2014 Festival Overview



Aspen, Colorado: JUNE 24 – JULY 3

We are celebrating our tenth anniversary in the summer of 2014. What a journey this has been! Over the past ten years, we have been fortunate to present to audiences, both in Aspen and online, some of the most amazing thought leaders and presenters from across the globe. Thanks to all for your support, enthusiasm, and interest in making the Festival’s success a reality.

As we craft our tenth year, we will continue to gather some of the most interesting thinkers and leaders from around the US and abroad to present their ideas, showcase their work, and engage with you as they discuss the issues that inspire them. As always, the Aspen Institute is delighted to present the Aspen Ideas Festival with our partners at The Atlantic, supported as well by underwriters and foundations that believe in the power of exchanging ideas.

Our theme for 2014 is straightforward. We don’t want to look back. We want to look forward. What will the next ten years bring? We are imagining 2024. What innovations will wow us in health and medicine, robotics and biotechnology? What form will climate changes take? What dynamics will shape our societies at home and abroad? What will education and the arts look like? Will we be more attuned to the power of creativity?

Why is an “Ideas Festival” Relevant?
We need only to go back through history to appreciate the potential and power derived from gatherings of thinkers, leaders, and citizens to debate, learn, and grapple with the ideas that confront their societies. The ability to build discussion and dialogue has been the hallmark of the Aspen Institute. Since its inception in 1950, the Institute has become one of the world’s premier gathering places for leaders and individuals to explore the ideals and ideas that define a good society. It continues today, both in the U.S. and in communities around the globe, to provide a neutral and balanced venue for discussing and acting on critical issues.

Since 1857, when Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and publisher Moses Dresser Phillips convened with colleagues for their usual Saturday meetings to “read poetry, condemn slavery, and ponder new ways to enlighten the masses,” the pages of one of the nation’s most longstanding and deeply thoughtful magazines have communicated the defining issues of our time. Together, the Aspen Institute and The Atlantic share a passion for ideas in the world of policy and politics, business and organizations, the arts and creativity, science and discovery, and values and culture. We strive to convene a large and global public and to foster a “commons” for the 21st century: a gathering for diverse, intellectually curious people to learn, listen, debate, and question what we can do to make our world — and our children’s world — a better place.

How Might One Participate?
In 2014, for the first time, the Ideas Festival is divided into three sessions. Our first, a newly conceived SPOTLIGHT: HEALTH, begins late afternoon June 24 and concludes the morning of June 27. Traditional SESSION ONE (moving forward, we’ll refer to it as “FEST 1”) spans June 27 – June 30;and SESSION TWO (now “FEST 2”) starts June 30 in the afternoon and concludes on July 3. Attendees may register as pass holders for any one of these sessions; those choosing to attend SPOTLIGHT: HEALTH may also choose either FEST 1 or FEST 2. Supporters of the Institute ($10,000 and above) may also purchase a PATRON PASS, which enables one to attend the entire Festival, June 24 – July 3.

Each session offers a substantial array of lectures, presentations, debates, and panel discussions that span a vast range of critical topics. Health and medicine will comprise the essence of our SPOTLIGHT: HEALTH programming; FEST 1 and FEST 2 will convene discussions in economics, policy, environment, science, education, arts, global affairs, philosophy, and more. Individual tickets are available for any number of programs that are offered in the town of Aspen and at night on the campus of the Aspen Institute; these are free to pass holders and are offered at a nominal fee for members of the public. Finally, talks, presentations, and corresponding interviews with individual presenters are available at an array of broadcast and online venues during the Festival and thereafter, including aspenideas.org, theatlantic.com, YouTube, and iTunes U.

As ever, programming will be available early in the morning and late into the evening. Attendees will meet leading writers, public officials, artists, scientists, business executives, scholars, economists, foreign policy specialists, entrepreneurs, and leaders of all kinds on footpaths and sidewalks, over lunch on the lawn and at the coffee bar, in seminar rooms or larger venues. The Festival is designed around a series of program “tracks," each of which offers a variety of discussions relevant to a certain topic area. These tracks offer participants the opportunity to focus on a particular area of interest during their time with us, or pick and choose from the diverse menu of topics.

How Can You Learn More?
As we plan the Festival and specific details emerge, we will share news and updates at aspenideas.org and through e-newsletters, Twitter, and Facebook. We’ll introduce you to presenters, link the topics at the Festival to timely issues in the news, and offer insights into the Festival agenda. Please check your email in the weeks and months to come for exciting news and program updates! (Visit our Program Tracks page to read detailed descriptions about the 2014 program tracks.)

What’s New in 2014?
Traditional daily forums will combine with new presentation and discussion formats:

  • The Aspen Lecture: A daily lecture given by some of the most brilliant thinkers in the world.
  • Office Hours: Want to ask more questions of individual presenters? The speaker is in.
  • Thought to Action: Get involved! Meet with the leaders who will share needs and opportunities.
  • Deep Dives: Twice daily discussions regarding key issues presented, offering chances for interested attendees to delve more deeply into dialogue with presenters.
  • Design Solutions: Want to tap the power of your own creativity? Take a design workshop!
  • Social Interaction: Many have asked for more ways to interact with each other; we will offer more opportunities for that each day, including dinner events. Enjoy!

And, as always, we’ll offer:

  • Show and Tell: Really cool stuff, all week long — with inventors, designers, and innovators.
  • Great Debates: Civil discourse at its best, in our signature neutral setting.
  • The Aspen Challenge: Exceptional young people take a crack at some of our toughest problems.
  • Plenary sessions offered daily: panels, one-on-one interviews, and presentations.
  • Multiple, concurrent tutorial sessions daily: a menu of more intimate discussions to choose from.
  • Book signings, exhibits, and presentations on campus, offering further opportunities for exchange.
  • Evening Exchanges and in-town events in venues around Aspen that will bring Festival moderators, The Atlantic editors, and other prominent national journalists together with presenters for substantive conversation.
  • Films and performances.

Please visit our Program Tracks page to read detailed descriptions about the 2014 program tracks.