Walter and Leonore Annenberg Excellence in Diplomacy Award

The Walter and Leonore Annenberg Award for Excellence in Diplomacy is an annual award given by the American Academy of Diplomacy in recognition of an individual or group who has made exemplary contributions to the field of American diplomacy. It is the Academy’s highest honor and its purpose is to highlight the important contribution of all aspects of diplomacy to the nation’s business.

The Award is presented at the Academy’s Annual Awards Luncheon at the State Department in the fall, during which the recipient acts as keynote speaker. Recipients of the Annenberg Award are recommended by the Academy’s Executive Committee and are approved by the Board of Directors.

Secretary William J. Perry, Annenberg Award recipient, accepting his award at the 2017 Awards Luncheon.

Recipients of the Annenberg Award:

2021: Foreign Service and Civil Service Personnel of the U.S. Government Who Served in the Viet Nam Evacuation

2021: All U.S. Government Personnel Engaged in the Evacuation of Afghanistan

2020: Jimmy Carter
39th President, 76th Governor of Georgia, former Georgia Senator, and Carter Center co-founder

2019: John Negroponte
Deputy Secretary of State, Director of National Intelligence, Ambassador to Honduras, Mexico, the Philippines, the United Nations, and Iraq

2018: James A. Baker, III
13th and 19th White House Chief of Staff and 61st United States Secretary of State

2017: William J. Perry
The 19th United States Secretary of Defense

2016: Robert B. Zoellick
Former World Bank Group President & U.S. Trade Representative

2015: William J. Burns
Under Secretary of State

2014: Carla A. Hills
Secretary of Housing and Urban Development

2013: George P. Shultz
Secretary of State

2012: Richard G. Lugar

Hal Saunders Annenberg Award
Hal Saunders with Academy Chairman and President Thomas Pickering (L) and Ronald Neumann (R)

2011: Robert Gates
Secretary of Defense

2010: Harold Saunders
Director of international affairs, the Kettering Foundation

2009: William Lacy Swing
Director General, International Organization for Migration (IOM)

2008: Ryan C. Crocker
Ambassador to Iraq

2007: Christopher Hill
Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs

2006: Max M. Kampelman
Head of the United States Delegation to the Negotiations with the Soviet Union on Nuclear and Space Arms

2005: Men and Women of the Foreign and Civil Service
Accepted by Under Secretary R. Nicholas Burns

2004: Joseph J. Sisco
Former Undersecretary of State

2003: John Danforth
Former Senator

2002 Secretary Colin Powell, Senator Lugar 1
Secretary Colin Powell, with Academy Chairman Joseph Sisco and Senator Richard Lugar
2001 Excellence in Diplomacy Award Kofi Annan with Chairman Joe Sisco
Secretary-General of the United Nations Kofi Annan and his wife Nane Annan, with Chairman Joseph Sisco

2002: Colin L. Powell
Secretary of State

2001: Kofi Annan
UN Secretary-General

2000: Richard Lugar & Sam Nunn
Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction Program

1999: Stuart Eizenstat
Deputy Secretary of the Treasury

1998: George Mitchell
Peace Negotiations on Northern Ireland

1997: George F. Kennan
Lifetime Contributions to Diplomacy

1996: Dennis Ross
Special Middle East Coordinator

1996: Richard Holbrooke
Dayton Peace Accords on Bosnia

1995: Robert Gallucci
Ambassador-at-Large; North Korean Negotiations

1994: General John Vessey (USA, ret.)
President Emissary to Hanoi for missing American servicemen

1993: Robert Oakley
Special Envoy to Somalia

1991: Vernon Walters
Ambassador to Germany

1990: Thomas Pickering
Ambassador to the United Nations

1989: Rozanne Ridgway
Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs

1988: Stephen W. Bosworth
Ambassador to the Philippines

Walter and Leonore Annenberg

Walter and Leonore Annenberg, founders of the Annenberg Foundation


Foreign Service and Civil Service Personnel of the U.S. Government Who Served in the Viet Nam Evacuation

Winner of the 2021 Walter and Leonore Annenberg Award for Excellence in Diplomacy.

On April 30, 1975, barely 46 years ago, the People’s Army of Viet Nam captured Saigon, bringing an end to the South Vietnamese government and terminating America’s two decade long involvement in the country. The fall of Saigon was preceded by weeks of heavy fighting, during which time the Administration of President Gerald Ford struggled with the responsibility of how to evacuate Americans and Vietnamese who had been closely associated with the United States.

