Wrapping up the 2012 Festival, from women's heart health to resisting the urge to over achieve to storing wind energy below ground, a variety of speakers share their Ideas to Go.
Session inculdes Barbra Streisand.
Ideas to Go: 2012 Closing Session
Aspen Ideas Festival transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for the Aspen Institute, and the accuracy may vary. This text may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of Aspen Institute programming is the video or audio.
THE ASPEN INSTITUTE
ASPEN IDEAS FESTIVAL 2012
THE CLOSING SESSION
Greenwald Pavilion Aspen Meadows Campus, Colorado 81612
Tuesday, July 3, 2012
LIST OF PARTICIPANTS
ANNISE PARKER Mayor (D), Houston, Texas
TYLER COWEN Holbert C. Harris Professor of Economics George Mason University
NICOLA TWILLEY Author, Edible Geography; Co-Founder, Foodprint Project; Co-Director, Studio-X NYC
SHANE LOPEZ Gallup Senior Scientist-in-Residence; Research Director, Clifton Strengths Institute
BARBRA STREISAND Actress, Director, Producer, Writer; Won Oscars, Emmys, Golden Globes, People's Choice Awards, Women in Film Crystal Awards and ASCAP Film and Television Music Awards
ANDREW ROSS SORKIN Financial Columnist, Editor-at-Large, The New York Times; Co-Anchor, Squawk Box, CNBC; Author, Too Big to Fail
Theater, Opera, Film Director; Harman-Eisner Artist in Residence, The Aspen Institute
DAVID M. KENNEDY Professor Emeritus, Stanford University
PAUL RIECKHOFF Executive Director and Founder, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America
ELIZABETH G. NABEL President, Brigham and Women's Hospital; Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School
GARY KNELL President and CEO, NPR
LORI GOTTLIEB Psychotherapist; Author, Marry Him: The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough; Contributing Editor, The Atlantic; Written for The New York Times, TIME, People, Elle, Slate; Contributes to NPR's All Things Considered and This American Life
VIJAY V. VAITHEESWARAN Author, Need, Speed, and Greed; Senior Correspondent, China Business and Finance Editor, The Economist; Member, Council on Foreign Relations; Advisor, World Economic Forum
(1:15 p.m.) SPEAKER: So starting now we're going to launch
the next year of the thinking with ideas to go and bring you a variety of intellects on the stage one at a time to
propel us much.
on our journey for the next year. Thank you so
(Applause) MS. PARKER: I'm Annise Parker, mayor of Houston. (Applause) MS. PARKER: And I want to talk to you -- I want
to talk to you about the oldest profession -- not that one -- the real oldest profession.
MS. PARKER: In order for human beings to live in concert with one another, you have to have government. Government is only a mechanism for deciding what you do as a community. A politician is simply a practitioner of government. One of my pet peeves is that we have gone to
a consumer model of government: I'm going to pay for the services I get; I only want to pay for the services I get.
And I've used it as a politician because it's easy. I can pass a fee that only affects a few people and they'll respect that. But it's wrong to view government that way because when we do that, we lose the concept of the common good. We lose the concept of what is right for community. I operate at a level of government that works at a very, very high level every day.
The largest America's cities -- Houston is number four. You only notice a city by exception. You don't notice the wonderful things that we do. You notice us when you hit the porthole, when we forget your trash or the traffic light blinks. You don't notice it when government works well. And in the -- in America's cities government works well.
But what I've heard at this conference is a lot of information about how to get data to government, how to connect better with your elected officials. Tag that
porthole with a GPS indicator and get it to government. That is not engagement; that's simply sending data. What I want you to do is think about how you can go home and reengage in community, reengage with your local government.
And let's come together around what is community, not what can I get for my tax dollars. Government is a service organization, it is not a
business. It should but it is ultimately (Applause) MR. COWEN:
be run effectively and efficiently about the heart. Thank you.
I'm Tyler Cowen, economist at George Mason University. Two stories, two ideas. I was stuck in a van by mistake and I was stuck with Jennifer Anastasoff. She has a great new project called Fuse Corps. The notion
is to take successful entrepreneurs and have them work in municipal government for a year and make government more entrepreneurial. That was the best idea I heard. That's an example of serendipity, a key theme at Aspen -- if we hadn't been stuck in that van.
