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Article misrepresented event

Aspen Times writer

Dear Editor:We take issue with Eben Harrell’s article “Institute leaves locals feeling shortchanged” (Aug. 2 Times), which reported egregiously inaccurate figures that misrepresented not only the event itself but also shortchanged the hard work and resourcefulness that our staff put into helping as many people as possible experience this and other Aspen Institute programs.Harrell asserts that The Aspen Institute advertised the Sunday evening, Aug. 1, program featuring Dennis Ross, Madeleine Albright and Dianne Feinstein as a public event that was unfairly inaccessible to many among the public who lined up to attend.In truth, 680 people attended this free event, of which 480 were members of the public. We had reserved seats for 200 members of our Society of Fellows (supporters of the Institute) in Paepcke Auditorium, which allowed for an additional 150 seats offered to our public guests.In addition to that, we set up 60 folding chairs in the rear of the auditorium and just outside the entrance doors. To accommodate the overflow – a problem we invariably face at many of our public programs – we opened up two additional meeting rooms in the adjacent Koch Building for 170 people, both rooms featuring large-screen broadcasts of the program.Another 100 or so people sat outside in a courtyard and in front of the Paepcke Building to listen to the proceedings on loudspeakers mounted on the building’s edifice. Moreover, to make those in the Koch Building rooms feel more a part of the experience, Institute President and CEO Walter Isaacson escorted Ambassador Ross and Secretary Albright to speak to these groups before the official program commenced. We do our best to provide programming to our supporters and benefactors, who generously enable the Institute to do the work it does, as well as to the Roaring Fork community. We are, however, limited by the seating capacity of Paepcke Auditorium.The topic focused upon in this program – that of Middle East peace – was of particular importance. Considering the times in which we live and the caliber of the speakers assembled, it’s disappointing that Mr. Harrell did not devote more than a few cursory lines of his article to the informed views expressed by our expert panelists.James Spiegelmancommunications directorThe Aspen Institute


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