Aspen Institute President and CEO Dan Porterfield delivered the following remarks at the Aspen Forum on Children and Families hosted by Ascend at the Aspen Institute on February 27, 2019 in Washington, DC. Follow him on Twitter @DanPorterfield.
Good afternoon—I’m excited to be with you today.
I’d like to begin by thanking Mike and Jackie Bezos and the Bezos Family Foundation for being such strong supporters of Ascend and of the Aspen Institute. As I’ve travelled around the country to different events during my first year as President and CEO, I’ve found three things consistently present: hard workers, great ideas, and Mike and Jackie Bezos.
Mike and Jackie, we are grateful to have you as partners in our work to transform great ideas into action and impact—particularly our work with young people and their families. Thank you so much.
Also here are leaders from the Packard Foundation, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the Chambers Family Fund, the Omidyar Network, and the Community Foundation of Sarasota County. Thank you for supporting this vital work.
I’d also like to thank Anne Mosle, the visionary Executive Director of Ascend. Since founding Ascend eight years ago, Anne has built a national hub for ideas and collaboration geared towards improving economic security, promoting educational success, incorporating the latest research on brain development, and prioritizing mental and physical health for children and the adults in their lives.
With Anne at the helm, Ascend has charted a new course for how all of us can imagine and implement ways to break the cycle of intergenerational poverty. Under her exemplary leadership, Ascend has built and continues to grow new networks of leaders across the country eager and able to implement innovative strategies. Thank you, Anne.
The diversity, range, and commitment of those in attendance today—both in the room and watching remotely from around the country—are proof of what Ascend has been able to accomplish:
You come from municipal, state, and federal offices and focus on promoting the health and wellbeing of children and families in your communities.
You come from foundations and non-profits committed to championing humanity and implementing strategies that can transform systems to improve society.
And you are leaders, researchers, parents, and caregivers who know—because of experience and expertise—that the 2Gen framework is effective, adaptable, and scaleable.
As part of the Ascend Network, you embody so well the purpose of the Aspen Institute, which, to put it simply, is to help build a free, just, and equitable society.
Looking ahead, you can expect from the Aspen Institute an emphasis on four integrative themes that really matter for our society right now:
First: excellence and impact in leadership development and convening of thinkers and doers—which Ascend does so well.
Second: excellence and impact in developing new, innovative, scalable solutions to the problems of the day—which Ascend is all about.
Third: in an era of polarization and perhaps some pessimism about the American project, a relentless commitment to creating a society that works for all members—which Ascend calls for and embodies.
And fourth: an Institute-wide focus on children, youth, and families—those rising generations who will always be humanity’s greatest hope and who Ascend knows represent the future of our communities and our country.
And that future is real people with great hopes who have so much to offer.
The future of our country is a mother in Miami completing her degree at night to provide a better life and a motivating example for her children.
The future of our country is a middle school student in Colorado preparing for the science fair under the watchful eye of his grandmother while his father works the night shift for a second job.
The future of our country is a recently arrived family from El Salvador enrolling their children in Prince George’s County public schools while community networks mobilize to help them with housing, employment, healthcare, and skills training.
Each of these Americans has a greater opportunity to thrive because of the work you are doing here together—the research, the practice, the organizing, the funding, the casework. Each of you is a strand in a great cord helping to pull this country forward, and the Aspen Institute joins you in that mission. Together, we can unlock the promise of our country’s greatest resource: our people.
At the Aspen Institute, we will continue to find and empower new leaders with the skills and resources they need to analyze the problems and imagine the solutions needed by all generations, this society, and our planet need.
We will continue to use our platforms to ensure that the voices, viewpoints, experiences, and expertise of young people and their families are heard and incorporated into new systems, frameworks, and policies that will shape their lives for decades to come.
And we will continue to include young people and their families at the table where the decisions that shape their lives are made.
I am so glad that you are here, and that the Aspen Forum on Children and Families is continuing the tradition of Ascend and the Aspen Institute of convening new and familiar partners together for frank, open, and catalyzing conversations that don’t happen anywhere else. Thank you so much.
I’d now like to invite Mike Bezos to the podium to share a few remarks.