About Socrates

The Aspen Institute Socrates Program provides a forum for emerging leaders from various professions to convene and explore contemporary issues through expert-moderated dialogue. Socrates also provides the opportunity for participants to enter into a diverse professional network, and into the broader range of the Aspen Institute’s programs.

Socrates seminars enable participants to explore current, pressing leadership challenges. Discussions are built around contemporary texts, and are led by expert moderators who engage and encourage participants to share their views. Seminars are designed to be values-based Socratic explorations to facilitate an exchange of ideas. At the core of Socrates is a remarkable group of emerging and recognized leaders including entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, representatives of government, international, nonprofit and non-governmental organizations, academics and journalists. Participants are provided ample time for interaction, relationship-building and outdoor activities outside the seminars.

Socrates programs include:

Flagship Winter and Summer Seminars in Aspen, CO

Drawing more than 180 leaders annually, every President’s Day weekend (February) and the first Friday following the end of the Aspen Ideas Festival the Socrates Program organizes 8 seminars (3 in the Winter; 5 in the summer) at the Aspen Institute’s Meadows campus in Aspen, CO.

Socrates Salons

Leveraging the geographic diversity of the Socrates Society, program staff work with alums and partner organizations like the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, New Orleans Business Alliance, and Hunter College (NYC) to bring one day seminars (Salons) to a handful of cities across the USA.

Inclusive Republic Summit Series

Focusing on small and medium-sized cities, this seminar series focuses on founding documents and letters from some of America’s great leaders to help civically-engaged leaders to engage in the same type of debates that our founders did in the first 20 years of our nation’s founding. Participants leave these one-day events with more questions about American history and respect for the diversity of the readings that expose the textured history of our 242 year old democratic Republic.

International Socrates Seminars

Each international seminar has on average participation from five countries, including US participants, who often help accelerate the dialogue in countries unfamiliar with Socratic dialogue. In each international location, our partners also provide a public event with the US-based moderator to expose more people to the topic.

Emerging Governance Leaders Series

The Socrates Program has created an annual series of Socratic seminars for Congressional staff, focused on Article 1, Section 1 of the US Constitution. Reaching up to 100 Congressional staffers per year, these expertly-moderated seminars will take place at Aspen’s Wye River campus.

Members of 2017-2018 Socrates Steering Committee:

  • Laura Lauder, General Partner, Lauder Partners, LLC
    Atherton, CA
  • Peter Hirshberg, Founder, Maker City Project
    San Francisco, CA
  • Neil Jacobstein, President, Singularity University
    Mountain View, CA
  • Welby Leaman, Senior Director of Global Government Affairs Walmart
    Washington, DC
  • Libbie Prescott, Professor of the Practice & Director of Curriculum for Science, Technology and International Affairs, Walsh School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University
    Washington, DC
  • Bill Resnick, MD, University of Los Angeles-California
    Los Angeles, CA
  • Ken Sawyer, Co-Founder and Managing Director, Saints Capital
    San Francisco, CA
  • Scott Sillers, Member, Board of Trustees, Health Professions Education Foundation
    San Francisco, CA
  • Meg Sullivan, Chief Business Development and Marketing Officer, Paul Hastings
    New York, NY
  • Frank Williamson, Managing Partner, Oaklyn Consulting
    Chattanooga, TN
  • Teddy Zmrhal, Senior Managing Director, Salesforce
    San Francisco, CA

For information about Socrates Programs, please contact us at socrates@aspeninst.org