What’s the Big Idea? Highlights from Opening Ceremonies of the 2008 Aspen Ideas Festival

July 2, 2008  • Institute Contributor

Contact: Zachary Hastings Hooper

The Atlantic
202-862-4355 / zachary@rosengrouppr.com
Contact: Jennifer Myers
The Aspen Institute
202-736-2906 / jennifer.myers@aspeninstitute.org

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What’s the Big Idea?
–Highlights from Opening Ceremonies of the 2008 Aspen Ideas Festival —

Aspen, Colorado (July 1, 2008) – Aspen Institute President and CEO Walter Isaacson and Atlantic Media Chairman David Bradley welcomed attendees to the 2008 Aspen Ideas Festival during opening ceremonies on Monday, June 30. In his remarks to a 700-plus strong audience, Isaacson said, “There’s nothing better than sharing an idea with a friend.” As the Festival commences among the friendly faces in Aspen, the Aspen Institute and The Atlantic today announced highlights from its first day:


  • “Big ideas are great. Big differences are better. Here’s to the one that bears its fruit to the other.” – David Katz, associate professor in public health practice at Yale School of Public Health.
  • “There is more terror about the stigma of racism than interest in solving the problems of racism and poverty in America. All these [government] programs are not to help the people they claim to help, but rather to reestablish the moral authority of the institution. The solution is that we have to focus on fairness. Fairness is our only way out of this; there is no redemption. American history is what it was.” – Shelby Steele, Robert J. and Marion E. Oster Senior Fellow, The Hoover Institution, Stanford University
  • “We need to renew our energy in cultural diplomacy.” – Damian Woeztel, New York City Ballet’s former Principal Dancer and the Institute’s 2008 Harman-Eisner Artist in Residence
  • “The most impossible idea that you will hear during your time here…is the one that puts trust and respect in our government.” – Lawrence Lessig, professor of law at Stanford Law School and founder of The school’s Center for Internet and Society
  • “We have been screwing this up. We are not meeting the basic energy needs of the poorest two billion people on planet. We have a decade to avoid catastrophic climate change.” – John Holdren, Teresa and John Heinz professor of environmental policy and director of the Program on Science, Technology and Public Policy at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government.
  • “The vital missing piece in this clamor of extremes is the voice of actual Muslims. We have to listen to the voices of ordinary people and let facts, not fear, shape our global engagement.” – Dalia Mogahed, senior analyst and executive director of the Gallup Center for Muslim Studies, speaking about the relationship between Muslims and Americans.
  • “Public attitudes about our courts, they’re not good….One third of Americans can’t name the three branches of government. How are we going to solve our problems if we don’t know how the government works? We have to use technology to teach our young people about our government structures.” – U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor
  • “The wonders of the cosmos transcend everything that divides us.” – physicist Brian Greene


  • JP Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon in conversation with Charlie Rose 
  • A Critical Look at the Presumptive Presidential Nominees, a media roundtable featuring: Democracy Now!’s Amy Goodman; Rothenberg Political Report’s Stuart Rothenberg; Huffington Post’s Arianna Huffington; The Washington Post’s Jonathan Capehart; Sojourners’ Jim Wallis; and Newsweek’s Jonathan Alter 
  • Artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude present two works in progress—“Over the River” (Project for the Arkansas River, State of Colorado) and “The Mastaba” (Project for the United Arab Emirates)—followed by a film screening HBO’s “The Gates”
  • Allstate Ideas Exchange: The Atlantic’s Ross Douthat discusses college education with University of Maryland President Dan Mote, superintendent of the Denver (CO) public schools Michael Bennet, and Cardozo School of Law‘s Paul Verkuil
  • A special “West Side Story” dance lesson with New York City Ballet former Principal Dancer and the Institute’s 2008 Harman-Eisner Artist in Resident Damian Woetzel
  • The Wall Street Journal’s Walt Mossberg on the future of the Internet and the rise of the cell phone

Video highlights, including clips from Intel Chairman Craig Barrett’s talk with Kleiner Perkins partner and Institute trustee John Doerr, are available on the Institute’s website at www.aifestival.org and on Atlantic.com at http://aspenideas.theatlantic.com/.

Run in partnership with The Atlantic, the Aspen Ideas Festival features more than 250 leaders from the fields of arts, science, culture, religion, philosophy, economics, and politics in a deep and inquisitive public discourse on the most invigorating ideas and issues facing the world today. For more information about other events open to the public, a complete list of confirmed speakers, and passholder information, please visit www.aifestival.org. Sponsors for the 2008 Aspen Ideas Festival include Allstate, Altria, Boeing, Booz Allen Hamilton, Chevron, Ernst & Young, Intel, JPMorgan, Mercedes-Benz, and Thomson Reuters.

Since it was founded 150 years ago, The Atlantic has helped shape the national debate on the most critical issues of our times, from politics, business, and the economy, to technology, arts, and culture. The Atlantic’s parent enterprise, Atlantic Media Company, is a Washington, D.C., based publishing company whose flagship properties include The Atlantic, National Journal, and Government Executive. With more than 3 million readers among the ranks of business, politics, government and academia, the publishing properties of Atlantic Media enjoy a prestigious reputation, acquired through 150 years of publishing top-quality American literature and journalism.

The Aspen Institute, founded in 1950, is an international nonprofit organization dedicated to fostering enlightened leadership and open-minded dialogue. Through seminars, policy programs, conferences and leadership development initiatives, the Institute and its international partners seek to promote nonpartisan inquiry and an appreciation for timeless values. The Institute is headquartered in Washington, DC, and has campuses in Aspen, Colorado, and on the Wye River near the shores of the Chesapeake Bay in
Maryland. Its international network includes partner Aspen Institutes in Berlin, Rome, Lyon, Tokyo, New Delhi, and Bucharest, and leadership initiatives in Africa, Central America, and India<.


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