The Academy of Achievement brought 300 outstanding graduate students from 40 countries to Los Angeles, California for the 45th annual International Achievement Summit. From June 1 to June 4, 2006, an incomparable array of the world's leaders in the arts, business, industry, public service and the sciences shared their experience and insight with the Academy's student delegates -- the leaders of today exchanging ideas with the leaders of tomorrow.
This year's Summit was hosted by legendary filmmakers George Lucas and Steven Spielberg. The Chairman of the Summit was Catherine B. Reynolds, Chairman and CEO of The Catherine B. Reynolds Foundation. The Summit was made possible by a generous grant from The Catherine B. Reynolds Foundation.
Fifty past recipients of the Academy's Golden Plate award and 30 new honorees attended the Summit. International statesmen among the Academy members in attendance included: the 42nd President of the United States, William J. Clinton; Crown Prince Salman of Bahrain; President Vaira Vike-Freiberga of Latvia; President Festus Mogae of Botswana; and the Honorable Ehud Barak, former Prime Minister of Israel. They were joined by two former commanders of NATO, General Wesley Clark and General Joseph Ralston, and two recipients of the Nobel Peace Prize: Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei, Director General of the United Nations International Atomic Energy Agency.
Academy members from of all three branches of the United States Government included Supreme Court Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, Director of National Intelligence John D. Negroponte and three members of President George W. Bush's cabinet: Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta, Education Secretary Margaret Spellings and Housing and Urban Development Secretary Alphonso Jackson. Members of Congress attending the Summit included Edward Markey, Jane Harman and the Minority Leader of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi. Other distinguished public servants included: the former leader of the Senate Democrats, the Honorable Tom Daschle; the Mayor of Chicago, Richard M. Daley; and the Mayor of Los Angeles, Antonio Villaraigosa.
In addition to Mr. Lucas and Mr. Spielberg, distinguished representatives of the motion picture industry included directors Peter Jackson and Chris Columbus, as well as screen stars Samuel L. Jackson, Robin Williams, Sally Field, Olivia de Havilland and Dame Julie Andrews. Old and new members of the Academy from the world of music in attendance included Quincy Jones, Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, Sheryl Crow, Trisha Yearwood, Sonny Rollins and John Williams. Among the literary contingent were authors Gore Vidal, Joan Didion, Carlos Fuentes, and Arthur Golden and Pulitzer Prize winners A. Scott Berg and N. Scott Momaday. Nobel Prize-winning scientists appearing at the Summit included Michael Brown, Robert H. Grubbs, John Hall and A. Michael Spence. Sports legends Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Dorothy Hamill and Sir Roger Bannister returned to the Summit to present the Academy's honors to new inductees. Business leaders at the Summit included Telmex Chairman Carlos Slim Helú, Research in Motion Chairman James Balsillie, Home Depot founder Bernard Marcus, Carlyle Group founder David Rubenstein and JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon.
Academy members, honorees and student delegates stayed at the glamorous Regent Beverly Wilshire Hotel at one of America's most famous intersections, Wilshire Blvd. and Rodeo Drive, in the heart of the City of Beverly Hills. The excitement began on the first evening, as Academy members and student delegates were thrilled to be welcomed by the two most successful filmmakers of all time, George Lucas and Steven Spielberg. The first award of the Summit was presented to Wendy Kopp, Founder and President of Teach for America. Academy member A. Scott Berg, recipient of the Pulitzer Prize for Biography, recounted the early history of Hollywood, and how the immigrant founders of the motion picture industry fulfilled their own American Dreams and became the leading purveyors of that dream to all the world.
The first morning session of the 2006 Summit focused on the frontiers of medicine and scientific research. Pioneering neurosurgeon Benjamin S. Carson recounted this own odyssey from the ghetto to the operating room. Dr. Hans Keirstead made a compelling multimedia presentation of his revolutionary work employing human stem cells in the treatment of spinal cord injury and multiple sclerosis. Dr. Michael Brown, a recipient of the Nobel Prize in Medicine, discussed his pioneering work in the study of cholesterol and its role in cardiovascular disease, the leading cause of death and disability in the Western World. Dr. Miguel Nicolelis of Duke University presented his historic research at the cusp of neuroscience and robotics, including a revolutionary breakthrough in the development of neuroprosthetic devices to assist the disabled and paralyzed. Spencer Wells, director of the Genographic Project, discussed this unprecedented international undertaking, employing molecular genetics to retrace the migration paths of mankind from its very beginnings. He even shared his findings tracing the ancestors of Summit Chairman Catherine B. Reynolds and Academy member Dr. Benjamin S. Carson.
