The Aspen Institute Announces Its 2020 Summer Speaker Line-Up

June 11, 2020

Speakers include Janet Napolitano, Dr. David Agus, Anna Deavere Smith, Cecile Richards, and George Will

Contact: Cristal Logan
Vice President, Aspen Community Programs & Engagement
The Aspen Institute
Tel. (970) 544-7929

ASPEN, CO, June 10, 2020 –– The Aspen Institute is pleased to announce its line-up of distinguished speakers who will be featured this summer in the Hurst Lecture Series, McCloskey Speaker Series, and Murdock Mind, Body, Spirit Series. These series are made possible by generous donations from the Hurst Family Foundation, the McCloskey Family Charitable Foundation, and Gina and Jerry Murdock, respectively.

All events will take place virtually on Zoom, free of charge. Registration is required for all events and can be accessed here

The 2020 series schedule is as follows:

Thursday, June 25
Hurst Lecture Series
The Future of Higher Education: How Universities are Responding to COVID-19
Featuring University of California President Janet Napolitano, State University of New York Chancellor Kristina Johnson, and University of Miami President Julio Frenk, in conversation with Dan Porterfield, president and CEO of the Aspen Institute. The conversation will delve into what universities are doing to find solutions to COVID, the role university medical centers play in treating patients and developing vaccines, and the impact of this crisis on the future of higher education.
Virtual event, 3:00 – 4:00 pm MDT

Wednesday, July 8
McCloskey Speaker Series

Has Decadence Rendered Us Happy and Comfortable or Stagnant and Disappointed?
Featuring Ross Douthat, conservative political analyst, author, and New York Times columnist. His newest book, The Decadent Society: How We Became the Victims of Our Own Success, explores what happens when a rich and powerful society ceases advancing—how the combination of wealth and technological proficiency with economic stagnation, political stalemates, cultural exhaustion, and demographic decline creates a strange kind of “sustainable decadence.” Douthat dissects how we got here, how long this age of frustration might last and how our decadence might ultimately end.” Order the book here.
Virtual event, 3:00 – 4:00 pm MDT

Thursday, July 9
Murdock Mind, Body, Spirit Series

Customized Care: A Path to Better Health 
Featuring David B. Agus, MD, professor of medicine and engineering at the University of Southern California and author of the bestselling book The End of Illness. In his most recent book, The Lucky Years: How to Thrive in the Brave New World of Health, Agus posits that we are entering the golden age of health and doctors will soon be able to harness the power of technology to customize our care. Are we there yet? How has technology changed the way we approach health and wellness?
Virtual event, 5:00 – 6:00pm MDT

Tuesday, July 14
McCloskey Speaker Series

Looking Ahead to the 2020 Presidential Election
Featuring Rachel Bitecofer, senior fellow of elections at the Niskanen Center, and Tamara Keith, NPR White House correspondent, in conversation with Dan Glickman, executive director of the Aspen Institute Congressional Program. Bitecofer accurately predicted the 2018 midterm elections with a revolutionary new theory: swing voters matter far less than most experts think. Instead, turning out new voters drives election results. With Keith’s vast knowledge of each candidate’s campaign and policies and Bitecofer’s predictive model, the panel will attempt to answer whether this theory will hold true in the 2020 presidential election.
Virtual event, 4:00 – 5:00 pm MDT

Wednesday, July 15
Hurst Lecture Series
The Science of Well-Being

Featuring Laurie Santos, professor of psychology and head of Silliman Residential College at Yale University and host of “The Happiness Lab” podcast. Santos will explore what new results in psychological science teach us about how to be happier, how to feel less stressed, how to flourish more, and how to put these scientific findings into practice by building the sorts of habits that will allow us to live a happier and more fulfilling life.
Virtual event, 3:00 – 4:00 pm MDT

Monday, July 20
McCloskey Speaker Series

American Conservatism: Preserving the Idea of Perpetual Change
Featuring George Will, Pulitzer Prize winning columnist at The Washington Post, and commentator for NBC News and MSNBC, in conversation with Susan Page, Washington Bureau chief for USA TODAY. He is the author of numerous books on the Western political tradition including most recently, The Conservative Sensibility. Will, whom The Wall Street Journal once called “perhaps the most powerful journalist in America,” will discuss the current state of conservatism in the United States and whether or not it aligns with the Founders’ vision of natural rights, limited government, religious freedom and the belief in human dignity.
Virtual event, 3:00 – 4:00 pm MDT

