Virtual Aspen Ideas Fest’s full 45-speaker lineup |

Virtual Aspen Ideas Fest’s full 45-speaker lineup

Staff report
Bill Gates at theBenedict Music Tent with Walter Isaacson at the 2010 Aspen Ideas Festival. Gates is returning for the virtual 2020 rendition of the festival.
Aspen Times file

The online 2020 Aspen Ideas Festival, opening Sunday evening and running through July 2, has released its full lineup.

In addition to previously announced speakers, the daily online events will include Microsoft founder Bill Gates and former U.S. Navy Admiral William McRaven among 45 featured leaders and thinkers.

The five-day festival will take place from June 28 – July 2, with daily 90-minute episodes beginning at 5 p.m. It is free, but registration is required for live viewing.

Topics for the sessions include COVID-19, leadership, racial oppression, CRISPR, the economy, and freedom of the press as well as arts, science, the economy, diplomacy, democracy, and the present juncture our society is in.

Speakers include political leader and Fair Fight Action Chair Stacey Abrams; Former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright; Talking Heads frontman and Arbutus founder David Byrne; Georgetown University sociology professor Michael Eric Dyson; National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases DirectorAnthony Fauci; Sinovation Ventures Chairman and CEO Kai-Fu Lee; Columbia University linguistics professor John McWhorter; NPR’s “Invisibilia” co-host Lulu Miller; former Secretary of the Treasury Hank Paulson; journalist and Rappler co-founder Maria Ressa; and playwright and actor Anna Deavere Smith.

Performances from musicians Yefim Bronfman and Jon Batiste are also on the schedule.

The full schedule is online at

Sunday, June 28: The latest Covid-19 developments, the ongoing fight for voter rights, and how music can change minds.


• Stacey Abrams and Brittany Packnett Cunningham

• David Byrne and Darren Walker

• Anthony Fauci and Elizabeth Cohen

Big Ideas: Leah Thomas, Sandy Speicher, Tom Wilson

Monday, June 29: Can artificial intelligence help us prepare for the next pandemic? How do we process what’s become a major cultural inflection point in America and around the world? You’ll also hear about leadership in the United States and what’s happening during a momentous term for the Supreme Court.


• Maria Ressa and Lulu Garcia Navarro

• William McRaven and Andrea Mitchell

• Linda Greenhouse and Theodore Olson with Ray Saurez

• Kai-Fu Lee and Nick Thompson

Big Ideas: Emma Robbins, Adaora Okoli, Lata Reddy

Tuesday, June 30: Hear about freedom of the press, America’s role in the world, children’s mental health, and the role of innovation in dealing with world health.


• Bill Gates and Stephanie Mehta

• Madeleine Albright and Nicholas Burns

• Anna Deavere Smith and Yuval Sharon with Kate D. Levin

Big Ideas: Helen Egger, Mark S. Zaid, Ariana Tulay

Perfomance: Yefim Bronfman

Wednesday, July 1: The mayor of Atlanta opens up. How will CRISPR change our approach to disease? Get a glimpse of the life of Winston Churchill and his ability to unite. Hear about the future of the economy.


• Erik Larson and John McWhorter

• Keisha Lance Bottoms and Angela Rye

• Henry Paulson, Jr. and Gillian Tett

• Walter Isaacson and Susan Goldberg

Big Ideas

Caryl Stern, Neal Katyal, Lakshmi Karan, Marla Blow

Thursday, July 2: We’re examining racial oppression in America. Where do we go from here? What’s our significance on the cosmological timeline? Is language the key to helping us remake our world?


• Alicia Garza and Michael Eric Dyson

• Lulu Miller and Krista Tippet

• Brian Greene and Dan Porterfield

Big Ideas: Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka

Performance: Jon Batiste


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