Last Monday, Sept 21st, President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva received the Woodrow Wilson Award for Public Service in a dinner chaired by Eike Batista (chairman and CEO of the Brazilian EBX Group) and Rex Tillerson (chairman and CEO of Exxon Mobil). At the dinner were 320 guests with varied backgrounds from politicians to journalists to the business community, including Celso Amorim; Marco Aurélio Garcia; Lazaro and Cuahtemóc Cárdenas; the next Ambassador to Brazil, Thomas Shannon; four former Ambassadors to Brazil, Anthony L. Motley, Anthony Harrington, Donna Hrinak, Clifford Sobel; Senior Judge Peter J. Messitte, US District Court of Maryland; and President of the Inter-American Development Luis Alberto Moreno.
Joseph B. Gildenhorn, Lee H. Hamilton and President Lula holding the award
The president of Brazil received the honorary award in recognition of his fight for democracy and social justice, and for his fundamental role in Brazil’s political and economic transformation–an award that he accepted not only on his own behalf, but on the behalf of the Brazilian people.
In his speech at the ceremony, held at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City, Lula underlined the crucial international role that his country has embraced in the last decade. The president affirmed that Brazil has a responsibility to its less fortunate South American neighbors, especially because, as Lula said, 2010 will be a very promising year for the country.
Lula commented on an important lesson he has learned over his many years in leadership positions: A leader needs to be flexible. Lula told a story of how, in his early days working with Unions, he dedicated his career to fighting consumerism in the country. However, after the 2008 global economic crisis, the President went on television to ask the Brazilian people to consume.
Even though Lula has learned to be flexible and innovative with problem solving, he has not changed his bottom-line goals for the country: Economic growth that transcends class lines and education. The development model of the country during the 1950-1980s hurt Brazil because of fast economic growth with high rates of inequality and little investment in education. The idea that first “the pie needed to get bigger” before you could divvy up the riches proved to be false. Lula stated, “The pie did get bigger, but one person came along and ate it all.”
Although this meeting reunited many politicians and people of the private sector, President Lula reinforced the bottom-line importance of economic stability. With high inflation and unemployment, those who suffer the most are the poor. Macroeconomic stability is not just for the private sector, but more importantly it is for those less fortunate.
See the post about Lula’s award ceremony from the official blog of the President of Brazil. (Portuguese)
See a great post about the event from the Center for International Governance Institute
TV Globo also has a video on the dinner. (Portuguese)