This summer’s Aspen Ideas Festival lineup includes roughly 300 speakers, and topics of discussion are as diverse as contemplating how to deal with the pressures of an exploding world population, the roots of societal values, and America’s obsession with sports and athletes.
New this year will be a block party for the public, on July 1, at Rio Grande Park, said Kitty Boone, vice president at the Aspen Institute and the primary organizer of the Aspen Ideas Festival, which also is presented by The Atlantic magazine. There will be numerous activities at the block party, as well as music and zumba dance lessons, Boone said.
Boone said programming for the public during the week-long conference is currently being scheduled; tickets go on sale June 20. There will be events open to the public held all over town during the week.
Passes to the eighth annual festival, which runs June 27 to July 3, have been sold out since the spring and cost $2,750 each. Six hundred people purchased passes.
Boone said it’s difficult to identify stand-out speakers for this year’s festival, because “they are all great.”
On the political and world affairs front, speakers include Ehud Barak, Israel’s minister of defense; Pervez Musharraf, former president of Pakistan; and Mitch Daniels, governor of Indiana (R) and former director of the Office of Management and Budget.
Due to the breadth of certain topics this year, five program tracks will offer conversations across the whole week and will span both sessions of the festival, held June 27-30 and June 30-July 3. Alongside the week-long tracks, focused attention will be given to different subjects during each session of the festival.
There are 11 topics this year with dozens of speakers dedicated to each of them. The first session includes “World Affairs: Democracy on Trial,” “The Economy: Is the Crisis Permanent?” “Our Planet: Seven Billion and Counting,” “Arts and Culture: Art Matters” and “America 2012.” Also from June 27-30, the festival will explore “What We Believe and Why: An Exploration of Values,” “Sports Taken Seriously” and “Radical Disruptions: The Transformative Power of Technology.”
From June 30-July 3, the festival will concentrate on “War & Peace in the Modern World,” “Raising the 21st Century Child” and “Frontiers of Science.”
For the population sessions, the mayors of Houston, Los Angeles and New Orleans, as well as former Chicago Mayor Richard Daley, will speak on what it takes to manage those cities’ populations.
Also appearing at the festival will be Eric Schmidt, executive chairman of Google; Howard Schultz, CEO of Starbucks Coffee Co.; Dave Cote, chairman and CEO of Honeywell and Alex Karp, CEO of Palantir Technologies.
For the “war and peace” discussion, Stanley A. McChrystal, retired U.S. Army general, and Michael Mullen, retired U.S. Navy admiral and former chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, will be on hand.
Boone said one of the festival’s highlights will be appearances by students from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Institute of Design at Stanford, who will be presenting projects they’ve been working on.
“It’s very fascinating,” Boone said. “I think people in our audience will be fascinated to hear what young people are doing.”
Festival favorites planning to make appearances include Lance Armstrong in his role of founder and chairman of Livestrong; Tom Daschle, a former U.S. Senator (D-SD) and senior policy advisor at DLA Piper; Michael Eisner, president and CEO of The Tornante Co.; and Alan Greenspan, former chairman of the U.S. Federal Reserve.
The musician Moby, who is scheduled to perform at the Belly Up on June 29, plans to participate in the festival by doing a recording on National Public Radio’s “Talk of The Nation,” which will air from the Hotel Jerome.
“It’s going to be quite a week,” Boone said. “We’ve got a lot going on.”
And the world will hear about it. The media presence will be stronger than previous years, with airings on BBC, NPR, CNN and MSNBC, to name a few outlets.
“The exposure is going to be huge for Aspen,” Boone said.