2010 Asia Society Awards Dinner Honors Vision and Leadership

CNBC's Melissa Lee interviews Awards Dinner honorees Mukesh Ambani and Jeffrey Immelt onstage at the Waldorf=Astoria on Nov. 16, 2010. (9 min., 10 sec.)

NEW YORK, November 16, 2010 – Music and industry came together last night at the Asia Society annual Awards Dinner at the Waldorf-Astoria.

Asia Society celebrated the global vision of two business leaders, and the cultural diplomacy of the New York Philharmonic during an evening of performances and intimate conversations with the honorees.

Welcoming guests to the evening, Asia Society president Vishakha Desai recalled the words of the Society’s founder, John D. Rockefeller, saying "when you understand culture, you develop mutual respect." She praised the night’s honorees for their vision to look beyond the borders of their homelands to promote mutual respect across the globe.

James D. Wolfensohn presented the New York Philharmonic with the Cultural Ambassador Award for its work in elevating cross cultural dialogue around the world through music, especially through its groundbreaking concerts in Pyongyang, North Korea, and Vietnam.

Guests were treated to a performance of Handel's Passacaglia as well as a moving rendition of the Korean folk song "Arirang," performed by assistant concertmaster Michelle Kim and violist Vivek Kamath. President and Executive Director of the Philharmonic Zarin Mehta also shared footage from the Philharmonic’s landmark 2008 trip to North Korea, which showed broad smiles and waves shared between the musicians and their North Korean audience, and demonstrated the power of music to cross seemingly impenetrable borders.

Recognizing the importance of business in building a vibrant global economy, Asia Society honored two business leaders for their special commitment to growing global companies that have overcome challenges of culture and diversity to grow and generate wealth at home and abroad.

Jeffrey Immelt, Chairman and CEO of General Electric, was recognized by Awards Dinner Chair Vikram Pandit, with the Global Leadership Award for his work in expanding the company while continuing to respect local environments and cultures. In his acceptance, he stressed the continued importance of globalization, and underscored his company’s ethic to "make money for—not just in—a country."

Next, Award Dinner Chair Ed Cohen presented Mukesh Ambani, Chairman of Reliance Industries Limited, with the Global Vision Award in recognition of his contributions to developing technologies that have advanced the goal of energy independence by enabling further access to petroleum and natural gas in India and in the United States.

In a conversation with the dinner’s emcee and host of CNBC's Fast Money, Melissa Lee, the honorees expressed their hope for and commitment to creating jobs at home and overseas. Both emphasized the power of innovation to produce a "win-win" for the world’s economies.

The Asia Society New York Annual Dinner was made possible with the special support of: chairs Edward and Betsy Cohen and Vikram S. Pandit, and vice chairs Chevron, General Electric Company, Chip and Sheryl Kaye, Warburg Pincus LLC, MasterCard Worldwide, Ruth and Harold Newman, Miranda Wong Tang, and Lulu and Anthony Wang.

The evening’s decor was designed by Thuy.

Reported by Mollie Kirk