Aspen Ideas Festival 2013: At "D.C.'s Summer Camp," the Famous and Powerful Get Together to Pat Themselves On the Back
Every year, the nation's most successful and wealthy political celebrities, artists, social entrepreneurs, and assorted bigwigs fly their private jets high up in the Colorado mountains to gather for the Aspen Ideas Festival.
The event is hosted by the Aspen Institute, a nonprofit think tank dedicated to "fostering enlightened leadership, the appreciation of timeless ideas and values, and open-minded dialogue on contemporary issues."
The list of speakers this year includes House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), Harvard professor David Gergen, Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan, celebrated cellist Yo-Yo Ma, former Secretary of State Madeline Albright, and New York Times columnist Nate Silver, with Arianna Huffington moderating.
In other words, the Aspen Ideas Festival is D.C. Summer Camp.
Rather than archery and woodworking, though, Camp Capitol Hill hosts a multitude of talks. In, "A Civic Rite of Passage: The Case for National Service," General Stanley McChrystal attempted to convince festival-goers to put down their glasses of champagne, go out, and get America's youth to do public service.
Other seminars include, "What Can Iraq Tell Us about the Future of Democracy in the Middle East?", "The Future of News: Is It the End of Journalism as We Know It?", "Matter of Debate: Should Pot Be Legal?" and "Rhetorical Questions: How Effective Are They Really?" (no, I'm just kidding about that last one).
After the Aspen Ideas Festival began on June 26, the Twitter hashtag #aspenideas was hijacked by hecklers who came up with some snarky parodies of the brain-trust -onference mentality.
Even more entertaining, however, is the level of unintended obnoxiousness of some of the real tweets from last year's Aspen Ideas Festival.
What's clear from these tweets is that the Aspen Ideas Festival is meant to serve as Washington, D.C.'s answer to the Hamptons. Accordingly, and in good Hamptons tradition, there appears to be a self-satisfied and uber-wealthy overtone to the conference's "changing the world for the better" atmosphere.
But who says that people with more money than they know what to do with can't accomplish good things for the world? If it weren't for the Aspen Ideas Festival, we wouldn't have known that the future of transportation is in flying cars, or that single-party military dictatorship states are better than democracies.
Of course, if you're smart enough, or successful enough, or rich enough (or possibly a combination of all three) to be at the Aspen Ideas Festival right now, you probably also happen to be someone who wields a great deal of power and influence in this country.
And that brings us to the most ironic Aspen Idea of all: