The 41st annual Salute to Excellence and International Achievement Summit took place in Dublin, Ireland, from June 6 to June 9, 2002. The first International Achievement Summit to be held since the events of September 11, 2001, this year’s program was a moving demonstration of peaceful and enlightening exchange between men and women of high accomplishment from many nations and the most promising young scholars from around the world.
More than 25 new honorees were inducted into the Academy, and 200 outstanding graduate students attended the program. Among the past and present honorees of the Academy in attendance were the 42nd President of the United States, William Jefferson Clinton; the Prime Minister of Ireland, Bertie Ahern; the President of Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai; the President of Colombia, Andrés Pastrana Arango; the former Prime Minister of Israel, Ehud Barak; musicians Bono and Enya; newsmen Sam Donaldson, Chris Matthews and Mike Wallace; authors Frank McCourt, N. Scott Momaday, and Edna O’Brien.
The Summit Host was the Prime Minister of Ireland, Bertie Ahern; the Host Chairman was Catherine B. Reynolds, Chairman, and CEO of The Catherine B. Reynolds Foundation. Academy members and Honor Delegates stayed at the elegant Four Seasons Hotel Dublin.
Most of the Summit’s proceedings took place in the Hotel’s spacious Grand Ballroom. Academy members and Honor Delegates gathered there for the first evening’s program, featuring an unforgettable discussion with President Clinton and U2 lead singer Bono, moderated by ABC News Correspondent Sam Donaldson.
The next morning’s program began with inspiring addresses by two speakers who overcame extraordinary obstacles to become great men of medicine: Dr. Michael Phelps, the pioneer of PET Scan technology, and the famed neurosurgeon Dr. Benjamin Carson.
They were joined by Nobel Prize recipient Dr. Paul Greengard and Lasker Award-winning neuroscientist Dr. Solomon Snyder for an enthralling discussion, “Mysteries of the Brain.”
The famed paleoanthropologist Dr. Donald Johanson made an engaging presentation on the subject of human evolution, with projected images of his own field expeditions and his most famous discovery, the fossilized remains of the primate known as “Lucy.”
The morning took a literary turn with an address by the great Irish novelist Edna O’Brien and a delightful reading by James Earl Jones and the Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist and poet N. Scott Momaday. As the topic turned to public policy, the Academy heard from the Mayor of Chicago, Richard M. Daley, and from the President of Colombia, Andrés Pastrana Arango. President Pastrana sat down for a question-and-answer session with the Academy’s Honor Delegates, moderated by the host of MSNBC’s Hardball program, Chris Matthews.
The afternoon’s proceedings began with an entertaining and provocative discussion with the recipient of the 1996 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, Sir Harold Kroto. America’s foremost consumer advocate and “Public Citizen,” Ralph Nader, spoke and joined Mayor Daley and Chris Matthews to discuss “Activism and Public Policy.” A panel discussion, “The War on Disease,” was moderated by Dr. Francis Collins, Director of the National Human Genome Research Institute.
The panelists included: the Assistant Surgeon General of the United States, Rear Admiral Susan J. Blumenthal; a recipient of the 2001 Nobel Prize in Medicine and Director of Britain’s Imperial Cancer Research Fund, Sir Paul Nurse; the Chief of Surgery at the National Cancer Institute, Dr. Steven Rosenberg; and the winner of the 1962 Nobel Prize in medicine, the co-discoverer of the double helix structure of the DNA molecule, Dr. James D. Watson.
The next two speakers addressed the problems of the physically disabled in developing countries. Philanthropist Ken Behring made a moving video presentation on his latest venture, Wheelchairs for the World. Alberto Cairo described his work at the International Red Cross Orthopedic Center in Kabul, Afghanistan.
The exiled Chinese novelist Gao Xingjian gave a touching address on “The Necessity of Loneliness” and charmed the audience with his wise and witty answers to their questions on life, literature, and survival. Chris Matthews returned to the stage with Sam Donaldson and Mike Wallace of CBS News’s 60 Minutes for a freewheeling, no-holds-barred discussion of “Rights and Responsibilities in Broadcast Journalism.”