The other idea -- well, the morning before, I was a little sluggish getting out of bed. And I thought, oh, I can't quite go to the 8:30 session. So I sauntered over to Twitter, and there was @JustinWolfers #AspenIdeas writing about Patricia Kuhl's work. And she found that children at the age of 5, their socioeconomic status predicts their brain development better than does their IQ.
I found that fascinating. The theme there is outreach -- just how far a reach we have if I'm too sluggish to be at the 8:30 session. And I'm in my room at the morning, I still end up at #AspenIdeas. It's been great, and thank you all for your work.
MS. TWILLEY: I'm Nicola Twilley. I'm the author of Edible Geography. And I co-direct an urban futures lab called Studio-X NYC for Columbia University. And the idea that I'm taking away from the festival this year is the value and the importance of misuse. And this came out of hearing Dennis Scholl talk about putting on a
ballet recital in an airport terminal. It came out of hearing Geoff Manaugh talk about
the way that rats, roombas (phonetic) and burglars all carve alternate paths through the city. And it came actually out of hearing Peter Singer talk about how shockingly easy it is for gangs to illegally modify their weapons and create untraceable semiautomatic guns using just a 3D printer.
And so I think the way that things are supposed to work is interesting. The way that the unplanned, unofficial uses are just as interesting, just as important and full of potential. Misuse can be inspiring, misuse can be critical and above all, misuse can be truly innovative. I ended up thinking it would make a great track for the festival in 2013. Thank you.
MR. LOPEZ: Hello. My name is Shane Lopez. I'm a Gallup senior scientist. And my job is to ask children what they think. I spend a lot of time polling children.
I also spend a good bit of time polling adults. And we have asked parents about the goal of parenting. And when we've done that, they said there are two goals -- to make my kids happy and successful -- happy and successful.
I don't know how good a job we're doing at those two goals. In fact, I think my idea to go is we can do much better for our children. Our tendencies to under- parent and over-parent are undermining the hopes, happiness and successes of our children. And also our passivity about the not-so-good schools that our children go to.
And the student debt crisis that our students are living under these days and the graduates are living under, are basically a threat to our kids, to their futures, to our economy and to our security. I think we can do better for our children. Couple of ideas is talk to kids. Many people are scared of children and have a hard time working with them in a meaningful way.
We've noticed that through our work at Gallup. What I would encourage you to do is to learn more about what excites kids, and also help them tell their stories. You can do that through the Gallup student poll. We make that available at no cost -- and there are no strings attached -- to every school district in America so you can help students tell their stories.
I also encourage you to find one student in your life, one child in your life who you have a special bond with and find out what they're truly excited about. And if there's not that one thing, then help them find out one thing. And then I want you to visit with your local principal or superintendent and grab them by their lapels and say, how can I help. Thank you so much.
MS. STREISAND: Hi. My name is Barbra Streisand. And I don't know if I could do this in 2 minutes. Will they send a hook or (off mic)?
MS. STREISAND: Anyway. I'd like to say a few words about women's heart disease and gender discrimination. I can't bear the inequality that exists when it comes to women, and women's heart disease is no different. Heart disease, first of all, is the number one killer of men and women in the world. It's killing more women than men now.
Heart disease kills more women than all cancers combined. What was once thought to be a man's disease is now -- has become a woman's epidemic. In fact, one out of every two women in this room will experience some form of cardiovascular disease in their lifetime. But in the last 50 years the research has primarily been done on men even though women have a different physiology -- they have different plumbing, they have a smaller vascular system which requires different analysis.
Very little money is spent on women, even though nearly 500,000 women died last year of heart disease. Heart attack symptoms present differently in women.
Instead of chest pain or tingling in the left arm, women can have -- might feel nauseous or fatigued. But don't get scared, women, because the altitude might be the cause of that here.
Women are dying because they are being under- treated and misdiagnosed by their physicians. And that's why I joined forces with the Women's Heart Center at Cedars-Sinai in Los Angeles to study heart disease and how it affects women. It's funny how females always seem to help males -- even female stem cells.
Now, the doctor who is the head of the center, Dr. Noel Bairey Merz, told me the story about a woman doctor who recently grew the first human heart and it's beating. And she had a breakthrough in her study when she found out that using only female stem cells was the solution. Why? Because male stem cells didn't work, they got lost.
