in fact, invited me to introduce Claudio Descalzi as the recipient of this year’s Distinguished Business Leadership award, I did not hesitate. In fact, I didn’t even blink for a second. And I immediately accepted this invitation. To me, it was a no-brainer.

Claudio has been a close business partner and a very dear friend for the United Arab Emirates and for me personally for many years. And as such, it is indeed a great privilege and even a greater pleasure to introduce Claudio Descalzi for this will-deserved recognition. (Applause.)

Claudio has always viewed the energy business as the business of progress. Beginning his career as a petroleum engineer in Africa over thirty-five years ago, Claudio recognized that access to energy meant access to economic opportunity. And he has made it his life’s mission to make the most energy available with the fewest and least emissions possible.

Claudio’s success, I think, comes down to his character as a direct and as a straight shooter. He knows what true friendship means and he actually knows what true partnership really means. With Claudio, what you see is truly what you get. He cuts through the process simply to deliver results, and he has made Eni one of the most agile operators in the energy business.

Many talk about the power of technology. Claudio has placed it at the very center of his business strategy. Back in 2015 when every major IOC was searching for gas in the Eastern Mediterranean, it was Eni’s supercomputers that unlocked the biggest find. The Zohr Gas Field transformed Egypt from an energy importer to a net energy exporter overnight. It opened up new possibilities for access to lower-cost, lower-carbon energy. And it’s made the Eastern Mediterranean a key factor in the region’s energy security. In short, the impact of this very specific discovery, given the current geopolitics, is still being felt today. And it simply would not have happened without the leadership, the commitment, the dedication, the follow-up, and the vision of Claudio Descalzi.

Claudio has always been a trusted and a reliable partner to everyone who does business with him. His approach mirrors what the UAE values in partnership. He has set and achieved ambitious targets to decarbonize his company’s operations, and he rebalanced Eni’s portfolio from oil to gas. And he has set his sights of the potential of new zero-carbon energy sources with pioneering investments in magnetic fusion alongside MIT. The list of his achievements goes on.

But let me conclude by saying this. When the history of the energy transition is written, Claudio Descalzi will be singled out as a key player. Through his efforts, he has strengthened and enhanced the possibilities of energy security. He has reinforced ties between the UAE, the Middle East, and the transatlantic community. And he has made a significant contribution to a responsible, realistic energy transition. Claudio, my dear friend, congratulations for this well-deserved recognition. (Applause.)


Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, please allow me to invite my dear friend Claudio Descalzi onto the stage. (Applause.)


CLAUDIO DESCALZI: Thank you. It’s really very emotional. I’m not used that somebody talk about me so clearly.

So I want to thank you, Fred, Sultan, all the people that are present today, ladies and gentlemen. So it is a great honor for me to be here today after two long years of distance. I think that is the first big gathering that I attend after a long time.

Let me first say how personally touched I am by the presence and words of my good friend Dr. Sultan Al Jaber. Sultan is a champion of global energy policy and climate action. He will receive from Egypt the baton from COP-28. He’s leading a deep transformation of his country, diversifying its economy and accelerating its technological development. Thank you, Sultan, for your friendship and effective leadership.

In this period, we are reminded every day how necessary it is to strengthen the unique bonds between the United States and Europe and ensure they are a force for good in cooperating with other regions in the world. Fred, I thank you and commend the Atlantic Council for the work you are carrying out on this.

I am very proud to receive this Distinguished Leadership Award and honored to receive it after Prime Minister Draghi, whose stewardship has been so clearly recognized by Secretary Yellen tonight. Washington is another step in the journey that Prime Minister Draghi has undertaken to accompany Italy and Europe on the pathway to reduce dependency on Russian supplies. Along with my Eni colleagues, we take pride in contributing to this journey.

The harrowing images that we have seen after the Russian invasion of Ukraine have given us all an unprecedented sense of urgency. Dear Ambassador Markarova, dear Jamala, I and my colleagues in Eni stand with the people of Ukraine. (Applause.)

Eni’s and—Italy and Eni’s reaction to the energy crisis can actually be well expressed by the words of Enrico Mattei, the founder of Eni. In 1962, he was presenting latest natural-gas discovery to the local population in Sicily and he said the real treasure isn’t in the gold coins we can make but in the resources we can make available to human development. This is the essence of Eni’s dual-flag approach: contributing to the development of the energy market, belonging with local communities, preserving the environment, and promoting human development and peace. In a word, this is the just transition we believe in.

