Aspen Ideas Festival 2017

The 2017 Aspen Ideas Festival will take place June 22 – July 1, in Aspen, Colorado. According to their website, The Aspen Ideas Festival is the nation’s premier, public gathering place for leaders from around the globe, and across many disciplines, to engage in deep and inquisitive discussion of the ideas and issues that both shape our lives and challenge our times. With more than 350 presenters, 200 sessions, and 3,000 attendees the annual Festival will take place on the Aspen Institute’s campus for the 13th year in a row.

Top 25 Speakers at the 2017 Aspen Ideas Festival

1Katie Couric
Award-Winning Journalist, Best-Selling Author, & Co-Founder of Stand Up to Cancer

Katie Couric is an award-winning journalist and TV personality, well-known cancer advocate, documentary film producer and The New York Times best-selling author of The Best Advice I Ever Got: Lessons From Extraordinary Lives. Couric is a co-founder of Stand Up To Cancer (SU2C), co-founder of the National Colorectal Cancer Research Alliance (NCCRA) with the Entertainment Industry Foundation (EIF) and Lilly Tartikoff, and co-founder of the Jay Monahan Center for Gastrointestinal Health. Stand Up To Cancer has raised $280 million to fund scientific dream teams that tackle myriad of cancers in collaborative and innovative ways.

2John Dickerson
Host of Face the Nation & CBS News Political Director

John Dickerson is the anchor of CBS News’ Face the Nation, the number one Sunday morning public affairs program. He also serves as Political Director for CBS News and is a contributor to Slate magazine and its podcast The Political Gabfest. Dickerson joined CBS News in April 2009, as an analyst and contributor, providing on-air political analysis and contributing to CBS News broadcasts across the network. He was named Political Director in November 2011. Dickerson is the author of On Her Trail, a book about his mother.  Known for his active use of social media, Dickerson has more than 1.35 million Twitter followers.

3Henry Gates, Jr.
Professor & Director, W. E. B. Du Bois Institute for African & African American Research, Harvard University 

Henry Louis Gates, Jr., is the Alphonse Fletcher University Professor and the Director of the W. E. B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research at Harvard University. Host of the popular show Finding Your Roots, Professor Gates is one of the United States’ most influential cultural critics and is both an eloquent commentator and formidable intellectual force on multicultural and African American issues. Professor Gates is widely acknowledged for taking African American studies beyond the ideological bent and bringing it into a scholarly sphere that is equivalent to all other disciplines.

4Austan Goolsbee
Professor of Economics, University of Chicago Booth School of Business

Austan Goolsbee is the Robert P. Gwinn professor of Economics at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business and one of the world’s leading experts on business, government and the economy. Goolsbee also serves as a strategic partner at 32 Advisors, a global consulting and advisory firm. Goolsbee previously served as chairman of President Barack Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers and a member of the cabinet as well as the chief economist for the President’s Economic Recovery Advisory Board (chaired by Paul Volcker). Goolsbee earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in economics from Yale University and his doctorate in economics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

5Richard Haass
President, Council on Foreign Relations

Dr. Richard Haass is in his fourteenth year as president of the Council on Foreign Relations, an independent, nonpartisan membership organization, think tank, publisher, and educational institution dedicated to being a resource to help people better understand the world and the foreign policy choices facing the United States and other countries. In 2013, he served as the chair of the multiparty negotiations in Northern Ireland that provided the foundation for the 2014 Stormont House Agreement. For his efforts to promote peace and conflict resolution, he received the 2013 Tipperary International Peace Award.

6William Kristol
Founder & Editor, The Weekly Standard & Political Analyst, ABC News

William Kristol is the editor of The Weekly Standard, is a regular on ABC’s This Week and on ABC’s special events and election coverage, and appears frequently on other leading political commentary shows. Before starting The Weekly Standard in 1995, Kristol led the Project for the Republican Future, where he helped shape the strategy that produced the 1994 Republican congressional victory. Before coming to Washington in 1985, Kristol was on the faculty of Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government and the Department of Political Science at the University of Pennsylvania.