MS. STREISAND: And this is true. They got totally lost, like in life, you know. And it figures. Why? Because we know men -- even male stem cells won't ask for directions.
MS. STREISAND: And this is true. But joking aside, I mean for every woman that dies of breast cancer, 12 women will die of heart disease. But because breast cancer pioneers built a movement that educated the public and funded life-altering research, breast cancer is no longer a death sentence. And we need to learn from them. This is a turning point for women's heart disease.
What's past is past. It's now time to change the present. So look into your heart. We need your help, your ideas, your support in order to give your mothers, daughters, sisters, wives, friends and yourself a longer and healthier life. Thank you. If you want more information, Cedars-Sinai's Women's Heart Center in Los Angeles. Thank you.
MR. SORKIN: Could it possibly be fair to follow Barbra Streisand?
MR. SORKIN: I'm Andrew Ross Sorkin. I'm a writer at The New York Times. If you waken up -- wake up enough early -- early enough, I'm on Squawk Box on CNBC. And I wrote a book called Too Big to Fail. I have two ideas. One's a really cool one and one's -- I think is more of a thematic one.
Saturday morning I was with Tom Fanning, the CEO of Southern Company and one of biggest -- one of the biggest electronics -- electric utilities companies in the country. And one of the greatest challenges that we face in terms of renewable energy is storage -- the battery. The battery in your iPhone doesn't work so well and it also doesn't work so well in the sort of grander scheme of renewable energy.
It's an idea that he talked about here. It's an idea that actually started actually in 2007 but is about to become real. It's a natural battery. It's a battery that's underground that has to do with wind energy. Here's the idea. The wind turbines are always rotating. We need the energy during the day; we need less energy during the night.
How do you store that energy? The idea is that they are going to now send -- the energy is going to blow air literally into cavernous caves underground. This is -- are going on right now in Iowa and Utah. The air is going to be down there. When we need it, actually when we need peak energy the next day, it's going to come flying up compressed.
And it's going to create a whole new round of energy. They're adding natural gas to it. And it's finally a reality. And I thought it was a pretty cool idea. Let me leave you -- I got 30 seconds -- with one last other idea. I am the author of the book called Too Big to Fail.
And one of the great themes that came out of this session to me, this institute this year, was this idea that we're not just living in a too-big-to-fail world but we really are living in a too-big-to-manage world. And what does that mean in an age where everything is supposed to be bigger and better and companies are supposed to be bigger and more global?
We may need to start thinking small. We may have to start thinking about what's not better but what's manageable. And just a thought to leave everybody with, it's been a great institute and I thank you for having me.
MS. TAYMOR: Hi. I'm Julie Taymor. And I'm a playmaker. I play in theater, opera, film and hopefully with your mind and your heart. So I love this festival. I think "festival" is a great word. The one thing that I heard over and over again is the loss of -- how do we keep the values, the values of -- in -- and ethics and morality and how that's going. Because there's a loss of children wanting to be a part of organized religion.
Now, if we go back to the origin of arts, we all know that the arts came out of religion. And the fact that we have removed arts from our children's education is -- we all know that's appalling. But we have to really think how seriously religion, which can cause people to have major wars and can elicit unbelievable power out of people, the same is with the arts.
And that's why they're wonderfully dangerous. I love playing with fire. I heard a beautiful, beautiful, beautiful expression that came from a rabbi through Anna Deavere Smith. And we've been talking about the heart. The line was, a whole heart is a broken heart because through the crack the light comes.
And we have to remember that this kind of edgy, danger, irrational -- we heard it when we heard about Steve Jobs last night when you -- if you read the book that there has to be a point where everything can't be perfectly put into the technology and all works beautifully. I said the other day you have to stop looking down, you have to look up.
Well, I have one idea that came from Bali years ago. And it was, once a year -- it's kind of Jewish, actually -- once a year nobody speaks and the lights are off. And the gentleman who just spoke, Sorkin, think about that. If -- as a game, as a play, if everybody in their family said, we're going to play this game, we're turning off the lights, we could have a campfire, but let's turn off the lights and tell stories focusing, playing, shutting down -- this will elicit tremendous imagination.
It's very important for the health, the spirituality of our culture, that we keep the arts absolutely firmly rooted in our families and in our education and in our communities. Thank you.
