Aspen Institute’s big three summer events take shape |

Aspen Institute’s big three summer events take shape

ASPEN – The Aspen Institute is lining up the customary big-name speakers for its big-time public events this summer.

The Aspen Environment Forum, Aspen Ideas Festival and Aspen Security Forum will be held in a five-week period in June and July.

The Aspen Ideas Festival will feature a track of sessions looking at the November presidential election. The debates will feature a “fair number of representatives” from President Obama’s administration and his campaign as well as advisers from Mitt Romney’s campaign, said Jim Spiegelman, vice president of communications and public affairs at the Aspen Institute. No names have been released from the president’s team nor Romney’s.

Confirmed speakers for the event include Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak; former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen; Reid Hoffman, LinkedIn co-founder and chairman; Katie Couric, of ABC News; Bob Schieffer, host of CBS News’ “Face the Nation”; Colo. Sen. Michael Bennet; and Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels.

The Ideas Festival is split into two overlapping four-day sessions June 27 through July 3. It features five general topics. One looks at the condition of the economy and asks, “Is the Crisis Permanent?” Another will feature sessions that explore living in a world of 7 billion people.

The Ideas Festival was created eight years ago and quickly evolved into the institute’s “flagship” event in Aspen during the summer. It’s presented by the institute and the Atlantic magazine. The event always sells out even at a cost of $2,750 per session. This year, tickets remain only for the second session, June 30 through July 3.

All told, scores of speakers will take the stage at various venues at Aspen Meadows and in town. The intellectual menu is so rich that attendees sometimes must sacrifice a presentation they know will be good for another at the same time that will be even better. Attendees are often listening to a big-name speaker one day and then sharing a seat in the audience with that same person the next. Some presentations will be open to the public during the seven-day event.

Spiegelman said “the variety and the caliber of the speakers” play a big role in making the Aspen Ideas Festival successful.

“It’s a variety of things. It’s not only the quality of the speakers. We try to take advantage of the environment,” he said.

Lots of similar ideas festivals are held in beautiful environments, Spiegelman said. The Aspen Ideas Festival is different because attendees are encouraged to experience the outdoors, not just view the scenery. It taps into Aspen Idea concept of nurturing the mind, body, spirit.

More on the Aspen Ideas Festival can be found at

The Aspen Environment Forum is getting switched, again, to a different time of the summer. It will be held June 22-25 to try to take advantage of a busier time in Aspen. The event is entering its fifth year as part of a partnership between the Institute and National Geographic.

The theme this year is, “Living with the New Normal.” Scientific research reported by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration shows the average temperature in the U.S. has warmed one-half degree in the last decade, said Jennifer Myers, director of public affairs with the Aspen Institute. “What does that mean to us?” Myers asked. The forum will explore numerous topics tied to that question.

“Aspen Environment Forum 2012 will not spend time debating the science, but instead focus the Forum on addressing solutions for adapting to the greatest challenge of our time,” the event’s website says.

Speakers include Stewart Brand, co-founder and president of The Long Now Foundation; Fred Krupp, president of the Environmental Defense Funds; and Edward O. Wilson, University Research Professor Emeritus, Harvard University. Numerous writers and photographers for National Geographic and elsewhere in the environmental field will also present.

The early general forum pass is $1,350. More on the event can be found at

The Aspen Security Forum returns July 25-28 in partnership with CNN and The New York Times. The newest of the summer events is already known for attracting a “who’s who” list of speakers on national security issues.

Speakers this year include William McRaven, Commander of U.S. Special Operations Command; National Security Agency Director Keith Alexander; Transportation Security Administration Administrator John Pistole; and former CIA Director Michael Hayden.

Topics will range on everything from the ongoing involvement of the U.S. in Afghanistan to the situation in Syria and domestic air travel issues. More on the event can be found at A general forum pass is $1,500.

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