The first panel discussion of the Summit explored the connections and conflict between Science and Faith. Television journalist Kathleen Matthews moderated the discussion. Dr. Francis Collins, Director of the National Human Genome project, and Dr. Benjamin S. Carson, presented their views as scientists whose work is informed and inspired by their religious faith. Evolutionary biologist Dr. Richard Dawkins and philosopher Dr. Daniel Dennett argued that religious belief is not supported by evidence or scientific method. Their extremely animated discussion of their core beliefs can be heard in the Audio Recordings area of the Academy web site.
Another distinguished scientist who spoke during the Summit was Dr. Robert H. Grubbs, recipient of the 2005 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, who discussed his breakthrough in chemical metathesis, the discovery of the so-called "Grubbs catalyst," which promises the production of new medicines and new materials for industry, while reducing the hazards of chemical waste.
The first morning's session ended with a presentation by the 42nd President of the United States, William J. Clinton. He spoke to the need for the nations of the world to pursue a course of international "integration" rather than "interdependence" in the coming century. Immediately following his address, the President sat down for a long question-and-answer session with Academy students, typifying the level of candid discourse that prevailed throughout the International Achievement Summit.
The exchange of ideas continued during the lunch break, as stem cell pioneer Dr. James D. Thomson met with the Academy's medical students and biologists for a further exploration of many of the scientific and ethical questions raised in the morning's session. Much of the afternoon session focused on the efforts of private individuals and public institutions to solve the world's most intractable problems. Inventor Dean Kamen recounted his efforts to provide low-cost water purification systems to developing societies. Consumer advocate Ralph Nader spoke at length on the need for reform of the American political system to prevent the abuse of power by special interests. Undersea explorer Sylvia Earle discussed the damage mankind has seen done to our natural environment, while Congressman Ed Markey discussed his own battle to protect the environment through the political process.
In a change of pace, Julie Taymor, the award-winning Broadway director of The Lion King discussed her work in theater, film and opera. Although her world premiere production of the opera Grendel was in its final week of rehearsal at the Los Angeles Opera during the Summit, Miss Taymor graciously took time away from this monumental project to share the story of her own creative development with the Academy's student delegates.
Mexico's greatest living novelist, Carlos Fuentes, addressed the political role of the author in Latin America and the rest of the world. Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley sat down for a discussion of "Public-Private Partnerships" with JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon. Their stimulating discussion of the fruitful collaboration of the public and private sectors was moderated by an old friend of the Academy, MSNBC Hardball host Chris Matthews.
Supreme Court Justice Anthony M. Kennedy spoke on the evolving concept of international justice and then joined Chris Matthews and film directors George Lucas, Peter Jackson and Chris Columbus for a discussion of "The Meaning of Movies." Justice Kennedy, an impressively learned and perceptive student of American and world cinema made a forceful point concerning the power of the motion picture to entertain serious moral questions as well as merely entertaining, but recused himself from discussion of issues raised by several recent films, as they concern matters that may soon come before the Supreme Court itself.
That evening, the assembled Academy members and student delegates traveled to the legendary motion picture studio 20th Century Fox. There, on a massive sound stage where some of the most enduring film classics were created, they enjoyed an unforgettable evening of music and memories with the Los Angeles Philharmonic and a dazzling array of talent from the worlds of music and motion pictures. George Lucas spoke of his early struggles as a filmmaker, and of the meaning of a purposeful, creative life, transcending the well-publicized blessings of wealth and superficial celebrity. The beloved star of The Sound of Music, Dame Julie Andrews shared her memories of shooting that timeless classic right there at the 20th Century Fox studio.