MR. KENNEDY: I'm David M. Kennedy. I teach history at Stanford University. And for the last several days I've participated and contributed to and audited several sessions in two different tracks here at the festival -- war and peace on the one hand and democracy on the other. So for my final remarks or thoughts, I was trying to knit those two strands of liberations together.
And historian that I am, my mind went back 2056 years to some words penned by Marcus Tullius Cicero in a book written in 44 B.C. called De Officiis or On Duties. And I think these nine simple words do as much as anybody could do, I think, to sum up the lesson I'm taking away from this week's discussion. And since I'm a professor and a card-carrying pedant, I'm going to give it to you in the original -- parvi enim sunt foris arma, nisi est consilium domi. Oh.
MR. KENNEDY: Arms are of no use in the field unless there is wise counsel at home.
MR. RIECKHOFF: Hi. My name is Paul Rieckhoff. And I am the founder and CEO of IAVA -- Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. We're a nonprofit veteran-support group. I'm also an Iraq veteran and being asked to talk on the stage is only slightly less intimidating than being shot at.
Institute action to
(Laughter) MR. RIECKHOFF: My big idea for the Aspen is for the institute to lead a national call to support returning veterans. (Applause) MR. RIECKHOFF: Thank you. I hope the applause
doesn't count toward my time. This week I was inspired by Admiral Mullen and his passionate framing of the issues facing veterans, especially the suicide rates; and by General McChrystal and his candid support of mandatory national service. But then I was invited by a county commissioner named Mike Owsley to visit the Vietnam
Veterans Memorial here in Aspen. And at that memorial is a bench dedicated to a
local Vietnam vet and a Marine named Rick Buesch. Rick fought to have that memorial created and in 1987 it finally was. But in 2001 Rick took his own life. We don't have to repeat the mistakes our country made in not supporting a generation of vets like Rick after Vietnam.
2.4 million veterans have served since 9/11 and a million will be getting out in the next few years. Our veterans are not a charity; they're an investment and a damn good one. A few of them are here this week as scholars and speakers to prove just that. But too many are still struggling to adjust. They face high unemployment rates, tremendous family stress and a country that doesn't understand their needs.
These challenges are hard. They are complicated and they are expensive. But they are solvable with veterans groups like IAVA, the government, the White House. We can't tackle these issues alone. We need
reinforcements. We need the brightest minds in the world to tackle these issues. We need you. And we need you now.
So my idea is for the Aspen Institute to lead a national call to support our newest generation of veterans. Let's lead a draft to support those who've served. And July 4th is the perfect time to do it. In a divisive election year, it might be the one thing we can all agree on. In a divisive election year it might be the one thing we can all agree on. Me and the veterans are standing by to work with you. Thank you.
MS. NABEL: Hi. I'm Betsy Nabel, president of Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston. I teach medical students at Harvard Medical School. And I'm the mother of three young adults. The best idea I've heard is the creation of a national public service. This idea emerged from conversations with General McChrystal and Admiral Mullen, both of whom advocated for the return of a national draft.
But I'd like to take that idea and enlarge it to a concept where a national public service could be created by a legislative act to -- say, an act of Congress to
require 1 Americans
to 2 years of service, public service by all between the ages of, say, 18 to 25. Service could be broadly defined to include the the Peace Corps, AmeriCorps, service in our
military, public schools as we've heard over and over again over the past week, through Teach For America or other such groups. There could be service in public health programs in one's community such as community health centers and other programs too, to redefine say, in the energy or agricultural sectors.
There would be considerable advantages to our country and to these individuals, including bringing to bear the talent of many young people for national good, instilling in young adults a sense of citizenship and public service, an infusion of great talent into our public sector that needs it dearly like health, education, energy and agriculture. It would help us redefine across the generations
what it means to be an American. And it would be an opportunity for personal maturation for these young people. Obviously major issues that would need further definition would include funding, accountability and sustainability. And I would even add that perhaps us, retiring baby boomers, at some point would also like to participate.
So as the mother of three young adults in their 20s, I know how a positive experience this could be for many young Americans and for their country. This could be a real win-win-win. So thank you. And happy Fourth of July to everyone.
MR. KNELL: Good afternoon. I'm Gary Knell, the president and CEO of NPR. Before that, the last 12 years I've been running Sesame Street as much as you can run the Muppets.
