Around the Institute

Aspen Ideas: Climate Opening Remarks, “This Is Our Moment”

March 6, 2023  • Daniel R. Porterfield

Aspen Institute President and CEO Dan Porterfield delivered the below welcome remarks at the opening plenary of Aspen Ideas: Climate on March 6, 2023 in the New World Center in Miami Beach, FL. Follow him on LinkedIn.

Thank you, Mayor Gelber, to you and your entire team led by your Chief of Staff Michele Burger. All of you are truly inspiring public servants.

I bring greetings from our Board Chair, Margot Pritzker, and would like to express gratitude to:

  • Mayor Daniela Levine Cava of Miami-Dade County and Mayor Francis Suarez from the City of Miami;
  • Our Aspen Institute teams led by Greg Gershuny, Kitty Boone, and Elliot Gerson;
  • And our visionary sponsors, specifically our Title Partners: the Knight Foundation, Related Group, and the Jorge M. Perez Family Foundation, as well as Stuart Miller and the Lennar Foundation.

It’s inspiring to be back in Miami Beach. This region is a multi-cultural mecca and a beacon of innovation—an opportunity crossroads. We love it here. Thank you for welcoming us, and thank you for being here this evening.

We begin tonight on a note of sadness as we must recognize the absence of a beloved Aspen Institute colleague, Melanie Diaz, who passed away suddenly in February at the age of 25. A recent graduate of Georgetown University and a proud South Floridian, Melanie was a core member of our Energy and Environment team and one of the lead planners of this convening.

To quote one of her colleagues, “Melanie was a truly kind, thoughtful, and caring human being. She took care of her coworkers and friends. She put others first. She would go out of her way to comfort others during stressful or difficult times.”

Melanie was an extraordinary young leader, and a passionate champion of the environment. We would now like to honor her with a moment of remembrance.


Thank you. Melanie’s mother, father, and brother are here with us this evening. Please join me in showing our support.

The Aspen Institute is a global nonprofit whose purpose is to ignite human potential to build understanding and new possibilities. We envision free, just, and equitable societies—and we work towards that vision by bringing together a broad spectrum of people for smart, open, informed, inclusive, and engaging dialogues that lead to learning and solutions.

Aspen Ideas: Climate 2.0 reflects this approach. It is firmly fact-based and solutions-oriented—highlighting research, community wisdom, energy innovations, and changemaking across the board—bringing together builders and doers from every sector.

200+ here tonight are young future leaders spending spring break working on these topics. Let’s hear it for the future.

Last year’s inaugural convening really did ignite human potential. To cite just one example, two entrepreneurs who spoke last year received a $2.5 million investment from another attendee right after the convening. This evening, one of our 2022 Future Leaders will tell you about how being here last year helped her take her work to the next level.

What makes this a truly novel summit is that, because of your diversity, we’ll look at solutions from an enormous array of perspectives—and that’s essential because the climate and energy questions before us are deeply complex and cannot be solved overnight.

For example:

How can we best build public dialogue on these issues in a way that brings people together rather than hardening existing divides?

These are just some of the future-forward topics we’ll be discussing here—not just on the main stage but also in the many breakout sessions that will fire up the synapses of our 2,000 person brain.

As you take part in this summit, I encourage you to join sessions on topics that you may know absolutely nothing about—because finding and implementing solutions that will work across the years and decades will require continuous learning—with a commitment not just to limiting the global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees celsius but, really, to preserving the cultures, communities, and environments of this planet so that unborn generations can experience the same richness of life that we all want for our own children and loved ones.

This is our moment. Thank you so much for being here.