The first words Prince Harry greeted Washington with? "This isn't daunting at all."
To be fair, the reception he was greeted with here was enthusiastic bordering on alarming: throngs of teenage girls waiting with camera phones outside the Ritz-Carlton, dinner with 800 of Washington's most illustrious names, and an introduction by General Colin Powell that was so glowing it might have made even the most hardened statesman blush.
His Royal Highness Prince Henry of Wales, as he's officially known, or Britain's Most Eligible Bachelor, as is his unofficial title, was in town to attend the Atlantic Council's annual awards dinner, a special 50th anniversary event honoring the prince, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, virtuoso violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter, Unilever CEO Paul Polman, and the Enlisted Men and Women of the United States Armed Forces (there wasn't room in the ballroom for all 1.5 million or so of them, so they were represented by a handful of different servicemen and women).
The evening was hosted by Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski of MSNBC's Morning Joe, the latter of whom gave a shout-out to her father, former national security advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski, who was in the audience. After introductions by Senator Chuck Hagel, chairman of the Atlantic Council, and Frederick Kempe, president and CEO, Anne-Sophie Mutter was the first to collect her award for distinguished artistic leadership. She was introduced by her former husband, conductor and musician André Previn, who referred to her as "one of the great, great musicians of our time." Mutter graciously accepted, but declined to speak for long, paraphrasing Hans Christian Andersen, who once wrote, "Where words fail, music speaks," and performing George Gershwin's "Summertime" for the audience.
After Paul Polman had collected his award for Distinguished Business Leadership, all eyes were on the dais, where former Secretary of State Colin Powell appeared to present Prince Harry with his award. Of the guest of honor, Powell said, "His presence has altered the normal demographic of our dinner," remarking that the average age of the dinner had fallen by about 25 years. Powell paid tribute to the prince's military service, and to the foundation he established with his brother, Prince William, which offers assistance to military veterans and their families. "Born with good looks and royal privilege, he chose a more difficult path," Powell said.
When the prince finally spoke, he sounded confident, gracious, and more mature than his 27 years. "For a captain in the British army to be introduced by such a world-renowned statesman and soldier is humbling," he said. "I don't feel like I deserve it." He accepted the award on behalf of himself and Prince William, but also on behalf of the veterans who return home, often scarred by their experiences. "For so many, it is after the guns have fallen silent that their real fight begins," the prince said.
After HRH, it was left to Senator Hagel to honor the armed forces, and Dr. Henry Kissinger to present the award for distinguished international leadership to Ban Ki-moon. "This is really distinguished company," said the Secretary-General, before paying tribute to the 120,000 UN peacekeeping staff stationed across the globe. "I believe the UN can and must be the solution to the world's greatest challenges. . . . Now is not the time to lose heart." Sadly, he was too late for the assembled audience, most of whom, it appeared, had already lost theirs to the handsome helicopter pilot from the UK.