Special Issue | 2017

Editor’s Letter

The picture above isn’t about heads, though it does illustrate just how rapt the attention was at this year’s Aspen Ideas Festival—particularly when the speakers included New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu shortly after he had galvanized the country with his eloquent explanation of the moral rightness of removing Confederate monuments. He was on stage when this was taken, speaking with a group typical for its currency to the national conversation—a conversation heard across the Aspen Meadows campus for the packed summer months.

I include the picture to show off the T-shirts that two friends and fans of IDEAS were wearing: this year’s version of the shirts we distribute every summer to the people who make the campus hum. Because this would be Walter Isaacson’s last summer presiding, and because this was a summer of trying to understand shifting historical forces, we chose a phrase from Walter’s Benjamin Franklin: “History is a tale not of immutable forces but of human endeavors.”

I saw proof that we are the sum of our choices—and that our choices can change history—at a midsummer reunion of Henry Crown Fellows at the Resnick Aspen Action Forum. Of course these are impressive leaders. But seeing firsthand their joy at seeing each other again, and hearing updates on their action pledges, brought Walter’s observation to life.

Three Fellows in particular struck me: two from the Middle East and one from Asia. Because their home countries frown on or outright forbid travel between them, these Fellows must discuss their projects either in neutral countries or, best, in Aspen. You can bet I plan to feature them and their work in an upcoming issue. It’s the kind of collaboration that comes about uniquely at the Institute— and the kind that will keep this summer’s T-shirt current through any political season.

Corby Kummer