Aspen Institute President and CEO Dan Porterfield delivered the below welcome remarks at the Aspen Challenge Forum Days in Miami and New Orleans on February 24th and March 10th, 2022. Follow him on Twitter @DanPorterfield.
It is my pleasure to welcome you to today’s Challenge Forum. We are thrilled to be gathering in-person today to learn about and engage with the 2022 Challenges. It is going to be a day full of inspiration, thought-provoking questions, and great opportunities for growth.
I would like to start by thanking our incredible partners in Mike Bezos and the Bezos Family Foundation for their generous support for the Aspen Challenge.
I’d also like to thank the entire Aspen Challenge team including Katie Fitzgerald, John Dugan, Cara Minardi, and Brett Howley for making this program possible.
Let’s also give a round of applause to all those who have set up these spaces and prepared our food and made it possible for us to convene here safely in-person.
I’d like to extend a special welcome to all of our community members and partners —including the schools, all the teachers and, of course, the students.
I know, you’re probably wondering, what is the Aspen Institute?
We’re a national nonprofit organization whose purpose is to create a free, just, and equitable society, where everyone has equal education and equal opportunity.
I want to encourage you to go on the internet and look us up. You’ll find so many things we are doing in partnership with others to make an impact in areas like racial inequity and prejudice, income inequality, unequal education, and climate change.
We go to communities like we’re doing today all around the U.S. and around the world. In fact, there are 12 global Aspen Institutes in places like Mexico, Japan, England, and Spain.
One of those Aspen’s is in a country that is suffering an enormous tragedy—Ukraine. You’re probably seeing it all over the news right now.
Our partner in Ukraine has ten employees there who are all in hiding or who have fled the country. It’s such a tragedy to see how Vladamir Putin is trying to take over the country and doesn’t care how many civilians he kills to do that.
I mention this because there is a big complex world out there and we want you and all young people to learn about it, and then to roll up your sleeves and make a difference on the issues you are most passionate about. That’s what we stand for.
The Aspen Challenge will give you that opportunity. We’ve done this in places like L.A., Philadelphia, Denver, Chicago, Washington, DC, and Louisville. Overall, more than 3,000 young people have taken the Aspen Challenge—and three of your teams will travel to Aspen this summer to present your initiatives at the Aspen Ideas Festival.
You were selected to participate for a reason. Your teachers and principals see something special in you. I feel it just by standing in the same room as you today. We believe you have the vision and voices and talent to lead.
The experience you will gain here through the Aspen Challenge will serve you well in the future because of what you gave to it in this moment. Take advantage of this opportunity and platform to elevate your brilliant ideas into impact.
I hope to see some of your incredible minds working at the Aspen Institute someday. We need more leaders like you. Thank you!