NEW YORK CITY – In a packed ballroom at the Plaza Hotel in New York City last night, The Washington Institute bestowed its highest honor, the Scholar-Statesman Award, on Jordan’s King Abdullah II ibn Al Hussein and paid tribute to outstanding civic leaders and Institute patrons Merryl and James Tisch.
With Queen Rania and Crown Prince Al Hussein bin Abdullah II looking on, the Jordanian monarch accepted the award from Institute President Shelly Kassen and Chairman James Schreiber with a mix of humility and pride. “I am truly delighted to be here tonight. I hope to continue to merit the faith that you have placed in me with this award,” said the king, who recently marked 20 years on the throne.
A highlight of the event was a fascinating, unscripted conversation between the king and Executive Director Robert Satloff, touching on a broad range of topics, from the complicated state of Jordan-Israel relations to the implications of popular protests currently raging across the region to lessons from his 20 years on the throne.
Asked to address the potential for U.S. disengagement from the region, the king drew on his military experience to express great sympathy for the years of American deployments in the region but underscored the potentially high cost of premature moves to diminish the U.S. presence. “The issue from our point of view is that unless you solve the problem, you will have to come back to fix it,” he said.
In addition, the Institute paid tribute to Merryl and James Tisch, longtime civic leaders, Institute Trustees, and supporters of many charitable causes in New York, the country, and abroad. Senator Charles E. Schumer (D-NY) offered remarks in their honor.
This year’s Scholar-Statesman Award Dinner was chaired by John Shapiro, a member of the Institute’s Board of Directors.
The award celebrates outstanding leaders who, through their public service and professional achievements, exemplify the idea that sound scholarship and a discerning knowledge of history are essential to wise and effective policy and the advancement of peace and security in the Middle East. Past Scholar-Statesman honorees have included President Bill Clinton, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, as well as former secretaries of state Condoleezza Rice, George P. Shultz, and Henry Kissinger.