For this, I’m a strong believer in the United Nations SDGs, which now frame Eni’s corporate mission. When I became CEO after serving in the energy industry for some decades, I felt the urgency to steer our company and our people to a deep transformation. I believe that there is no sustainable economic future for the industry against the transition.

However, it is also true that there is no sustainable energy transition without bringing the energy industry and its customers fully onboard. Moreover, the current scenario has put a new and dramatic spotlight on energy security, adding to the complexity of the energy transition. This has made us even more resolute in working for the security and sustainability of energy system while keeping a sharp focus on a just energy transition.

To achieve this goal, we need especially now to involve all available technologies and solutions. In the last eight years, Eni has invested in researching, developing, and deploying new proprietary technologies, and today our portfolio spans from carbon capture and storage, biorefineries, Silk Road economy, to renewables and (the true ?) solutions.

Let’s not forget that energy has always been a story of innovation. Energy companies are, first and foremost, technology companies. In this direction, I attach great importance to our presence in the United States. We are achieving here an ambitious target towards 20 percent of our global renewable energy additions.

Furthermore, as a physicist, I am particularly excited by the momentum that Commonwealth Fusion System is creating bringing magnetic fusion to mankind, the star in a bottle. Our cooperation with the CFS is one of the most precious fruits of our partnership with MIT, and I cannot wait to be back in the U.S. in June in Boston to meet them.

Let me close my remarks by going back to the second home of Eni, Africa, which is also my personal second home. Our long-lasting partnership with African countries are key to facing the current energy crisis, as well as delivering a real energy transition. In Africa, we are working on the first net-zero upstream development, we are developing renewables power, and we are implementing innovative business models. Having forged a partnership in seven countries to produce agro-feedstock for our world-leading biorefining initiatives.

And now a personal note of gratitude. I owe a lot to Eni and to the colleagues I have met during my career. They have shared with me their passion, pride, and knowledge. They have enriched my vision and broadened my horizon. I want to thank all of them.

Africa is also the place where Marie Magdalena, my wife, and I brought our family up. Her support, the support of my four children, and the African roots that accompany me everywhere I go are the true sustainable and ever-renewable energy that have made my journey possible right up to the honor you are giving me and Eni tonight. Thank you to my lovely wife, Marie Magdalena, that is here with me tonight. Thank you to Cindy (sp), my daughter—(applause)—with her husband, Serge (sp). Thank you to Alessandra (sp), my other daughter that is here with me. (Applause.) And a special thanks also to my beloved seven grandchildren that fill my life with pure love.

To all of you, grazie dal profondo del mio cuore—“thank you from the depth of my heart.” (Cheers, applause.)

ANNOUNCER: Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Atlantic Council Executive Vice Chair Adrienne Arsht. (Cheers, applause.)

ADRIENNE ARSHT: My father’s family name is Arsht. My mother’s family name is Cannon, or it was Kogin (ph) before the immigration people changed it. My grandparents, all of them, are from Kyiv. (Cheers.) I am Ukrainian. (Cheers, applause.)

I carry a copy of the Constitution with me everywhere. It was a tradition that my mother gave me. And in it, there is a quote that I carry with me from Edmund Burke, and that quote is: “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men and women do nothing.” A woman who is doing a lot is here with us this evening, Jamala. (Applause.)

Six years ago, Jamala performed her song “1944” onstage in Stockholm at the 2016 Eurovision Song Contest. The song brought to life the grim reality of Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea. Later that evening, Jamala was crowned Univision’s (sic; Eurovision’s) and began a journey that brings us to The Anthem tonight some 4,800 miles away from the land she calls home. And eight years after 2014, Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine has left thousands of Ukrainians dead, forced millions from their homes, and left those who remain a homeland that is unrecognizable as the carnage of Putin’s heinous war rages on.

Jamala’s activism did not end that night in Stockholm six years ago. She has continued her efforts to raise funds for Ukrainian refugees and the armed forces of Ukraine while increasing awareness for Ukraine’s artists, who have dedicated their lives to preserving and protecting Ukrainian culture and identity throughout the Russian invasion.

As she joins us this evening to accept the Atlantic Council’s 2022 Distinguished Artistic Leadership Award on behalf of Ukraine’s artists, I’m reminded of a single word that will not surprise many of you who know me, and that word is “resilience.” Countless videos and photos have been shared of Ukrainian artists performing on street corners, in subways, train stations, and shelters. Those spontaneous performances brought hope, inspiration, and a sense of calm to the people of Ukraine during this extraordinarily difficult time.