7Amy Walter
National Editor of the Cook Political Report

The Cook Political Report counts corporations, trade associations, labor unions, government agencies, foreign governments, and media outlets, among others, as its subscriber base. Ms. Walter is responsible for handicapping and analyzing U.S. House races. In addition, Walter serves as a political analyst for CNN and has served as a panelist and commentator on CBS’ Face the Nation. She provided Election Night commentary for CNN in November 2002 and 2004. Ms. Walter has an extensive background in electoral politics. Prior to joining The Cook Political Report, she served as Political Director of the Women’s Campaign Fund and worked for Congresswoman Marjorie Margolies-Mezvinsky.

8Simon Sinek
World-Renowned Leadership Expert & Best-Selling Author

Described as “a visionary thinker with a rare intellect,” Sinek teaches leaders and organizations how to inspire people. With a bold goal to help build a world in which the vast majority of people go home everyday feeling fulfilled by their work, Sinek is leading a movement to inspire people to do the things that inspire them. Sinek is the author of three best-selling books: – The global bestseller, Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take ActionThe New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestseller, Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’t – And his latest book, just launched September 2016, is the New York Times bestseller, Together is Better: A Little Book of Inspiration

9Charles Duhigg
New York Times Investigative Reporter & Best-Selling Author

Charles Duhigg was awarded the 2013 Pulitzer Prize in Explanatory Reporting as a member of The New York Times staff for the series The iEconomy, which examined Apple’s manufacturing practices overseas and what those practices can tell us about the American economy. Duhigg is also the winner of the National Academies of Sciences, National Journalism, and George Polk awards, and a frequent contributor to television and radio, including PBS NewsHour, Frontline, Dr. Oz, This American Life and various programs on CNBC and NPR. He is a graduate of the Harvard Business School and Yale College. Charles Duhigg’s The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business has spent over a year on the New York Times bestseller list.

10Sherry Turkle
Best-Selling Author, Expert on Technology in a Digital Society, Sociologist and MIT Professor

Professor, author, consultant and researcher, Sherry Turkle has spent the last 30 years researching the psychology of people’s relationships with technology. She is the Abby Rockefeller Mauzé Professor of the Social Studies of Science and Technology in the Program in Science, Technology and Society at MIT, as well as the founder and current director of the MIT Initiative on Technology and Self, a center of research and reflection on the evolving connections between people and artifacts. Professor Turkle has investigated the intersection of digital technology and human relationships from the early days of personal computers to our current world of robotics, artificial intelligence, social networking and mobile connectivity.

11Campbell Brown
Award-Winning Journalist

Veteran broadcaster Campbell Brown is one of the most respected and recognizable faces in American news. She won an Emmy for her reporting during Hurricane Katrina; was on the trail during the last two presidential elections; and has made numerous trips to Iraq to report on the Iraqi elections, abuses at Abu Graib prison and the trial of Saddam Hussein. Prior to joining CNN, where Brown became the only non-partisan cable news anchor at 8 pm, she was with NBC News for eleven years. While there Brown served as co-anchor of NBC’s TODAY Weekend Edition, the nation’s top rated weekend news program.

12Michael Greenstone
Professor of Environmental Economics in the Department of Economics at MIT

Michael Greenstone is the 3M Professor of Environmental Economics in the Department of Economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the director of The Hamilton Project. He is on the MIT Energy Initiative’s Energy Council and on MIT’s Environmental Research Council. His research is focused on estimating the costs and benefits of environmental quality. He has worked extensively on the Clean Air Act and examined its impacts on air quality, manufacturing activity, housing prices, and infant mortality to assess its costs and benefits. He is currently engaged in a large scale project to estimate the economic costs of climate change.

