Aspen Ideas Festival Kicks Off Today & Continues Through July 1, Exploring “American Futures”

June 27, 2021

Speaker line-up includes Elizabeth Alexander, Mary Barra, Pete Buttigieg, Chris Krebs, Lori Lightfoot, Rep. Sephanie Murphy, Yo-Yo Ma, Neal Katyal, Diana Trujillo, and more


Contact: Jon Purves
Senior Media Relations Manager
The Aspen Institute

Aspen, CO & Washington, DC, June 27, 2021
–The 2021 Aspen Ideas Festival gets underway this Sunday evening with speakers exploring bold ideas and new possibilities during a unique cultural and historical inflection point in the U.S. The online festival opens with a 5pm MT plenary featuring a conversation between US Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg and CNN’s Abby Phillip, followed by Saheem Ali, Resident director of The Public Theater, and Oskar Eustis, artistic director of The Public Theater, on the return of performing arts, and Harvard Professor Arthur Brooks on life lessons from the pandemic.

Programming continues from Monday, June 28 to Thursday, July 1 with sessions taking place from approximately 9:30am MT- 6:30pm MT each day. Online registration and access to the Festival is free to everyone. Attendees are invited to register, review the speaker list, and explore the program agenda here.

Reflecting the current moment, the theme of the 2021 Aspen Ideas Festival is “American Futures.” Speakers will explore a range of issues including the future of democracy, identity, education, the search for meaning, our own mental health, and more. Participants include policymakers, business leaders, artists, scientists, journalists, technology experts, and more.

The majority of sessions for the 2021 Festival take place online, and a number of speakers and moderators will also be present in Aspen to participate in conversations at the Aspen Meadows campus in front of a live audience which will be recorded and shared online. Virtual audiences will also have the option to submit questions to speakers and moderators on select live sessions.

Below is a partial selection of programming from the 2021 Aspen Ideas Festival (all times given are MT, note that some sessions run concurrently):

