Best and brightest ready for Aspen Ideas Festival coming in June |

Best and brightest ready for Aspen Ideas Festival coming in June

Arn Menconi
Special to The Aspen Times
NPR's Mary Louise Kelly, speaking at Aspen Ideas in 2019, says "I always leave Aspen feeling energized rather than overwhelmed."
Leah Vogel/The Aspen Institute

Every year before the Fourth of July weekend, hundreds descend on Aspen for the Aspen Ideas Fest at the Aspen Institute for a week of some of the most complicated problem-solving.

Think: Food & Wine Classic for the intelligentsia. But why?

Mary Louise Kelly, NPR’s co-host of “All Things Considered,” who will attend for the sixth year, put it this way: “I’m coming back because I find Aspen does an exceptional job at fostering conversations that manage to feel hopeful, even when confronting difficult challenges. There are no easy answers to some of the issues we’ll discuss in forums this summer, from the war in Ukraine to the banking crisis to anti-democratic trends in our nation and abroad. Yet, I always leave Aspen feeling energized rather than overwhelmed. It’s like an annual reminder that there are good people with good ideas out there, thinking creatively about how to change our communities and country for the better.”

This will be the 19th annual Ideas Festival, bringing together some of the brightest minds in politics, economics, science, and culture on June 24-30. It’s known globally for its in-depth discussions and debates on some of the most pressing issues of our time.

“This year, attendees can expect a renewed focus post-COVID on interactive sessions, with more opportunities for attendees to engage with speakers and moderators,” said Killeen Brettmann, the Aspen Institute’s managing director of the Aspen Ideas Festival. “What sets this festival apart from other conferences is probably the connection and access that is possible at the festival given the fact that most speakers come for multiple days, and you are just as likely to see them sitting across from you as you to seeing them on the stage.”

Then-Vice President Joe Biden makes a point at the Aspen Ideas Festival in 2016.
Dan Bayer/Aspen Institute

“One of the tracks that will be explored at this year’s festival,” said Katie Cassetta, the associate director of public programs for the Aspen Institute, “is ‘Powering the Future,’ which will examine the technological advancements that can help reduce carbon emissions and mitigate the effects of climate change.

“Attendees can expect to walk away from these sessions with a better understanding of pragmatic solutions, bipartisan support, policies that can bring everyone along, and how fast the transition can happen in the developing world,” she said.

But the festival isn’t just about climate change, she said. The festival will delve into geopolitics, arts and culture, the economy, technology, democracy, and health and wellness.

“Speakers and moderators from all corners of the world, with diverse perspectives and experiences that help foster a lively and spirited but civil debate,” she said.

“The range of viewpoints from all across the political spectrum,” said Kelly, who pointed to the huge draw of the Ideas Fest. “Big headliners. Just about everyone is interesting, giving it incredible energy. You’ll hear reporters testing people, and afterward, people from all backgrounds getting together at dinner and hanging out. It’s so different from what’s experienced in D.C.”

Pressed for an example, she thought a moment before replying.

Last year, “a group of women journalists on the front line covering Ukraine got together and had a loving, intimately sharing how and what we do differently than the male counterparts,” she said. “Especially this one story about a woman who went to a nail salon in Kyiv as tanks and military were all around as an act of resistance. The woman said, ‘Putin can’t take every moment of joy.’ It was one woman, one story, one moment, but a male reporter might not have seen it.”

This year, you might get to meet and talk with Kelly, who will be on several panels, such as the geopolitics of energy and a roundtable on motherhood, having just published her latest book, “It. Goes. So. Fast.: The Year of No Do-Overs.”

One of the highlights of the Aspen Ideas Festival last year for NPR’s Mary Louise Kelly was a discussion among women journalists covering the front lines of Ukraine.
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The festival typically has five tracks each year and is repeated this year for each of the two sessions, so attendees won’t miss anything. Nearly 300 speakers from all over the world will be on hand with 100-plus sessions. Because of how artificial intelligence is blowing up in the news and everyone’s mind, the institute pivoted a few months ago to bring greater focus to the “Edge of Intelligence.” Who knows what changes will happen before the festival in the economy, science, or geopolitical arena, but those at the forefront will be here in Aspen working out … ideas that might solve some of them.

Locals can get in on the action as well, with public ticketed sessions taking place June 21-29. All session ticket prices are $35, and sessions will be held at Hotel Jerome, Wheeler Lobby, and on the Aspen Institute campus. The public ticket schedule will be published on June 14 at, and tickets go on sale on June 16 at

Full festival passes are still available for those looking for a more immersive experience and can be registered for at The passes give access to all sessions, exclusive events, and discussions.

“We strive to bring the sharpest minds to discuss and debate the issues of our time, and this year’s festival promises to be no exception,” Brettmann said.

Editor’s note: The dates of the festival were corrected in this version.


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