National Security

Welcome Remarks from the 2023 Aspen Security Forum: DC Edition

December 7, 2023  • Daniel R. Porterfield

Aspen Institute President and CEO Dan Porterfield delivered the below remarks at the Aspen Security Forum: DC Edition on December 7, 2023 in Washington, DC.

Good morning, everyone, and welcome to the third annual Aspen Security Forum: DC Edition. With Hanukkah beginning this evening, season’s greetings to all.

Please join me in thanking the Aspen Strategy Group and its co-chairs, Joe Nye and Condoleezza Rice, and our speakers and sponsors.

Thank you to our remarkable ASG team—including our Executive Director Anja Manuel, Niamh King, Leah Bitounis, Deb Cunningham, Anna Klingensmith, and many others.

And thank you to our trustees, especially Jane Harman, Alma Gildenhorn, and our Board Chair Margot Pritzker.

82 years ago today, Japan attacked the U.S. Naval base in Pearl Harbor, drawing the United States into what became the deadliest war in human history. 

The Greatest Generation, whose heroism we honor today, lived in a tumultuous era, bearing witness to the evil of Holocaust, to nuclear devastation and proliferation, and to the advent of the Cold War. 

This period brought about numerous geopolitical and military paradigm shifts—including sea changes in the technologies of war—dramatically elevating the need for American leadership in the world on behalf of freedom and democracy and human dignity.  

From the ferment of those transformational times came the founding of many of today’s great organs of civil society, including the Aspen Institute.

Established in 1949 in the service of social progress and human dignity, this Institute assigned itself the purpose of igniting human potential to build understanding and create new possibilities for a better world. 

Our founders were clear-eyed in their understanding that democracy, free enterprise, and military strength were three intertwined strands of one great chord that would pull America forward. 

And they were truly humanistic in their belief that philosophical inquiry, constant learning, open dialogue, deliberation, diplomacy, reason, science, arts, innovation, and values-based leadership would be the glue of a strong and adaptable society.

In the spirit of our founding and in pursuit of this purpose, the Aspen Strategy Group holds this Forum twice a year to help identify and address the greatest challenges facing the U.S. and the world—and in these times there are many and they are all deeply interconnected.

Anja, Niamh, Leah, and their team have displayed remarkable vision in designing this Forum to connect the dots on themes such as the China Challenge, the war for freedom in Ukraine, terror and war in the Middle East, tensions around global trade, the climate crisis, and the arms race in artificial intelligence. Each of these themes requires human intelligence of the highest order, especially if American leadership and American institutions and American democracy are to meet the enduring and emerging tests before us.  

Our conference will feature a variety of voices from government and military leadership, the private sector, academia, and media. 

On this day of remembrance, I would especially like to thank the members of the armed services who live their oath to the Constitution every day and whose presence here is a powerful reminder of the differences between our open society and system of democratic capitalism and those of our adversaries. 

And, with that, I would like to thank with equal respect the learned journalists taking part in these proceedings for the essential role they play informing the public in difficult times and on difficult issues for the good of our democracy.

We hope that you all learn from these discussions. It is now my pleasure to welcome our superb ASG Executive Director Anja Manuel to introduce our first speakers.