Aspen Institute extends reach |

Aspen Institute extends reach

John Colson

The Aspen Institute, which has had an alternately rocky and mellow relationship with the town it lives in, will continue its ongoing work to improve those relations with a series of events this month.Throughout much of the summer, the Institute has been holding seminars and speaking events either on its own campus or in the nearby Aspen Musical Festival facilities.”I think we’re trying as much as possible to be part of the heart and soul of Aspen,” said Institute President Walter Isaacson. He was responding to a reporter’s question about relations between the town and the organization these days.”It makes no sense to do otherwise,” he noted. “We want to open up to the community.”The Institute has in the past gone through some tumultuous times and difficult land-use struggles with the city over proposed developments on its campus on the west side of town. And through the years there has been a certain element of the local population that considered the Institute to be an elitist, arrogant corporate citizen with little or no real relationship to the town.But in recent years, the Institute has sought an increasing public presence in town, opening up its seminars and speaker series to a much broader audience.The list of speakers so far this summer has included such luminaries as Bill and Hillary Clinton, primatologist Jane Goodall and others at the Aspen Ideas; Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. speaking on noted sociologist and civil rights activist W.E.B. DuBois; and Saturday’s conversation between Isaacson and U.S. Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., (see related story).”I think the McCain and Lieberman talk about the need for civility in public discourse is right at the core of our mission,” Isaacson said.This month’s continuing public sessions include “An Evening of Words and Music” at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Benedict Music Tent. The event will feature a dialogue between Isaacson and Pulitzer Prize-winning author and columnist Thomas L. Friedman, whose latest book, “The World is Flat,” explores the effects of globalization. A book signing will follow.Also on the bill will be a performance by internationally renowned violinist Robert McDuffie. Tickets are $75 and $50 per person, and are available by calling 925-9024.On Thursday, Isaacson will moderate a conversation with Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations. In 2003, writing in The New Yorker, writer Nicholas Lemann described Haass as “probably the administration’s most prominent moderate theoretician and is a leading member of the foreign-policy establishment.” The Washington Speaker’s Bureau calls him “someone who helped shape America’s current role on the world stage” and who is capable of “delivering audiences unparalleled insight into what tomorrow’s world will look like.” The talk, at 6:30 p.m. at Paepcke Auditorium, is free and open to the public. Seating is limited, and an early arrival is recommended.On Friday, also at Paepcke Auditorium and also for free, will be a screening of “Sometimes in April,” an HBO film examining the 100 days of Rwandan genocide in 1994, starring Idris Elba and Debra Winter. The film will be followed by a discussion led by African expert Joel D. Barkan. The event is scheduled from 5 to 7 p.m.Michael Eisner, CEO of Walt Disney Co., will be the featured speaker on Aug. 16, in another conversation with Isaacson from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. at Paepcke Auditorium. The event is free and open to the public.On Aug. 19, the topic will be “Robert Oppenheimer and the Legacy of Hiroshima.” An Oscar-nominated documentary film, “The Day After Trinity: J. Robert Oppenheimer and the Atomic Bomb,” by Jon Else (1980) will be introduced by Martin J. Sherwin, co-author of “American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer.”Sherwin will lead a discussion about the film and the book afterward. This free event opens to the public at 5 p.m. at Paepcke Auditorium.John Colson’s e-mail address is

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