13David Leonhardt
Washington Bureau Chief, The New York Times

David Leonhardt is editor of The Upshot, a New York Times website covering politics, policy, and other subjects, and he is a columnist for The Times. In 2011, he received the Pulitzer Prize for commentary for his economic columns. He was previously the paper’s Washington bureau chief, overseeing coverage of national security, domestic policy, and the Supreme Court. In 2013, he published the e-single Here’s the Deal: How Washington Can Solve the Deficit and Spur Growth, an and New York Times best-seller. Before joining the Times in 1999, he worked for Business Week and The Washington Post.

14Jon Lovett
Co-Founder, Crooked Media

Jon Lovett was the co-creator and head writer of the NBC sitcom, 1600 Penn. Prior to this, Jon spent three years as a speechwriter for President Barack Obama during a dynamic and tumultuous time in our history, allowing for a unique perspective on politics, humor, communications, and the absurd way things really work in our nation’s capital. After college but before entering politics, he spent time doing stand-up at comedy clubs around New York. His amateur comedy career was vindicated years later when he beat Grover Norquist in a stand-up competition and was named “Washington’s Funniest Celebrity,” which tells you all you need to know about what passes for a celebrity in Washington.

15Nancy Gibbs
Editorial Director, Time Inc. News Group; Editor in Chief, TIME Magazine

Nancy Gibbs is editor in chief of TIME, overseeing its domestic, international, and digital editions, as well as TIME for Kids. She was named the magazine’s first woman editor in 2013 and named editorial director of the Time Inc. News Group, overseeing TIME, Fortune, and Money, in 2016. Gibbs wrote more cover stories than any other contributor and won the National Magazine Award for TIME’s black-bordered September 11, 2001, special issue.  She is co-author of The President’s Club and The Preacher and the Presidents, has lectured extensively on the American presidency, and her numerous honors include the Matrix Award and the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Newswomen’s Club of New York.

16Jose Antonio Vargas
Journalist, Filmmaker & Immigration Activist 

Jose Antonio Vargas is a journalist, filmmaker and immigration activist. Born in the Philippines and raised in the United States from the age of 12, he was part of The Washington Post team that won the Pulitzer Prize for Breaking News Reporting in 2008 for their coverage of the Virginia Tech shootings online and in print. Vargas has also worked for The San Francisco Chronicle, The Philadelphia Daily News and The Huffington Post. He wrote, produced and directed the autobiographical 2013 film Documented, which was presented by CNN Films and aired in June 2014. Vargas is the founder of “Define American,” a non-profit organization intended to open up dialogue about the criteria people use to determine who is an American.

17Paula Kerger
President & CEO, PBS

Paula A. Kerger is president and chief executive officer of PBS, the nation’s largest non-commercial media organization with nearly 350 member stations throughout the country. Ms. Kerger joined PBS in March 2006, and is the longest serving president and CEO in PBS history. Since her arrival, Ms. Kerger has made particularly strong commitments to the arts, news and public affairs, high-quality educational content for children and the classroom, diversity, and the use of new digital platforms to bring public media into the lives of all Americans. Under Ms. Kerger’s leadership, PBS has been growing its audiences across genres and platforms.

18Richard Barth
CEO & President, KIPP Foundation 

Richard Barth is president and CEO of the KIPP Foundation. KIPP, the Knowledge Is Power Program, is a national network of free, open-enrollment, college-preparatory public schools.Since December 2005, he has overseen the doubling of the network from 45 to 99 schools, expanded KIPP’s leadership development programs, advocated for high-performing charter schools on Capitol Hill, and secured over $160 million in new, long-term philanthropic commitments, including $65 million from the federal government. Richard came to KIPP from Edison Schools, where he served as President of District Partnerships and managed school partnerships serving more than 40,000 students. Prior to joining Edison, Richard was one of the founding staff members of Teach For America.

19Hal Gregersen
Executive Director of the MIT Leadership Center

Hal Gregersen is committed to creating insight with impact. As Executive Director of the MIT Leadership Center and a Senior Lecturer in Leadership and Innovation at the MIT Sloan School of Management, he pursues his lifelong vocation of learning how leaders in business, government and society discover provocative new strategies, develop the human and organizational capacity to realize those strategies and ultimately deliver positive, powerful results. Putting insight into practice, Gregersen regularly delivers inspirational keynote speeches, motivational executive seminars and transformational coaching experiences.

