Charlize Theron was quietly resplendent; George Soros, affably authoritative; George Osborne (seated across from the man who once broke the Bank of England), graciously defensive. Theaster Gates, master of the art of urban resurrection; and Gov. John Hickenlooper of Colorado, the state where you've got a right to be stoned: only the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, could bring together such an eclectic group of superstars from Hollywood, finance, government, and galleries. And they were just a few of the guests at the reception and dinner Wednesday night given by Newsweek and The Daily Beast in partnership with Credit Suisse.
It’s not just networking and name-dropping that make a great event at Davos, it’s the ideas that are offered and explored. The guests quaffed champagne as Credit Suisse chairman of the board Urs Rohner and Newsweek and The Daily Beast editor Tina Brown welcomed them, and the intellectual stage was set by the cohosts: Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer, DuPont CEO Ellen Kullman, and Pamela Thomas-Graham, chief talent, branding, and communications officer at Credit Suisse.
It’s not just networking and name-dropping that make a great event at Davos.
Over their salads and filet mignon, they listened to Brown interview an extraordinarily frank and forthcoming Christine Lagarde, managing director of the International Monetary Fund. Lagarde was critical of the brinksmanship in American politics that keeps the world wondering from month to month about the next self-imposed fiscal crisis.
Lagarde said much had been done to stabilize the shaky European economy, but much remains to be done. And while she declined to comment on the punishing tax policies of her native France, which flamboyant movie star Gérard Depardieu has fled for (step)mother Russia, she did stride right into the European political controversy about establishing quotas for women on corporate boards, saying she’s now in favor.
Newsweek and The Daily Beast Mideast correspondent Christopher Dickey interviewed Dalia Ziada, a prominent and impassioned blogger from Egypt. The Tufts University–educated Ziada, who wears a Muslim hijab, or headscarf, won over the audience with her sincere but practical approach to building Egypt’s Revolution 2.0. She said she hoped to run for president of the country herself at some point, but for now is just too young—and too busy. The problem is not just to learn how to bring down a regime, but to build something new and democratic in its place. The next Egyptian revolution, she proclaimed, would be starting Friday, on the second anniversary of the one that overthrew President Hosni Mubarak.