Irving Kristol Award and Lecture for 2010

The prepared remarks from General David H. Petraeus are available here.

The video of General Petraeus's remarks is available here.

Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to the 2010 Annual Irving Kristol Award and Lecture of the American Enterprise Institute. I'm Arthur Brooks, President of AEI.

As most of you already know, this is the first year we will present the Irving Kristol Award without the man for whom the honor was named. Irving Kristol passed away last September after a brief illness. We recall the loss with deep regret but fond memories of Irving's life and career.

Irving was an AEI senior fellow--described by the Daily Telegraph as "perhaps the most consequential public intellectual of the latter half of the twentieth century."

But he was much more than that. Irving was an inspiration and a mentor to scores of us. His life truly shaped the thinking of generations of intellectuals. Irving also gave shape to the ideas of thousands of young people over his long career--some of whom went on to intellectual careers of their own--and others who did not, but who nonetheless benefitted from his culture, intelligence, and common sense.

In this first year after his passing, we could think of no better way to commemorate Irving's extraordinary legacy than to dedicate the support for this dinner to AEI's new Young Leaders in Scholarship Fund. We thank so many of you for backing this new initiative. It is an investment in America's next generation of researchers, thinkers, and policy leaders. The dividends for our nation will be huge, and fitting in memory of Irving Kristol's name.

To speak on Irving's behalf, I would like to turn the microphone over for a few minutes to his son Bill. Bill is the founder and editor of The Weekly Standard and a great friend of the American Enterprise Institute. We are honored to have him with us this evening as we take a moment to remember his father.

***

It is now time to present the Kristol Award, and enjoy the winner's lecture. In the past, our practice has been to have James Q. Wilson announce the award as the Chairman of AEI's Council of Academic Advisors. Unfortunately, Jim is not with us tonight due to health reasons, but he is recovering and we look forward to seeing him again soon at AEI.

About 16 months ago when I was first taking over the presidency of AEI, I was on a flight from Washington, DC, to Syracuse, NY. I happened to sit next to a soldier on his way to Fort Drum in Upstate New York. We got to talking and I asked him where he had been posted. He told me that he had been sent to Iraq in 2007 at the beginning of The Surge.

He told me that when he arrived in Iraq, it was a lost cause--the assumption was not whether America would leave in defeat, but when. Back in the U.S., many political leaders were saying that defeat was inevitable, that the Surge was an exercise in futility, and that nothing could forestall our ultimate fate.

But, he told me, after a year, everything had changed. He said that because of the Surge, what seemed like certain defeat now looked like possible victory--victory for free Iraqis and American patriots. He also said that the strategy saved literally thousands of American and Iraqi lives.

Whose vision was behind the Surge? We are proud at AEI of the part our own scholars played in this strategy. But we recognize that no amount of radical scholarship can affect policy without visionary leadership.

That leadership was--and is--personified in the recipient of this year's Irving Kristol Award. He is soldier and a leader. He is a scholar himself, and a man of innovative and brilliant strategic thinking.

He is one of this era's great generals because he understands that victory matters, and that it matters because everyone deserves freedom. Because of his vision, the sacrifice of our men and women in Iraq was not in vain, and that country today is on a path to freedom.

Tonight, my AEI colleagues and I are proud to honor a great general, a great thinker and a great American patriot--General David Petraeus.

Arthur C. Brooks is the president of AEI.

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