The Oscar-winning composer John Williams led the Los Angeles Philharmonic is a spine-tingling suite of his original music for the films of George Lucas and Steven Spielberg. Breathtaking images from Jaws, Star Wars, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Raiders of the Lost Ark and ET played across an immense motion picture screen as the audience thrilled to the sounds of Williams's stirring music brought to life with the full power of a live symphony orchestra. Steven Spielberg then took the stage and held the audience rapt with a surprisingly revealing account of the origins of his lifelong love affair with the moving picture. His remarks can be heard in their entirety in the Audio Recordings area of this web site.
One of America's favorite singers, Academy member Trisha Yearwood, sang "How Do I Live," from the film ConAir, accompanied by John Williams and the L.A. Philharmonic. The Philharmonic also accompanied two spectacularly talented student delegates of the Academy, Sergei Semishkur and Larissa Yudina, young opera singers from the conservatory of the Mariinsky Theater in St. Petersburg, Russia, who sang a stirring duet from Rigoletto.
Legendary jazz saxophonist Sonny Rollins performed an awe-inspiring solo improvisation on American themes. Mr. Rollins was then inducted into the Academy by Basketball Hall of Fame great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who spoke of the inspiration he had derived as a young athlete from hearing Sonny Rollins perform. After the award ceremony, Sonny Rollins was joined onstage by the phenomenal young tap dance master Savion Glover for a spectacular joint improvisation. Rollins and Glover demonstrated an almost telepathic degree of musical communication, astonishing the audience with their inexhaustible rhythmic invention.
One of the living legends of Hollywood, two-time Oscar winner Miss Olivia de Havilland, graciously accepted a heartfelt ovation from the entire assembly for her lifetime of artistic accomplishment and personal integrity. A favorite of contemporary audiences, the world's top-grossing film star, Samuel L. Jackson, accepted the second award of the evening.
A legendary star of the world of opera, Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, accompanied by the Los Angeles Philharmonic, thrilled the crowd with her soaring renditions of Ave Maria, O mio babbino caro, and "Climb Every Mountain." In an inspiring conclusion to an evening of matchless musical artistry, Te Kanawa was inducted into the Academy by her fellow Dame Commander of the British Empire, Julie Andrews. The entire assembly then took their seats for an elegant dinner, served in the vast sound stage, transformed for the night into an elegant banquet hall through the magic of Hollywood. Inspiring images of Academy honorees from the last 45 years played on the giant screen while student delegates and Academy members enjoyed a sumptuous meal and shared their thoughts and impressions of an incredibly full day.
The following morning's session, back at the Beverly Wilshire, brought even more intense concentration on world affairs. Chris Matthews led a discussion of the challenges of improving the quality of life for the people of the Third World. Participants included: the President of Botswana, his Excellency Festus Mogae; UNICEF Director Ann Veneman; inventor Dean Kamen; and former Assistant Surgeon General Dr. Susan Blumenthal. Students asked deeply probing questions of the panelists, and all present were impressed by the warmth and eloquence of President Mogae, whose country is an island of stability and relative prosperity in sub-Saharan Africa. The morning's audience was also charmed by the youthful Crown Prince of Bahrain, His Highness Shaikh Salman bin Hamad Al-Khalifa, who surprised many in the audience with his candor in discussing the challenges and opportunities facing his country, a progressive oasis in the troubled Middle East.
David Rubenstein, Founder and Managing Director of The Carlyle Group, gave a surprisingly humorous account of the many setbacks he encountered on his career path, from serving as a 27-year-old adviser to President Jimmy Carter to creating the world's leading private equity firm, a power in politics and international finance. In one of the most compelling individual presentations of the Summit, the legendary author and social critic Gore Vidal took the stage. Now in his 80s, the great novelist, essayist and sometime political candidate held the audience spellbound with a witty but lacerating assessment of the state of American culture and democracy. For once, the Academy student delegates were too awe-struck to ask questions of a speaker, but they gave him a powerful ovation and many of his admirers among the student delegates and Academy honorees clustered around him after he left the stage.