President Kennedy once said that after the dust of centuries has passed over our cities we, too, will be remembered not for victories or defeats at battle or in politics, but for our contribution to the human spirit. I am so very moved by Jamala’s spirit, and what an incredible example to us all. The arts define us and unite us. Jamala’s music and that of all Ukrainian artists provide us extraordinary inspiration.

And it is with that that I am so very honored to present the 2022 Distinguished Artistic Leadership Award to Jamala. (Cheers, applause.)

JAMALA: Good evening to everyone. First of all, it’s such a big honor for me to have this from you. (Applause.) We have Crimean Tatar tradition, like that. (Applause.) I’s an honor for me to be with you today, to be in the United States of America, in a country that help us fight for freedom. Tonight, for the right to live at home, where there is room for joy and smiles, happiness and love. It totally sounds cliché and boring until it’s taken away from you, until the moment you hear the air raid sirens, explosions, cries for help, and news about countless deaths. The sounds of war are frightening.

I have devoted my whole life to exploring the magic of sounds. However, starting on February 24th, 2022, there was no place for music in my life. On that day, I was forced to leave my home to the sound of air raid sirens, with my two sons in my arms, just like my great grandmother years ago. It was in Crimea in 1944, the Soviets forcefully deported her and her five small children to Central Asia in a cattle train without no water, no food. And tragically, for one of the daughters, the journey was fatal. It was ruthless, inhuman. The story of my family, it’s just a drop in the sea of lives ruined by the bloody regime of tyranny.

And the saddest moment for me is understanding that no matter how many times it is said “never again,” history repeats itself with terrifying accuracy. Seventy-seven years later we are losing our homes, evacuating children due to missile attacks. It’s happening now, right at this moment, right in the middle of Europe. A war without any rules, a war full of suffering and destruction, a war soaked with blood, full of hope. I hope that we can end it together, once and for all, and that no one else should go through this again. For God’s sake, never again.

The war has long been a genocide of Ukrainian people. You see this picture from Bucha—(inaudible). Without any mercy. We have already lost 220 kids and tens of thousands of civilians forever. The death counts does not stop for a second. This is a war of young volunteer being journalist being shot, girls in occupied cities being raped, elderly people being mercilessly murdered, and our men being killed in the battles they did not start.

Today this war is at my home, but where will it be tomorrow if it’s not stopped? It is controlled by a man who has no limit, no boundaries for evil. His evil is tremendous. He maimed his own country as well as countless others.

On behalf of my nation, I would like to ask you for something. Each of you has a strong voice. Here in the United States, your voice—your voice can strengthen our cry for the truth about the ruthless Russian tyranny. Please don’t leave us in this struggle alone. Please help save the people who are now under the blockade in Mariupol, in Azovstal, those who are being held hostage. Do not keep silent. Speak to the government. Take to the streets. Please stand with Ukraine.

I’m heartily grateful to the Atlantic Council for this award, to the people of the United States of America supporting my country. Accepting the Distinguished Leadership Award, I would like to dedicate it to every Ukrainian, everyone who does not know the word “give up,” to the people at the front and those who volunteer, and to every Ukrainian artistic helping today to spread the truth, to every mother hiding their kids in a bomb shelter. Together, we are invincible. (Applause.)

(Singing.) When strangers are coming

They come to your house

They kill you all

And say

We’re not guilty

Not guilty

Where is your mind?

Humanity cries

You think you are gods

But everyone dies

Don’t swallow my soul

Our souls

Yaşlığıma toyalmadım

Men bu yerde yaşalmadım

Yaşlığıma toyalmadım

Men bu yerde yaşalmadım

We could build a future

Where people are free

To live and love

The happiest time

Where is your heart?

Humanity rise

You think you are gods

But everyone dies

Don’t swallow my soul

Our souls

Yaşlığıma toyalmadım

Men bu yerde yaşalmadım

Yaşlığıma toyalmadım

Men bu yerde yaşalmadım


Thank you so much. Thank you so much. (Applause.)

ADRIENNE ARSHT: In honor of you, Jamala, and all of Ukraine, we’d like to close our evening tonight with a musical tribute to you. To sing “Prayer For Ukraine,” please welcome a special group that was featured recently on “Saturday Night Live,” the Ukrainian chorus Dumka of New York, conducted by Vasyl Hrechynsky.  Please welcome the chorus.


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