MR. KNELL: I know a little bit about the role of media to teach. It's the most powerful teacher ever invented, whether we like that or not. And at Sesame Street we used it to help military families and young children deal with dad and being deployed multiple times or coming back different; or helping with children's health and building -- struggles against childhood obesity using the Muppets as role models about healthy eating; or teaching letters and numbers in developing countries.
In a world where we now know there are more mobile phones than people, to children these mobile devices are appliances, the same way a refrigerator might be an appliance to us that we don't really think a lot about. We need to transform this reality into our news diet as news is being reinvented; that radio in fact is not going away it's going everywhere; reported source, fact-check journalism rather than the nightly scream fest that we get on cable television between the Yankees team
and the Red Sox team. We need to have an idea around a national local
hub of journalism that's reinvented and rebooted; journalism on mobile platforms; a civic, civil dialogue that brings diversity in geography, in community, in political thought, in age and in ethnicity to better mirror the new reality of the demographics of our country. We owe this reinvention of news and this rebooting to our children and our grand children. Help NPR achieve this paradigm. Thank you.
MS. GOTTLIEB: Hi. I'm Lori Gottlieb and I'm the author of Marry Him: The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough and -- not about settling -- and "How to Land Your Kid in Therapy: Why the Obsession With Our Kids' Happiness May be Dooming Them to Unhappy Adulthoods". And the takeaway idea I'd like to leave you with is the secret to happiness and the way to live the so-called good life is to stop looking for happiness for our kids and for
ourselves. Because in our culture and for a certain group
of people -- and I won't name names -- happiness has become a drug that is as addictive as heroin. You put the needle in again and again thinking that -- so that will fill you up, when all it does is make you want another happiness hit -- more money, more success, more recognition, or as I like to say as a journalist, how many bylines does a person really need.
The key to the good life is to strive for the ordinary over the special. Studies show that people who consider themselves to be ordinary, which is kind of a dirty word in this room, are more content in their life than those who feel that they're better than others. And let's face it, being better than others is a little bit about what "special" really means.
As we saw in Ellen Galinsky's national study of American kids, their message for their parents was simple - - to chill the heck out. Ask your grownup kids what they
remember most fondly about their childhoods, and it's not the fancy vacations or the music camp or the $6,000 Princeton Review class that you got, to help them get into their first choice school that rejected them anyway.
MS. GOTTLIEB: In my therapy practice what people say is this -- their fondest memories are -- playing scrabble before bed, stirring pancake batter on a Sunday morning, tossing a ball out front, hanging out in their pajamas until noon and those silly inside-family jokes that still make them laugh 20 years later. So I ask you this -- do you want to realize at the end of your life that you stressed yourself out chasing something that you had right in front of you all along? Take the needle out, and take a bubble bath instead.
MR. VAITHEESWARAN: As a very ordinary fellow, I appreciate your sentiments. And I've never been happy. So I think I've already self-actualized.
MR. VAITHEESWARAN: I'm Vijay Vaitheeswaran. I am the China business editor for The Economist magazine and author of a book on innovation just released called Need, Speed, and Greed. And I'm torn after this Ideas Festival whether to be a pessimist or an optimist. You know what I mean? On the one hand we heard about the challenges.
By that I mean we live in an age of wicked global problems -- climate change, we heard about cancer and all the challenges and now we heard of course from Barbra Streisand about heart disease. But we also know we live in an age of deadly pandemics and super bugs -- much worse and more dangerous to be alive today than it was four decades ago from the perspective of that problem.
The resource crunch that's coming with the rise of China and India and so on -- so there's -- it is pretty gloomy stuff. And we heard from some of the speakers about how we are living through a great stagnation where,
you know, we've forgotten how to innovate in America and productivity is down. That sounds like a pessimistic world.
But at the same time we heard from others about how this is an extraordinary powerful age to be alive with advances and everything from, you know, genomics to proteomics, to synthetic biology, to this amazing new social enterprises that we've heard so much about and we've seen some wonderful innovators onstage, new business models, hybrid ways of looking at and tackling the world's problems from the bottom up.
And -- so which is it? And when I really scratch my head I think about it and I say, you know what, the future is not preordained. It's both. It's both the best of times and the worst of times. If we're going to tame the world's wicked problems, we need to be much more ambitious, much more disruptive, much more democratic in the way we innovate.
future is realist.
And I think that is the lesson I take away. The not preordained. And that makes me an impatient Thank you. (Laughter)