Sunday, June 27
  • 5:00pm – Plenary with Pete Buttigieg, US Secretary of Transportation and CNN Senior Political Correspondent Abby Phillip; Saheem Ali, Resident director of The Public Theater, and Oskar Eustis, artistic director of The Public Theater, on the return of performing arts in a changed world; and Arthur Brooks, William Henry Bloomberg Professor of the Practice of Public Leadership at Harvard Kennedy School, discussing happiness and “life lessons from COVID-19.”
Monday, June 28
  • 9:30am – Tim Shriver, chairman of Special Olympics International, and Caryl Stern, Executive Director of the Walton Family Foundation, are interviewed by María Hinojosa, Founder and President of Futuro Media, on the “classroom of the future.”
  • 9:30am –Cellist Yo-Yo Ma and Eric Liu, Executive Director of the Aspen Institute’s Citizenship and American Identity Program explore our lives and responsibilities in a democracy.
  • 10:45am – A panel on fiscal resiliency with Robert Rubin, Chairman Emeritus, Council on Foreign Relations; Former US Secretary of the Treasury, Joseph Stiglitz, Nobel economist; University Professor, Columbia University; Chief Economist of the Roosevelt Institute, Peter Orszag, CEO of Financial Advisory, Lazard; Former Director of the United States Office of Management and Budget, and Gillian Tett, Chair, Editorial board, U.S. Editor-at-large, Financial Times​.
  • 12:00pm – Facebook Chief Product Officer Chris Cox speaks to The Atlantic CEO Nicholas Thompson on how Facebook thinks the world is changing.
  • 5:00pm – Plenary with Parag Khanna, Founder & Managing Partner of FutureMap on “mapping humanity”; PayPal CEO Dan Schulman and Shartia Brantley, Deputy Chief with Bloomberg News’ New York bureau, on investing in racial equity; and Lonnie Bunch, Secretary of the Smithsonian; and Washington Post columnist and MSNBC anchor Jonathan Capehart on “museums as a home for hope.’
Tuesday, June 29
  • 10:45pm – Yale political scientist Helene Landemore speaks to The Atlantic Editor-in-Chief Jeffrey Goldberg about a new way to govern: politics minus politicians.
  • 12:00pm – The big health care ideas to come out of the pandemic, with emergency physician and George Washington University Public Health Professor Leana Wen, Rep. Lauren Underwood (IL-14), and Mount Sinai Health System Head of Inclusion Gary Butts,interviewed by PBS Newshour Correspondent Amna Nawaz.
  • 12:30pm – Mary Barra, chair and CEO of General Motors, discusses zero emissions and the shift to electric vehicles with Ken Chenault, Chairman and Managing Director of General Catalyst.
  • 5:00pm – Plenary with Whitney Wolfe Herde, Bumble CEO,and TIME senior correspondent Charlotte Alter on Bumble and her vision for the internet; Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot in conversation with James Anderson, Head of Government Innovation with Bloomberg Philanthropies, on building better cities; and Jill Tarter, Chair Emeritus for SETI Research and Garrett Graff, director of cyber initiatives for Aspen Digital, on the ongoing search for aliens.
Wednesday, June 30
  • 9:30am – Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (PA-1), Rep. Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5), and Rep. Stephanie Murphy (FL-7) interviewed byCharlie Dent, Executive Director of the Aspen Institute’s Congressional Program, who asks “can Congress still solve problems?”
  • 10:45am Exploring the future of the creative economy with Cassey Ho, Founder & CEO, Blogilates; Robert Kyncl, Chief Business Officer, YouTube; and Andrew Rea, Host, Binging with Babish, and Brittany Luse, Producer and host, Gimlet Media.
  • 1:15pm – virologist Nathan Wolfe on the hunt for the next virus with The Atlantic staff writer Sarah Zhang.
  • 1:15pm – Jim Coulter, Executive Chairman and Founding Partner of TPG and Co-Managing Partner of the Rise Fund, discusses impact investing with CNBC reporter Leslie Picker.
  • 5:00pm – Plenary with H. R. McMaster, Fouad and Michelle Ajami Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University and Jeff Goldberg, Editor-in-Chief of The Atlantic, on the China-U.S. relationship; Clint Smith, staff writer at The Atlantic and author of How the Word Is Passed, and Elizabeth Alexander, poet and President of Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, on how the legacy of slavery shapes us today; and Priscilla Chan, Co-Founder & Co-CEO of the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative and Linda Darling-Hammond, President & CEO of the Learning Policy Institute discuss the path to stronger teacher-student connections.
Thursday, July 1
    • 10:45am – Chris Krebs, co-chair of the Aspen Institute’s Commission on Information Disorder and former director of the federal Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), and Yasmin Green, Director of Research and Development for Google’s Jigsaw, speak to Aspen Digital Executive Director Vivian Schiller on information disorder.
    • 1:00pm –Reflections on the Derek Chauvin trial: Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison and Neal Katyal, Paul and Patricia Saunders Professor of Law at Georgetown, speak to Joshua Johnson, Anchor of “The Week with Joshua Johnson” at MSNBC.
    • 4:00pm – Joe Lubin, ConsenSys Founder and the co-founder of Ethereum, and the Financial Times’ Gillian Tett discuss the promise of blockchain.
    • 5:00pm – Plenary on competition and tech policy with Tim Wu, Special Assistant to the President for Technology and Competition Policy, with New York Times National Technology Correspondent Cecilia Kang; Walter Isaacson, Professor of History at Tulane University and author, discusses CRISPR and the “age of biology;” and Diana Trujillo, Aerospace Engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, explains why we explore with Marina Koren, staff writer with The Atlantic.

Press seeking more information about the Aspen Ideas Festival, or to request permission to use content, please contact Jon Purves: Content from the festival will also be directly accessible on YouTube premiere livestreams accessible on the Aspen Institute’s YouTube channel, although registration is encouraged to receive reminders and the latest programming updates. Please credit the Aspen Ideas Festival and the Aspen Institute in any coverage.

Follow @aspenideas on Twitter and Instagram, and join the conversation with #AspenIdeas.

Now in its 17th year, the Aspen Ideas Festival will return to a full slate of on-the-ground programming in Aspen, CO, in 2022. Last year, the Festival went entirely online during the pandemic and reached some 40,000 people directly, with many more engaging on social media and through press coverage.Aspen Ideas: Health, which typically opens the festival, took place this year from April 27-29.

The 2021 Aspen Ideas Festival is generously supported by Allstate, IBM, the Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth, Mount Sinai Health System, PayPal, Verizon, the Walton Family Foundation, and YouTube as Presenting Underwriters, and Prudential and the Rise Fund as Supporting Underwriters.


The Aspen Institute is a global nonprofit organization committed to realizing a free, just, and equitable society. Founded in 1949, the Institute drives change through dialogue, leadership, and action to help solve the most important challenges facing the United States and the world. Headquartered in Washington, DC, the Institute has a campus in Aspen, Colorado, and an international network of partners. For more information, visit

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