Identity and Equity

Citizenship & American Identity Program at the Aspen Ideas Festival

June 29, 2018  • Seth Henderson

Presented by the Aspen Institute in partnership with The Atlantic magazine, the Aspen Ideas Festival is the nation’s premier, public gathering place for leaders from around the globe and across many disciplines to present and discuss the ideas and issues that both shape our lives and challenge our times. At the 2018 festival, Eric Liu, executive director of the Aspen Institute’s Citizenship and American Identity Program, explored the challenges of sustaining strong citizenship in America and coherent national identity in an age of demographic flux and severe inequality. Take a look at some of the highlights.

Deep Dive: Can Americans Come Together by Arguing Better?

We don’t need fewer arguments in American civic life today, we need less stupid ones. That means we need arguments that are more emotionally intelligent and more deeply rooted in our history. It also means recognizing that America is an argument: between liberty and equality, strong national government and local control, color blindness and color-consciousness, pluribus and unum. Guided by the Aspen Institute’s Better Arguments project, you’ll explore the roots and contemporary manifestations of these fundamental tensions in American democracy, and try your own hand at arguing better. Speakers include Eric Liu, Ramesh Ponnuru, Rob Reich, Deborah Tannen, and Michelle De La Isla.


It All Comes Down to the Voters

What factors motivate people to make it to the polls in any given year, and what keeps them away? One thing we learned from 2016 is that predicting not only how people will vote, but if they will vote, is extremely complicated. How much impact do positive or negative ads on TV or social media have on voting rates? How and where will gerrymandering, or redistricting, be most consequential? How much impact do things like voter suppression, inaccurate voter rolls, and voter fraud really have on the integrity of our elections? Speakers include Eric Liu, Arturo Vargas, Amy Walter, Celinda Lake, Christine Matthews, and Mimi Marziani.


Defining ‘American’ in a Changing Nation

As the US ceases to be a white majority country (a demographic milestone we’re expected to reach by 2020), how will we as a society define what it means to be American — and who gets to decide? With increasing backlash against those seen as not belonging, how do we advance a national dialogue on American identity that considers the increasingly diverse and complex makeup of our society as well as the values we want to ascribe to as a country? What are the criteria for determining who is seen as American, and how do those criteria play into our perceptions of who belongs? What might alternative criteria include? Speakers include Eric Liu, Alex Wagner, Abigail Golden-Vazquez, Mohamed Abdel-Kader, and Erik Stegman.


The Symphony and the Street: Empowering Communities Through the Arts

What possibilities unfurl when a symphony reaches Skid Row? How does music create healing on a street corner? Los Angeles Philharmonic violinist Vijay Gupta and internationally renowned soprano Camille Zamora are expanding access to classical music through their organizations Street Symphony and Sing for Hope, which bring music out of symphony halls and into the spaces of underserved communities. This dynamic session, moderated by Citizen University founder and CEO Eric Liu and featuring a string quartet performance, will address the power of classical music to help heal a broken social system. Speakers include Eric Liu, Camille Zamora, and Vijay Gupta.

Facebook Live with Jonathan Capehart

Live from the Aspen Ideas Festival

Eric Liu and Jonathan Capehart explore how Americans can engage more productively across difference. Learn more at, and ask your questions in the comments below.

Posted by Aspen Ideas Festival on Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Facebook Live with Gaby Pacheco and Jose Antonio Vargas

Live from the Aspen Ideas Festival

What should every American know about the immigrant experience?

Gaby Pacheco of and Jose Antonio Vargas of Define American talk with Eric Liu, Executive Director of the Citizenship and American Identity Program.

Posted by Aspen Ideas Festival on Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Facebook Live with Deborah and James Fallows

Live from the 2018 Aspen Ideas Festival

Deborah and James Fallows have spent the past five years traveling America from South Dakota to South Carolina and dozens of points in between. They discuss what they learned about America in conversation with Eric Liu, who manages the What Every American Should Know project. Learn more at (

Posted by Aspen Ideas Festival on Tuesday, June 26, 2018