Columnist and Author David Brooks to Lead New Aspen Institute Initiative Under Leadership of Incoming President and CEO Dan Porterfield

March 20, 2018

Effort Aims to Bridge Divides

Contact: Jim Spiegelman
VP/Chief External Affairs Officer
The Aspen Institute
Tel. (202) 736-3849

Washington, DC, March 20, 2018 ––Aspen Institute President and CEO-elect Dan Porterfield announced today that New York Times op-ed columnist and author David Brooks will lead a new Aspen Institute initiative to understand and reduce the growing fragmentation, alienation, and division around the country.

In 2018-19, Brooks will spearhead a series of workshops in diverse communities across the nation in order to identify common ground, unifying themes, and effective change-makers. Brooks’s longer-term goal is to draw attention to organizations that are already healing social divisions, to see how their efforts can be applied to the national level and to create a network and series of permanent structures to allow for planning, dialogue, and action.

“The defining problem of our era is national fragmentation,” said Brooks. “The spread of bitter divisions has been growing along class, cultural, geographic, racial, religious and political lines. Fortunately, over the past few months, thousands of people and organizations have begun seeking to reweave the nation’s social fabric. The animating thought behind the project is that for all the wonderful work local community healers are doing, they can only change history if they become a social movement.”

“The Aspen Institute is perfectly resourced to spark this effort and David Brooks is its ideal leader,” Porterfield commented. “For decades, the Aspen Institute has stood for dialogue, for thoughtful conversations, and for common ground in the service of America. Together we aim to plant a flag of unity, to create a reference point for optimism and hope that people can identify with and join.”

“A key mission of the Aspen Institute, since its founding, has been to bridge divides,” said current Institute President and CEO Walter Isaacson. “Under David Brooks’s leadership, we can be assured that this new initiative will bring reason and civility to the fore and effectively reach new communities throughout America in need of healing.”

“From its founding, the Aspen Institute has sought to convene meaningful dialogue—on a nonpartisan basis—in order to enrich lives and inform communities,” said James S. Crown, Chairman of the Aspen Institute Board of Trustees. “We rely on the open exchange of ideas, the mutual respect of the participants and the strength of values-based leadership to help shape a better society.  David Brooks is one of our country’s most thoughtful and incisive commentators.  For years he has had the opportunity to observe and diagnose these troubling changes in America. We are thrilled to have David at the helm of a project focused on healing a divided country.”

Focus areas for the new project include civic education, the democratic idea, economic mobility, social capital building, and defining a sense of shared purpose and meaning. The initiative will leverage the multiple and varied resources of the Aspen Institute, including its policy programs, leadership networks, youth initiatives, and public events. Brooks will continue to write his column for the New York Times. 

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, DC. Its mission is to foster leadership based on enduring values and to provide a nonpartisan venue for dealing with critical issues. The Institute is based in Washington, DC; Aspen, Colorado; and on the Wye River on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. It also has offices in New York City and an international network of partners. For more information, visit

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