Wednesday, July 22
Hurst Lecture Series

Taking Stock: America at an Inflection Point
In collaboration with the Forum for Community Solutions
Featuring Melody Barnes, chair of the Aspen Institute Forum for Community Solutions and Opportunity Youth Forum and former director of the White House Domestic Policy Council, and John Bridgeland, former director of the United States Domestic Policy Council and USA Freedom Corps, in conversation with Dan Porterfield, president and CEO of the Aspen Institute. The panel will discuss the nation’s COVID-19 response and how it has exposed deep systemic inequities in our nation. Can COVID serve as a catalyst for social change? As we think about domestic policy and recovery in the years ahead, how do we build a more equitable future for all Americans?​
Virtual event, 3:00 – 4:00 pm MDT

Tuesday, July 28
McCloskey Speaker Series

100 Years After the 19th Amendment: Where are Women Now?
Featuring Katherine Grainger, adjunct professor at the Wagner Graduate School of Public Service at NYU and partner at Civitas Public Affairs Group, Ai-jen Poo, co-founder of Supermajority and co-founder and executive director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance, and Cecile Richards, co-founder of Supermajority and former president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, in conversation with Peggy Clark, vice president of Policy Programs and executive director of Aspen Global Innovators Group at The Aspen Institute. In light of the centennial anniversary of the 19th Amendment, the panel will examine the strides women have made towards gender equality in the last 100 years and what hurdles still remain.
Virtual event, 3:00 – 4:00 pm MDT

Thursday, July 30
Murdock Mind, Body, Spirit Series

Emotional Toolkit: How Do We Build Resiliency? 
Guy Winch, PhD is a licensed psychologist, keynote speaker and author of several books including, most recently, How to Fix a Broken Heart. His TED Talks, “Why We All Need to Practice Emotional First Aid” and “How to Fix a Broken Heart,” have been viewed more than 18 million times. Winch examines how we deal with common experiences like loneliness, failure, and heartbreak. Why do we downplay these psychological injuries? How have we come to value the body over the mind? Join us as Winch gives us the tools we need to build emotional hygiene and resilience.
Virtual event, 12:00 – 1:00 pm MDT

Tuesday, August 4
McCloskey Speaker Series

The Tyranny of Merit: What’s Become of the Common Good?
Featuring Michael Sandel, professor of political philosophy at Harvard University and author of The Tyranny of Merit: What’s Become of the Common Good, in conversation with Elliot Gerson, executive vice president at the Aspen Institute. Sandel has been described as “the most popular professor in the world.” In his forthcoming book to be released in September 2020, he examines how we define success and how our meritocracy is hurting the common good. Can we be hopeful for a future that prioritizes the common good over individual success? Pre-order the book here.
Virtual event, 3:00 – 4:00 pm MDT

Friday, August 21
McCloskey Speaker Series

Criminal Justice Transformation in the Age of COVID and Beyond
In collaboration with the Aspen Criminal Justice Reform Initiative
Featuring Anna Deavere Smith, actress, playwright, and founding director of the Institute on the Arts and Civic Dialogue at New York University, and Darren Walker, president of the Ford Foundation in conversation with Reverend Vivian Nixon, executive director of College & Community Fellowship and an Aspen Institute Ascend Fellow. The arrival of the coronavirus pandemic saw jails, prisons, and detention centers become hotbeds for the virus and criminal justice reform advocates are working tirelessly for the release of young people, older and vulnerable adults, and undocumented migrants. But what happens when many of the formerly incarcerated are returning to communities that are also disproportionately affected by the virus? Perhaps this unique time gives us the opportunity to truly reimagine and transform the criminal justice system in the context of larger, associative complexities happening in communities of concentrated inequality and racial segregation.
Virtual event, 11:00 am – 12:00 pm MDT

NOTE: Event details subject to change. For more information on Aspen Community Programs’ virtual events that are open to the public, please call (970) 544-7970 or visit

In addition to its summer speaker series, the Institute’s Aspen Community Programs hosts dozens of public programs year-round for residents and visitors alike, including the Hurst Student Seminars; Great Books; the Edlis Neeson Great Decisions Series; Sharing Shakespeare; Teen Socrates; and Our Society Reimagined. These programs offer affordable opportunities for people to find inspiration in a variety of ways. Thanks to the generosity of our donors, we are able to offer need-based scholarships to teens and adults to participate in our programs.

The Aspen Institute is a global nonprofit organization committed to realizing a free, just, and equitable society. Since its founding in 1949, the Institute has been driving change through dialogue, leadership, and action to help solve the most critical challenges facing communities in the United States and around the world. Headquartered in Washington, DC, the Institute has a campus in Aspen, Colorado, and an international network of partners.


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