The focus on public affairs continued as former NATO Commander and presidential candidate Wesley Clark joined President Vaira Vike-Freiberga of Latvia to explore the future of the Euro-American alliance. Their discussion was moderated by the Director of the Center for Public Leadership at Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government, former White House adviser David Gergen. Google founder Larry Page, who first attended the International Achievement Summit as a student delegate in 2000, returned once again as a member of the Academy to discuss the challenges of building a massive company and threading the labyrinth of ethical questions that arise in conducting business in the international economy.
Before the company broke for lunch, America's pioneer of integrative medicine, Dr. Andrew Weil, gave the audience a welcome lesson in relaxation. Dr. Weil demonstrated a simple but effective technique of conscious breathing that produced highly beneficial results. The entire party then strolled a few short blocks through the sunny streets of Beverly Hills to a casual luncheon at the world famous restaurant Spago, founded by Academy member Wolfgang Puck. After lunch, the Academy members traveled to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) for another impressive afternoon of symposium speakers and panel discussions.
Award-winning novelist Joan Didion spoke movingly of her odyssey from the heights of success as a novelist and screenwriter to the depths of tragedy and personal loss so vividly expressed in her latest book, The Year of Magical Thinking. America's first woman in space, Dr. Sally Ride, recalled her historic achievement in space travel and her present campaign to encourage young women and girls to pursue the study of math and science.
The same afternoon, the Academy was privileged to hear a unique discussion of "Global Cooperation in the Fight Against Terrorism." The speakers included: Director of National Intelligence John D. Negroponte; former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak; Congresswoman Jane Harman, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee; General Joseph Ralston, former NATO Commander; and the recipient of the 2005 Nobel Prize for Peace, Director General of the UN International Atomic Energy Agency, Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei. The discussion was moderated by David Gergen.
The Academy's international student delegates afforded themselves of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to press the panelists with some of the most difficult questions surrounding these fateful issues. Only in the atmosphere of the International Achievement Summit could public figures participate in so free a discussion of vital questions, without fear that their remarks would be exploited by the news media.
The vibrant young speaker of the California State Assembly, Fabian Núñez spoke of the challenges facing America's most populous state, the fifth-largest economy in the world. Speaker Núñez then joined Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta, former Senate Democratic leader Tom Daschle, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Michael Deaver, a former adviser to president Ronald Reagan, for a discussion of leadership and politics, led by David Gergen. Over the course of the Summit, the Academy also heard from Housing and Urban Development Secretary Alphonso Jackson and from the dynamic Mayor of Los Angeles, Antonio Villaraigosa.
The afternoon session closed with an inspiring address by Archbishop Desmond Tutu. This spiritual leader of the movement for human equality in his own South Africa, took as his text the African fable of the eagle raised among chickens, who must discover his power of flight. "Fly! Fly!" he exhorted the students, urging them to make full use of their own undiscovered powers.
After the afternoon session, the students were treated to a private tour of the most talked-about art exhibit of the year. Five works by the great Austrian painter Gustav Klimt, stolen by the Nazis during World War II, had at last been returned by the Austrian government to their rightful owner. Maria Altmann, the sole survivor of the cultured Viennese family that had commissioned these works at the beginning of the 20th century, now resides in Los Angeles; she graciously lent the paintings to LACMA for this special exhibit. Among the paintings were two portraits of Mrs. Altmann's aunt, Adele Bloch-Bauer, among the most famous works of Viennese Art Nouveau. Only a week after the Summit, it was reported that the Neue Galerie in New York City had purchased one of the portraits for a reported $135 million, the highest sum ever paid for a work of art.
The International Achievement Summit culminated on Saturday night in the spectacular Banquet of the Golden Plate, held in the Grand Ballroom of the Regent Beverly Wilshire, magnificently decorated for the occasion. In a moving ceremony, the Class of 2006 was inducted into the Academy of Achievement by distinguished past honorees of the Academy. The Hosts of the Summit, Catherine B. Reynolds, George Lucas and Steven Spielberg welcomed Academy members, student delegates and many distinguished guests to the evening, and accepted a proclamation of recognition from the City of Beverly Hills.