Friday evening, Academy members and Honor Delegates dined in the State Apartments at historic Dublin Castle after a reception and awards presentation in the Castle’s magnificent St. Patrick’s Hall. The evening’s proceedings included a delightful presentation by Oscar-winning actor Jeremy Irons and continued with addresses by Dr. Henry Kissinger, Senator George J. Mitchell, and President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan.
On Saturday morning, archaeologist Kent Weeks gave a thrilling account of his excavations in Egypt’s Valley of the Kings, including his discovery of the tombs of the sons of Ramses the Second, one of the great archeological discoveries of the last 100 years.
Lennart Meri, the first man to serve as President of Estonia since it regained its independence from the Soviet Union, spoke briefly and introduced Estonia’s Ambassador-at-Large, the dynamic young diplomat Jüri Luik. The President of Latvia, Vaira Vike-Freiberga, spoke and was joined by Ambassador Luik and by past and present commanders of NATO — General Wesley Clark and General Joseph Ralston, respectively — for a panel discussion, “Redefining NATO,” moderated by Sam Donaldson.
The discussion of superpower politics and the changing role of NATO was followed by an appearance by a recipient of the Nobel Prize for Peace, Dr. José Ramos-Horta, Foreign Minister of East Timor. Dr. Ramos-Horta spoke movingly of his lonely 25-year struggle to secure his country’s freedom, a journey that finally ended weeks before the Summit with the achievement of full independence for East Timor.
General Wesley Clark returned to the stage to conduct a discussion of “Entrepreneurship in the Global Economy” with international business giants Frank Lowy, Patrick Ryan, and Gil Shwed, representing Australia, the United States, and Israel, respectively.
Saturday afternoon, the assembly moved to Trinity College, where Academy members and Honor Delegates heard from three former chiefs of state, each of whom played a historic role at a crucial moment in the lives of their respective countries. The former Prime Minister of Israel, Ehud Barak, described his extraordinary quest for peace between his country and the Palestinians and shared his unique insight into the present state of the conflict in the Middle East.
He was followed by a recipient of the Nobel Prize for Peace, the last President of the Soviet Union, Mikhail S. Gorbachev, who presented his irreplaceable personal viewpoint on the end of communism in Eastern Europe.
As the first woman to serve as chief of state of a Muslim country, the former Prime Minister of Pakistan, Benazir Bhutto, has an extraordinary life story to tell and offered an invaluable point of view on issues ranging from the current conflict between India and Pakistan to the future relations between the West and the Islamic world.
Chris Matthews moderated a discussion of the Northern Ireland peace process with the two men who received the Nobel Prize for Peace for their historic breakthrough in this cause: John Hume, MP, and the Right Honorable David Trimble, First Minister of the Northern Ireland Assembly. The evening ended with a tour through the breathtaking Long Room of Trinity’s Old Library to view Ireland’s greatest art treasure, the ninth-century Book of Kells.
The weekend’s activities culminated with the black-tie Banquet of the Golden Plate held in the Ballroom of the Four Seasons, accompanied by the Band of An Garda Sioch·n·, Ireland’s national police force. Presentations of the Golden Plate to the Class of 2002 were read by Frank McCourt, Jeremy Irons, and James Earl Jones and followed by remarks from the Host Chairman, Catherine B. Reynolds, and the Summit Host, the Prime Minister of Ireland, Bertie Ahern.
At the close of this year’s Banquet of the Golden Plate, Academy members and Honor Delegates were treated to a performance by the internationally acclaimed soprano Kathleen Battle and by the founding father of Rock and Roll, Chuck Berry. Academy members and Honor Delegates from around the world, young and old, were swept up in the universal and timeless beat of “Johnny B. Goode.”
On this joyous note, the 41st Annual Salute to Excellence and International Achievement Summit rocked to an end, leaving one and all exhilarated with the promise of a better world emerging from the conflicts and divisions of the old.