Social Capital

Unifying Borders Through Unconditional Love at the 2019 Resnick Aspen Action Forum Closing Plenary

August 2, 2019  • Aspen Global Leadership Network

The final day of the 2019 Resnick Aspen Action Forum closed with a celebration of intergenerational perspectives that included presentations from young leaders and a discussion between AGLN Moderator and South African Fellow Heather Sonn and Keith Berwick, long-time friend and founding executive director of the Henry Crown Fellowship.

Participants from the Youth Action Forum took the stage to share the action plans they developed during the Forum to address challenges such as homelessness, racial tensions, stereotypes, and social inclusion. One group decides to make a video that would highlight the issue of racial prejudice and stereotyping.

After playing the video for the audience, the team emphasized the importance of open communication between generations and the need to be vulnerable when having honest conversations about privilege and systemic inequality. “We thought that it was very important to talk about the subject of white privilege and how that can affect other people,” said youth participant Vanessa Mills.

This year, the young leaders are going home with a six-week extended curriculum to continue to develop their Action Pledges and identify ways to bring positive and lasting change to their communities.

Following the presentations, Heather Sonn and Keith Berwick sat down for a discussion about the founding of the Henry Crown Fellowship and how the fellowship will continue to make a lasting impact in the future.

“They were trying to establish meaningful philanthropy for a whole generation of people, particularly in the Silicon Valley and other such places, who were becoming enormously wealthy without –– as they perceived it –– very much commitment to social services or to leveraging their privileged positions for the good,” said Berwick reflecting on the founders and the mission of the Henry Crown Fellowship.

The conversation moved in to a personal story that Berwick shared about his fraught relationship with his brother and the years he spent reflecting on that relationship after his brother died by suicide at the age of 19. Berwick noted that his brother struggled with mental health and there was a lot of stigma which prevented him from getting the help and services he needed. “I’ve been able to look at past adversaries to realize that they were teaching me things that I had to learn,” said Berwick. 

Berwick’s biggest hope for the future of the Aspen Global Leadership Network is that all Fellows and participants learn how to love unconditionally –– especially with people that they disagree with. He spoke of meeting people that he found off-putting and how he made a vow to get to know them and love them unconditionally. “I found that the thing that pressed my buttons was a failing of my own that was made manifest in them,” he said.

David Langstaff, Interim Executive Vice President of the Leadership Division at the Aspen Institute, closed the conversation with reflection and gratitude for the robust conversations, the deep friendships, and the valor of the individuals in the room who take on new challenges with hope and optimism and contribute to a flourishing, good society. The poem he shared, “Come to the Edge” by Christopher Logue, perfectly punctuated the hope and intent of the week’s programming and its impact on participants – that they leave Aspen challenged and with a renewed sense of courage and urgency to make an impact on the world.