AIF Blog

Highlights from Opening Session 2012

Jun 28, 2012


The Aspen Ideas Festival kicked off yesterday with a packed Greenwald Pavilion. Here are some notable quotes from a few of the presenters sharing their Big Ideas.

“It’s not simply that you have to find compromise or middle values, you have to figure out a way to weave them together. Tocqueville says America has a strand of individualism and a strand of working together, and that these strands are in conflict. But actually, they aren’t…and I hope you see them pulled together at the Aspen Ideas Festival.” –Walter Isaacson

“I live in a rough part of the world, and hard experience shows that if you have large numbers of citizens who do not yet fully grasp even the concept of the state, who largely are very poor and uneducated, and struggle daily just to survive, and who are susceptible to a five dollar bribe, democracy sometimes seems like a sham. And we have to think about if there are other ways. In a society, some will be more ready than others. I cannot think of an example of a reasonably successful democracy that started out with universal franchise. What I haven’t figured out yet is what should be the criteria for the franchise.” –Dele Olojede

“As individuals and collectively, we need to develop our moral imagination. Art is central to entering another’s shoes, but our education system is increasingly making that impossible with cuts on the humanities…The point of entering another’s story is not simply to feel sympathy, but to foster a sense of community that prompts action, which is about making that turn of heart that enables us to see from another’s perspective. Grace is the traditional religious language for this turn of heart, and art presents us with the shock of another, which can engender empathy— the idea that we could project ourselves into a work of art.” –Jane Shaw

“Political risk as a virtue. Not balance, not harmony, but rather the idea of political risk is America’s founding idea. But we’ve forgotten what political risk in a democracy means, calculated action for the common good without regard for personal gain.” –Kai Ryssdal

Citizen journalism has become a big way to gather information from conflict areas. But young people from these areas don’t have the training to news gather, and they don’t have the training to consume news, or understand whether an article is partisan. So my big idea is to make a Journalism 101 class mandatory for high school seniors.” –Hala Gorani

“The filibuster has become too cost-free and convenient. Change the Senates’ rules to make filibusters safe, legal, and rare, with 41 live bodies on the floor to vote for a filibuster. If it’s passionate enough in its beliefs, it should have no trouble doing so. --James Fallows