“Our Spaces Create Us”

August 3, 2019  • Daniel R. Porterfield

Aspen Institute President and CEO Dan Porterfield delivered remarks at the 2019 Summer Celebration Dinner honoring Frank Gehry on August 3, 2019 in Aspen, CO. Follow him on Twitter @DanPorterfield.

Good evening, everyone. I’m Dan Porterfield, President and CEO of the Aspen Institute, and it’s a pleasure to be here with you tonight.

Thank you to all who prepared and served this meal, decorated this space, and organized this wonderful event.

Thank you once again to Kim, Rob, Rachel, and Mark for co-chairing tonight’s dinner.

Thank you to Jim and Paula Crown for your leadership.

And thank you—and congratulations—to tonight’s honoree, the inimitable Frank Gehry, who we will hear from soon.

We’re also so pleased to host the great Renee Fleming this evening, who is in residence at the Aspen Music Festival and School, as well as President and CEO Alan Fletcher and Board Chair Mike Klein. Thank you for joining us.

What a privilege it is for us to gather here together each summer at the birthplace of this extraordinary institute.

This year is special. Seven decades ago, in the aftermath of genocide and world war, a group of business, art, and academic leaders came to Aspen determined to create a community dedicated to the proposition that the life of the mind can serve the life of the world. Said another way, they sought to build an institution that would protect the core values of our way of life and, at the same time, spark needed change by inspiring open dialogue and empowering values-driven leaders to solve our biggest challenges.

This was our Big Bang—ignited by the visionaries Walter and Elizabeth Paepcke—and its trace elements run through all of our work today: values-driven leadership, the free exchange of ideas, support for an open society, excellence in the arts, the participation of the private sector in public work.

All of that lives and thrives in today’s Aspen Institute—which is very much the expression of our Founders’ enormous aspiration. Part of our responsibility as stewards of the Institute is to push ourselves to make the very biggest impacts we can toward the vision of a Good Society—a vision our world calls out for now more than ever.

That’s the vision of Lynda and Stewart Resnick with their transformational gift to create the Resnick Center for Herbert Bayer Studies—a resource that will amplify our aesthetic heritage for generations to come.

That’s the vision of our Rodel Fellowship in Public Leadership, which promotes functioning bipartisanship, and whose long-term future has been secured thanks to a majestic investment from Bill Budinger.

That’s the vision of our new Civil Society Fellowship, which is identifying a new generation of community builders at local levels and giving them the gift of each other and a global perspective.

And that’s the vision of the Aspen Strategy Group, which has been meeting here for more than 30 years.

I believe the vision of a free, just, equitable, secure, and generous America lives powerfully today in the collective commitment and hope of our community.

And we will do still more to bring to public notice the remarkable creative vision of our founders—a vision that speaks to the ability of space and place to multiply the power of the mind.

In the spirit of Frank Gehry, who we honor this evening, and the brilliant Jeanne Gang, and the Bauhaus master Herbert Bayer, I would like to quote Einstein:

“We create our spaces, and then our spaces create us.”

This is just as true for intellectual space as it is for architectural space. Thank you for supporting this Institute’s 70-year history as a resource to create space for freedom in all its forms.

I now invite you to enjoy this short video, after which Jim Crown will introduce tonight’s honoree.