Paul E. Anna: High Points |

Paul E. Anna: High Points

Paul E. Anna
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

The headline read “Ideas fest names speakers.”

OK, that’s worth a read. After all, the Aspen Ideas Festival, in just three years of existence, has become not only one of the top gatherings for politicos in the country, but, for those who are more interested in intellectual pursuits than food, wine and music, likely the premier summer event in this town.

Looking at the list I was astounded by the quality of the speakers pulled together by Kitty Boone and her staff at the Aspen Institute.

There was Alan Greenspan, the former chair of the Fed, Frank Gehry, the world’s most famed architect, Stephen Breyer, one of the nine who matter most on the highest court in the land, Eric Schmidt, if you don’t know him, google him, Chuck Close, the paralyzed painter and photographer, three former Secretaries of State, the strategists who headed both Hillary Clinton’s and John McCain’s losing campaigns to Barack Obama, the Portuguese neuroscientist Antonio Damasio who heads the Brain and Creativity institute at USC, and of course, the man who is responsible for all of us having to take off our shoes at the airport, former Homeland Security Secretary, Michael Chertoff.

It would seem that the Ideas Festival has become the invite for just about anyone who is someone in this world. If you attend you don’t have to stay up to watch Charlie Rose for the rest of the year because you will have already seen, up close and personal, all of his guests.

While the first session of the Festival, starting June 29 and ending July 2 is sold out, the website,, still lists ticket availability at $2,450 a pop for the second session which begins July 2 and finishes on July 5.

The first session will provide a bit of navel gazing for many members of the press who will be on hand as it features a program track entitled “Media Crack-Up.” This is the 200th year of Charles Darwin’s birth, so another track will explore the legacy of his theories. “Justice and Society” should provide an interesting discussion, especially in light of the recent nomination of Sonia Sotomayor for the Supreme Court. And of course, what festival of ideas would be complete without the topic du jour, “Rebuilding America’s Economy.”

The second session will focus attention on “The Science of Being Human,” “Innovations in Education,” (the boy wonder of the field, Arne Duncan, who is the U.S. Secretary of Education will be attending), “Living Digitally” and that other, ever popular topic, “The Middle East.”

There are those who argue that this event is nothing more than an elitist gathering of politically connected bigwigs, sponsored by corporations who have vested interests in hobnobbing with the connected on the greenest of grass under the bluest of skies. They have a very legitimate point.

Nonetheless, this meeting of the minds is extraordinary in its breadth and scope. Congratulations to those who organize and put it on each year.

Hope you get a ticket.


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