For the last three summers the Aspen Institute has conducted an Ideas Festival in Aspen. About 70 speakers who discuss subjects ranging from Global Warming to Globalization, India and it's place in the world, Health and Obesity and World Famine, the current Political Landscape and Education in America appear at the conference.
Michael Sandel from Harvard, David Brooks and Tom Freidman from the NY Times, Sam Nunn, who many say will be the Vice Presidential candidate for Obama, Michael Chertoff, John Doerr, Vinod Khosla and President Clinton are among the many luminaries appearing this year.
It has become a tradition since the Festival's inception for my husband Stewart and me to host a dinner for the speakers at our home. Below you can find the contents of my welcome speech.
Welcome speech to the speakers of the Aspen Ideas Festival July 3rd, 2008
Stewart and I welcome you all to Little Lake Lodge for a dinner that has become something of a tradition; entertaining the inspired speakers presenting at the Aspen Institute Ideas Festival.
You'll notice the charming little topiary bears adorning your tables. The reason I chose a bear theme this year was to pay homage to the rather large brown bear who usually comes around to greet our guests when we throw this party. If he doesn't show up, at least you'll have your little bear honey jars -- they're your party favors, so don't forget to get them on the way out.
When I welcomed you last year, we were complaining that oil had hit $75 a barrel. Well, yesterday it hit $145. It's odd to have nostalgia for being overcharged instead of being hornswoggled.
In other news ... according to David Katz of the Yale School of Public Heath, diabetes will soon be as common to teenagers as acne. Perhaps cans of Coca-Cola will one day include an insulin patch.
John Holdren from Harvard cheered us up with news that climate change had reached a tipping point, and we might have a mere 10 years left to ward off the dire catastrophic consequences resulting from this man-made scourge.
Sadly, the war in the Middle East continues to drain our country of human and financial capital.
Paul Collier told us today about the world's food shortage and how it is affecting Africa and other nations.
David Brooks explained how the great divide between America's rich and poor has resulted in an intellectual divide that has reduced the likelihood of children from lower income families completing college to 1 in 17.
And the family you are born into is much more important than it was 40 years ago. But David, how can we control that? When you find out, please tell my children, as they have been complaining for years.
The elegant Craig Barrett, CEO of Intel, explained Moore's Law to us: it predicts the yearly doubling of the capacity of their microprocessors. Unfortunately, it seems that Moore's Law may also apply to America's woes.
As our two presumptive nominees vie for the White House, we wonder can a mere mortal really solve these problems?
Well, I have an idea: In China, when the air quality is too dangerous for the Olympic athletes in training, they simply shut down industry for three weeks. When their population is using too much gas, they just raise the price 17%. Population is a problem, they demand that families have only one child.
See where I'm going? Perhaps we don't need a president, we need a benevolent dictator.
But that won't work, because our country was built on the freedom of the individual. I learned that at Executive Seminar I first took at the Institute eight years ago.
So how do we solve our problems? We attend these brilliant festivals of ideas here in Aspen and we return to our homes charged with a new spirit of change.
As Vinod Khalsa said yesterday; "A crisis is a terrible thing to waste."
Emily Lazar the producer of the Stephen Colbert Show told us Stephen sees himself as "barium of the political colon" then I say, the Aspen Institute is the penicillin of society's strep throat.
Thank you Walter, Elliot, Kitty Boone and the rest of the Aspen Institute staff for creating a forum for us to discuss the problems we face, and for giving us the inspiration and ammunition to get help create solutions.
Ladies and gentlemen, have a wonderful evening. Remember tomorrow what Tom Friedman told us tonight: that our country's birthday is July 4th, not 9/11.
Enjoy your dinner -- and if I may paraphrase my dear friend Alice Waters, "nothing helps solve the ills of the world like a full stomach." Eat hearty, everyone!