Atlantic Council Honors Bold Leadership and Shared Solutions

Amid NATO’s 75th anniversary, the 2024 Atlantic Council Distinguished Leadership Awards will recognize individuals working to shape responses to global challenges 

By Frederick Kempe, president and CEO of the Atlantic Council

A globe once owned by Dwight Eisenhower now sits in the office of Gen. Christopher G. Cavoli, the supreme allied commander Europe. The shape of that globe is unchanged, but the dynamics shaping today’s world are vastly different than in the time of Eisenhower, the first person to hold the post known as SACEUR. The Soviet Union is gone, and Moscow no longer projects power deep into Europe—though Vladimir Putin seems hell-bent on reviving that state of affairs. China has risen to become the United States’ chief geopolitical rival. And NATO, twelve countries strong when Eisenhower became SACEUR, now boasts thirty-two members of a dynamic and diverse Alliance that has helped sustain peace and prosperity on the continent.

This year, the Atlantic Council is presenting its Distinguished Military Leadership Award to Cavoli to recognize his exemplary career spanning more than 35 years, which has led to him holding this pivotal role for the United States and the NATO Alliance. You can watch our Distinguished Leadership Awards featuring Cavoli and his fellow honorees—Romanian President Klaus Iohannis, US Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo, and actress Michelle Yeoh—at 9 a.m. on May 16.

All of our honorees embody pillars of the transatlantic relationship that the Atlantic Council has supported since its founding in 1961, when the Kennedy administration sought stronger ties with European allies during the height of the Cold War. One of the organization’s biggest efforts in those early years was an advertising campaign with the tagline: “If NATO wasn’t here, maybe we wouldn’t be either.”

Fortunately, it’s still here. This year NATO is celebrating its seventy-fifth anniversary with what promises to be a historic summit in Washington, where the war in Ukraine (and Kyiv’s membership hopes) will be a key part of the agenda. The Alliance will also need to address how to adapt its capabilities, force posture, and overall strategy to confront Russia’s aggression and the China challenge. The Atlantic Council will be there too, once again helping to host the NATO Public Forum, where world leaders can share their thinking with the public—and answer tough questions. 

Just as the Alliance has evolved and expanded since Eisenhower’s day, so too has the Atlantic Council. From our founding mandate to cultivate closer ties between the United States and its European allies, we have grown in ambition and scope to cover the whole world—with field-leading research, analysis, and convenings on Asia, South Asia, Africa, the Middle East, and Latin America, and with exemplary subject-matter expertise on energy, economics, security, technology, climate resilience, and many more issues.

That full breadth of expertise will be on display in September with our programming throughout United Nations General Assembly week in New York, particularly our Global Citizen Awards.

Last year we honored Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, and US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen. We expect a similarly impressive slate of global leaders this year.

“History does not long entrust the care of freedom to the weak or the timid,” Eisenhower said at his first presidential inauguration in January 1953. For leaders such as Cavoli and those across the NATO Alliance, these words have never been more true. They also resonate for the Atlantic Council, where we always seek to be bold and relevant as we work to shape the global future together with allies and partners. We hope you will join us throughout this year as we seek to inform policymakers and the public, and advocate for shared approaches to address the world’s most complex challenges.