Following a superb dinner, a delighted audience greeted award-winning singer and songwriter Sheryl Crow to the stage. Accompanied by her longtime collaborators, she performed a powerful acoustic set of her most famous songs, "If It Makes You Happy," "A Change Would Do You Good," "The First Cut is the Deepest," "All I Wanna Do," "Soak up the Sun," and "Every Day is a Winding Road." From the first few notes, the audience members rose to their feet, led by Desmond Tutu, and the banquet became an uninhibited dance party.
During Miss Crow's last number, Academy member Robin Williams jumped onto the stage and improvised a spontaneous rap, hilariously recapping the Academy activities of the previous days, while Sheryl Crow and the band kept the crowd dancing. Student delegates rushed the stage, and even usually reserved friends of the Academy such as David Gergen were seen swaying arm in arm behind the band. On this celebratory note, the evening's program concluded. The following day, the Academy's out-of-town guests and student delegates returned to their homes and schools, still warmed and inspired by memories of their visit to Los Angeles and the International Achievement Summit.
See Student Letters for the observations and reflections of the Academy's student delegates on their extraordinary experience.
Summit Hosts Steven Spielberg and George Lucas welcome the
Academy of Achievement to Los Angeles.
The 42nd President of the United States, William J. Clinton, and Vaira Vike-Freiberga, President of Latvia.
President Festus Mogae of Botswana greets former President Clinton.
Robin Williams performs a spontaneous "Academy rap" with Sheryl Crow at the 2006 Banquet of the Golden Plate.
Supreme Court Justice Anthony M. Kennedy and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa with their wives, Mary Kennedy and Corina Villaraigosa.
Hollywood legends Olivia de Havilland and Dame Julie Andrews with L.A. Lakers legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
Screen star Robin Williams with Olympic figure skating champion Dorothy Hamill and Research in Motion Chairman James Balsillie, developer of the BlackBerry portable e-mail device.
Dr. Benjamin S. Carson addresses the 2006 International Achievement Summit.
Two-time Oscar winner Sally Field meets Academy student delegates.
Journalist Kathleen Matthews leads a discussion of "Science and Faith" with panelists including Dr. Francis Collins.
Mayor Richard M. Daley of Chicago and U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Alphonso Jackson.
Archbishop Desmond Tutu and music impresario Quincy Jones before the 2006 Banquet of the Golden Plate.
Former President William J. Clinton addresses his fellow Academy members and student delegates at the 2006 International Achievement Summit.
Author and diplomat Carlos Fuentes addresses the Academy delegates.
David Gergen, Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley and JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon enjoy their discussion of "Public-Private Partnerships."
Oscar-winning Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson with his wife, screenwriter Fran Walsh, seated with Summit Host Steven Spielberg.
JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon receives the Golden Plate award from Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley.
Home Depot founder Bernard Marcus receives the Golden Plate from former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak.
Trisha Yearwood performs with John Williams and the L.A. Philharmonic.
Saxophone colossus Sonny Rollins plays at 20th Century Fox Studios.
George Lucas inducts screen star Samuel L. Jackson into the Academy.
Opera star Dame Kiri Te Kanawa sings with John Williams and the Los Angeles Philharmonic at 20th Century Fox.
Summit Chair Catherine B. Reynolds with Crown Prince Salman of Bahrain.
David Rubenstein, Founder and Managing Director of The Carlyle Group, addresses the Academy members and student delegates.
Legendary novelist and social critic Gore Vidal seated onstage at the International Achievement Summit.
Sally Field, U.S. Education Secretary Margaret Spellings and acclaimed singer Sheryl Crow at the 2006 Summit.
Academy honoree Sheryl Crow and Summit Host Steven Spielberg.
Congresswoman Jane Harman and Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei, Director of the UN International Atomic Energy Agency and recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize.
Director of National Intelligence John D. Negroponte and former Israeli Premier Ehud Barak discuss the war on terror.
"Fly! Fly!" Desmond Tutu exhorts the Academy's student delegates.
Academy of Achievement Chairman Wayne Reynolds and Summit Chairman Catherine B. Reynolds enjoy Sheryl Crow's performance with enthusiastic student delegates at the 2006 Banquet.