Over 200 government officials, business leaders, representatives from international organizations including the United Nations and OECD, and staff and friends of the USCIB gathered at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York to honor Randall Stephenson, chairman and CEO of AT&T – a longtime USCIB member – and to celebrate 70 years of USCIB’s business leadership. Stephenson was presented with USCIB’s International Leadership Award for outstanding contributions to open markets and for expanding global trade and investment.
In 1945, American executives founded USCIB as an independent organization to represent the views of the U.S. business community on the international stage. Seventy years later, USCIB celebrated this calling at its annual Award Dinner, an event established in 1980 to honor leadership in improving the competitive arena in which U.S. companies do business.
Participants took a trip down memory lane during the 2015 gala, as the venue recreated the look and feel of the 1940s. During dinner, a band gave a well-received musical performance featuring songs from the 1940s to the present as a slideshow projected images of USCIB historical highlights. The program ended with a standing ovation.
As he accepted the 2015 International Leadership Award, Stephenson commended USCIB for its seven-decade commitment to free trade. He said that when countries erect barriers, either against people or commerce, the results are always self-defeating. But when people connect and trade flourishes, growth and prosperity will follow. He called for reforms in immigration and education, arguing for the need to make America’s workforce more inclusive and productive, and he hailed the Trans-Pacific Partnership as a “monumental achievement,” as trade is an effective way of increasing both the size and productivity of the workforce. He also made a plea to set a good example for younger generations to not text and drive; AT&T recently spearheaded its “It Can Wait” campaign warning against the dangers of texting behind the wheel.
“This award coming from this organization is special,” Stephenson concluded. “Growth matters.”
USCIB’s 70th birthday was the theme of the evening. During his welcoming remarks, USCIB President and CEO Peter Robinson referenced USCIB’s first annual report from 1946.
“Today, the problems and responsibilities that have faced American business have increased. If our American system of free enterprise is to achieve its objective of a high level of economic prosperity here at home, it must, through concerted action and cooperative leadership promote the needed expansion of international trade,” Robinson read from the report. “Only if you assume your share of our joint responsibility, only if you work closely with your associates in this country and abroad, can American business look to the future with confidence.”
He noted that not much has changed between now and 1946: “Despite the progress of the 70 years, today, and in the future, we cannot lose sight of the fact that the mission of promoting economic cooperation is perhaps more important than ever—especially in a world where globalization impacts everyone.”
Robinson then introduced Terry McGraw, chairman of USCIB and the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), and thanked him for his tireless championing of open global trade and investment as one of America’s most prominent business statesmen. Before he became chairman, McGraw received USCIB’s International Leadership Award in 2006.
McGraw spoke about the challenges U.S. business leaders will face in the future, and urged attendees to apply the wisdom of those who built the post-1945 world to today’s challenges. He also read a letter by President Barack Obama congratulating USCIB on its anniversary and noting that pro-trade organizations like USCIB have “helped make this country what it is today.”
McGraw added: “I am confident that American leadership, and American business leadership, will continue to play a critical, perhaps the critical, role in determining whether our children can achieve a better future,” McGraw said. “With your support, USCIB will continue to serve as an unparalleled platform for focusing American business leadership on today’s, as well as tomorrow’s, most important challenges.”
McGraw then presented the 2015 International Leadership Award to Stephenson: “Randall, as we in the business community work to advance a common vision of openness, security and inclusion in the years ahead, we will continue to rely on the essential, continued leadership of companies like yours.”
The evening ended with a post-dinner reception of cordials and sweets, and a toast by Robinson to the next 70 years of American business leadership.
View photos of the gala (Flickr)
Find out more about the USCIB 2015 International Leadership Award.