aspen ideas festival
ASPEN, Colorado – Celebrating its tenth anniversary this summer, the week-long Aspen Ideas Festival brought together some of the most influential leaders from around the world to speak and present to audiences. The thought-provoking festival is organized by the Aspen Institute, an educational policy studies organization that aims to foster leadership based on lasting values and to provide a nonpartisan venue for tackling critical issues.

Held in Aspen, Colorado, the annual ideas exchange hosted seminars, panels and discussions from an array of presenters composed of innovators, politicians, artists, writers, diplomats, scientists, entrepreneurs and more. Notable figures at this year’s festival included Hillary Clinton, Al Gore, Tony Blair and David Petraeus, all four of who participated in the Afternoon of Conversation, an event that constitutes the halfway mark of the festival and features high-profile leaders who discuss solutions to today’s most critical issues.

This year’s theme was imagining 2024, and thinkers from all over the U.S. and abroad gathered to surmise what innovations the next decade might bring. Topics of debate and discussion encompassed future megacities, urban America in 2024, the shifting world of work in a networked economy, the fate of our forests, national security in 2024, fracking, the revolutions of the Middle East, the economics of happiness and a new cold war with Russia.

Showcasing the wide variety of topics covered, Harvard University President Drew Faust talked about the development of higher education in a digital environment while The Atlantic editor-in-chief James Bennet debated the ethics of genetically modifying embryos. At other discussions, College Board President David Coleman questioned the SAT and college preparation testing methods and former U.S. Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell pondered with audiences on how to counter the foreign cyber attack threat on U.S. corporations.

Years ago, the Aspen Institute envisaged a gathering of leaders from myriad backgrounds and specializations to discuss the issues of the day and come up with innovative solutions, citing the potential and power that comes from a forum where leaders, innovators and citizens alike debate and discuss global and societal issues. This vision culminated in the first Aspen Ideas Festival in 2005, which featured such prominent speakers as Jane Goodall and Toni Morrison, whose ranks have been joined by key figures like Bill Gates and Sandra Day O’Conner since that first festival.

The 2014 Aspen Ideas Festival took place from June 24 to July 3. The festival’s events were streamed live throughout the festival on The Atlantic, National Public Radio, and the festival website, the last of which also archives videos and audio from past AIF events.

— Annie Jung

Sources: Aspen Ideas Festival, The Atlantic, The Aspen Institute
Photo: TIME Magazine