Around the Institute

Letter from Jim Crown

July 1, 2020  • Institute Staff

Give NowAs I take some time to reflect on this moment in the Aspen Institute’s history, I would like to offer a few remarks on the growth, resilience, and reach of our important work. The Institute was founded by Walter Paepcke to help a world trying to make sense of things in the aftermath of World War II. We again find ourselves in a moment where many of us are trying to comprehend the world around us and find a sense of direction.

Over the course of the past few months, our society has been called to navigate a global pandemic, a recession, and a difficult but essential self-examination on the issue of racial inequity. In addition to the complexity of those issues, we see heightened engagement coming from younger generations and listen to voices that, for too long, had been at the margins. More people than ever before are calling for justice, equality, accountability, and collective action.

For over 70 years, the Aspen Institute has advanced these very conversations. And like any institution, we realize our capacity to do more. The current circumstances remind us not only of the work that lies ahead but of the important role we can play: we serve as a trusted convener able to create spaces for important ideas to be discussed and debated. We are reminded, time and time again, of our mission as an institution that seeks to move thought to action.

None of us could have anticipated how this year would unfold. But through these trying few months, the Aspen Institute has worked quickly and efficiently to secure its present and its future. We have called upon our friends and supporters to help us weather through this storm. Our Board of Trustees has answered this call to unlock resources to immediately support the financial stabilization of the organization.

Of course, philanthropy is much more than financial contributions—though they are greatly needed and appreciated. Our supporters have been extraordinarily generous with their time, their talent, and their guidance. Over the last few months, our trustees have offered counsel, resources, and support through some of our more difficult moments. I can truly say that I am proud to be a part of a community of such concerned and faithful stewards of this organization.

We know that many of the problems we wish to address are described with words like “structural” or “systemic.” Those words describe something that has been with us for a very long time and is very deeply rooted. To achieve a meaningful, effective, and lasting change, we have to go deep as well. We have to call on our history and skills and strengths as an organization and deploy them with new energy and resolve to help change the structure and the system we wish to improve. We are most grateful to have you as our partners in this effort.