20Brian Grazer
Academy Award-Winning Producer; Chairman and Co-Founder, Imagine Entertainment

Academy Award-winning producer Brian Grazer has been making movies and television programs for more than 25 years. As both a writer and producer, he has been personally nominated for four Academy Awards, and in 2002 he won the Best Picture Oscar for A Beautiful Mind. In addition to winning three other Academy Awards, A Beautiful Mind also won four Golden Globe Awards (including Best Motion Picture Drama) and earned Grazer the first annual Awareness Award from the National Mental Health Awareness Campaign. Over the years, Grazer’s films and TV shows have been nominated for a total of 43 Oscars and 152 Emmys.

21Astro Teller
Captain of Moonshots, Google X

Dr. Astro Teller currently oversees Google[x], Google’s moonshot factory for building magical, audacious ideas that through science and technology can be brought to reality. Astro is also co-founder and a current Director of Cerebellum Capital, Inc, a hedge fund management firm whose investments are continuously designed, executed, and improved by a software system based on techniques from statistical machine learning. Astro was also the co-founder and CEO of BodyMedia, Inc, a leading wearable body monitoring company that was sold to Jawbone in 2013. As a respected scientist and seasoned entrepreneur, Teller has successfully created and grown five companies and holds numerous U.S. patents related to his work in hardware and software technology.

22Jon Favreau
Co-Founder, Crooked Media

From 2009 through early 2013, Jon Favreau served as the director of speech-writing for President Barack Obama, a role he also played for the President during the 2008 presidential campaign. Favreau began writing with President Obama in 2005, when he started his first term as a U.S. Senator, and has had a hand in crafting nearly every major speech that the President delivered over the last 8 years. Favreau’s passion for writing and public service first developed at the College of the Holy Cross, where he graduated with degrees in Political Science and Sociology in 2003 and received an honorary doctorate degree in 2014. Favreau is also a columnist for The Daily Beast and taught a weekly seminar as a Spring 2013 visiting fellow at the University of Chicago Institute of Politics.

23Bina Venkataraman
Senior Adviser for Climate Change Innovation, Obama Administration

Bina Venkataraman was senior advisor for climate change innovation in the Obama administration. Her charge is to stimulate entrepreneurship and data-driven, creative actions by communities, companies, and citizens to respond to the changing climate. Venkataraman is currently on leave from teaching at MIT and directing global policy initiatives at the Broad Institute. She is a former journalist who wrote for The New York Times and The Boston Globe and the recipient of a Fulbright, Princeton in Asia fellowship, Metcalf fellowship, and James Reston fellowship. She has worked in India, Alaska, Cuba, Mexico, and Vietnam.

24Melissa Block
Radio Host & Journalist

Melissa Block joined NPR in 1985 and has been hosting All Things Considered since 2003, after nearly a decade as an NPR correspondent. Throughout her career, Block has covered major news events for NPR ranging from on-the-scene reporting from the Mississippi Gulf Coast in the days following Hurricane Katrina to a series from Texas gauging the impact of the Iraq War on the surrounding communities. Her reporting after the September 11, 2001 attacks was part of coverage that earned NPR a George Foster Peabody Award. Block’s reporting from Kosovo in 1999 was cited among stories for which NPR News won an Overseas Press Club Award.

25John P. Foley
CEO & Co-Founder, Peloton

Starting as an engineer in 1990 for Mars Inc., John cut his teeth in manufacturing and later transitioned into technology leadership. In 1997, John helped build into a household brand and then went on to become CEO of, Co-founder and CEO of, and President of On the fitness front, John is a competitive cyclist and tri-athlete, and an addict of boutique group fitness classes including yoga, boot camps, and of course, indoor cycling.

For inquiries about booking one of these speakers for your next event, please contact us.

Aspen Ideas Festival


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