Tags: Clirton | Bono | global | understanding

Bill Clinton Tops Global Understanding List

Thursday, 29 April 2010 09:49 PM EDT

WASHINGTON — Bill Clinton, Irish singer and global activist Bono and top NATO commander Stephane Abrial were among public figures from both sides of the Atlantic honored for their life's efforts to enhance international understanding.

The US-based Atlantic Council gave out its annual awards honoring Americans and Europeans who over the years have "made exceptional and distinctive contributions to the strengthening each of the four pillars of the transatlantic relationship: political, military, business, and humanitarian."

Over the years, the group has honored former British prime minister Tony Blair, media magnate Rupert Murdoch, former US president George H. W. Bush, and former German chancellor Helmut Kohl, and numerous other top leaders.

Former president Clinton walked away this year with the group's top honor at a swank A-list dinner late Wednesday that included hundreds of foreign dignitaries, military leaders and captains of industry.

Since leaving the White House in 2000, Clinton has been a tireless champion of humanitarian and Third World development causes, many funded by his own Clinton Foundation.

The council honored the former president with its Distinguished Humanitarian Leadership Award for his work to expand NATO and end genocide in the Balkans.

Upon receiving his award, Clinton reminded the guests that accomplishments for which he was being praised were deeply unpopular during his presidency.

He recalled for example that 78 percent of the US public opposed going in to the Balkans and that his staff counseled against his decision to bail out Mexico from their financial collapse in the mid-1990s.

His decision to reach out to Boris Yeltsin's Russia was relatively easy, the former president quipped, "with only 76 percent" opposing.

With respect to international cooperation, "divorce is not an option. It's interdependence," Clinton said.

His predecessor in the White House, former president George H.W. Bush appeared via pre-taped video to congratulate Clinton.

Abrial, a French air force general and Supreme Allied Commander who was given this year's distinguished military leader Award, joked that being honored along with Bono significantly raised his "coolness factor" with his kids.

He also compared receiving the honor just one year into his job as NATO's supreme commander to Barack Obama's recent receipt of the Nobel Peace Prize.

"I am tempted to paraphrase an American president's recent Nobel Prize speech and say that I suspect I am probably being honored for what people hope I will do rather than for what I've already accomplished," he said.

Also honored Wednesday were Josef Ackermann, Chairman of the Management Board of Deutsche Bank, who won an award for distinguished business leadership and General James Mattis, commander of US Joint Forces Command in NATO.

Rocker Bono, whose efforts in raising awareness and resources to help fight poverty and disease in Africa, earned him the council's first Distinguished Humanitarian Leadership Award, noted all the political dignitaries assembled in the room, and joked, "This really isn't the Grammys, is it?"

And referring to his unlikely presence among all the military brass, he quipped "Who let the peacenik in?"

But on a more serious note, the U2 frontman and rights activist who has dedicated himself a long list of noble causes, including eradication of world hunger, AIDS and Third World debt advised the assembled crowd what with respect to international understanding "it's smarter and cheaper to make friends now than to defend ourselves against enemies later."

Copyright © 2010 AFP. All rights reserved.

© Copyright 2024 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Thursday, 29 April 2010 09:49 PM
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