The decision to evacuate was driven by circumstance. But thanks to the bravery and determination of a small group of Foreign Service Officers, including Lionel Rosenblatt, Craig Johnstone, and Parker Borg, who are here today, the first Vietnamese were rescued. Rosenblatt, Johnstone and Borg operated without official sanction and often in the face of opposition. Other Foreign Service and Civil Service personnel took the initiative to begin planning in Washington without official blessing or orders and putting their careers at risk. Over time, what these individuals began in Viet Nam and Washington developed into a massive undertaking. Thousands of others, employees of the United States government and their families and members of Viet Nam’s government and military establishments were evacuated. In Viet Nam, some Americans pushed the boundaries of instructions to insure the evacuation of their staff. Those who escaped Viet Nam came to the United States or reached other safe havens abroad. They were joined by Cambodians and Laotians whose governments had been associated with the United States but, like Viet Nam, had been overrun by Communist armies.

In the years which followed, nearly a million Indochinese came as refugees to this country, made new lives here, and became successful, contributing citizens.

Responsibility for planning the evacuation, the reception, and resettlement of Indochinese refugees was an all of government effort. It would not have been possible without the contributions from men and women in our armed forces and the contribution of private Americans, whom through voluntary agencies, opened their homes, schools and work places to those fleeing to our shores. The Department of State played a leading role in this extraordinary story. The first plans for evacuation were born here. In this Department, a task force of contributing agencies was assembled. Foreign Service and Civil Service personnel staffed its key functions; designed and lead the international resettlement effort; organized the transportation of refugees to military facilities in the United States; assembled and catalyzed the work of contributing agencies and private bodies; and obtained Congressional support and funding.

We remember today the end of America’s military involvement in Southeast Asia and we remember those in government and military service, who made it possible for the United States to discharge a debt of honor. As Americans, we stood by allies, friends and former employees and as Americans we gave those without hope a new future and a new life.

It is to honor them that we ask Ambassador Parker Borg, Ambassador Craig Johnstone, and Mr. Lionel Rosenblatt to receive, on behalf of all those who served in the Viet Nam evacuation, military and civilian, diplomat and Civil Service, the American Academy of Diplomacy’s Walter and Leonore Annenberg Excellence in Diplomacy Award.


All U.S. Government Personnel Engaged in the Evacuation of Afghanistan

Winner of the 2021 Walter and Leonore Annenberg Award for Excellence in Diplomacy.

Nearly fifty years after the evacuations and resettlements that followed America’s defeat in Vietnam, the United States Government again faced a massive evacuation under dangerous conditions.  As was the case with Vietnam, there are many questions about who did what, when and how.  With time and a cooling of passions, many of these questions will be answered.  However, they need not concern us today.

Today, we focus on the extraordinary bravery, commitment, and dedication to the service of our country in Afghanistan of American diplomats and military personnel during the tumultuous days of evacuation last summer.  From the August 15-16 move of Embassy staff to Hamid Karzai International Airport to the last US military flights out just before midnight on August 30, our women and men, and representatives from dozens of other countries and organizations, affected the air evacuation from Afghanistan of US nationals and staff, their allied and other foreign counterparts, Afghans at risk, and family members – 124,000 people in all, the largest such evacuation in history.  Consular officers and problem-solvers from our Embassy, joined by many hundreds from posts elsewhere and Washington, processed thousands of people for travel, found creative ways to locate and help American citizens in need, and organized and supported bus convoys with other embassies, non-governmental organizations, and locally engaged staff.

Dangerous, chaotic circumstances and competing demands weighed on all those involved at the Kabul airport.  US troops and diplomats joined together to mourn the loss of 13 American Marines, soldier and sailor, as well as over 200 Afghans, in the suicide attack carried out by ISIS on August 26.

Embassy personnel and many military colleagues deployed to help carry out this massive evacuation, fielded thousands of pleas for help, and sought to accomplish as much as possible for as many as possible safely and securely.  Along with counterparts in Doha, waystations in Europe and elsewhere, and camps and processing centers in the United States, they gave and are giving care and help to thousands of people in critical need.

As was the case with Vietnam, the first evacuation was not the end.  Thousands were left behind then and years were necessary before the United States fully lived up to its responsibilities to its allies and supporters.  We can hope that the end of this process will be equally honorable.

While the larger political process continues, work goes on.  Our purpose today is to honor the men and women of our diplomatic and civil services and their military colleagues who participated in the evacuation in all its parts.  Once again, they answered the call of duty.  Their professionalism, dedication, courage, and creativity in the face of a very dangerous and rapidly evolving situation will serve as an inspiration to future generations of those who voluntarily serve America abroad.”

This heroic effort is making an enormous and positive impact on the lives of those evacuated – and on the lives of those who made it possible.  All those who were part of this mission can take pride in their own service and in how they answered the call of duty.

It is to honor them that we ask Ambassador Ross Wilson to receive, on behalf of all those who served, military and civilian, diplomat and Civil Service, the American Academy of Diplomacy’s Walter and Leonore Annenberg Excellence in Diplomacy Award.