The Aspen Ideas Festival

For the second year, The Atlantic and the Aspen Institute collaborated in July to host the Aspen Ideas Festival, which gathers scientists, politicians, entrepreneurs, religious figures, and others for a week of conversation and debate. Participants contribute provocative ideas from their fields, and discuss the world, both as it is and as it might become. Following are some excerpts from this year's discussion.
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Jacqueline Novogratz
on interconnectedness

Novogratz, the CEO of the Acumen Fund, a nonprofit venture-capital fund that helps deliver health care, housing, and water in the developing world, described an experience that inspired her to become involved with development work.

I want to end with another idea, which I hadn’t thought about [discussing] until right now, which is our interconnectedness … [T]he reason I really got into the work I’m doing goes back to a story … of when I was twelve years old, and my uncle Ed gave me a blue sweater that had animals crossing in the front of it and mountains on the top of it, and I loved the sweater; I wore it all the time.

And one day when I was fourteen and my adolescent body was filling it out in a slightly different way … Matthew Mussolino, who was my nemesis in high school, said to me, in a voice that everybody could hear, a really lewd comment, which made me go home and throw the sweater away immediately, asking my mother how I could ever possibly have worn it. And we put it in the Goodwill, and I promptly forgot about it.

About twelve years later I was jogging in the hills of Kigali, Rwanda, and about twenty feet in front of me I saw a little boy wearing my sweater. And I thought, you know, it couldn’t be. [So I] ran up to him—and I’m quite an excitable person—and grabbed the child, turned over the collar, and sure enough, there was my name, [on] his sweater, thousands of miles away and more than a decade.

T. D. Jakes
on education

Jakes, the influential televangelist and author, talked about the unique role that churches can play in promoting prosperity and education among African Americans.

Education has not been marketed well to young people. We have not made it look fun to be smart. Today, young people have been sidetracked by [the] marketing of music and movies and everything else, but education has no marketing strategy. If we were running a regular business, a regular corporation, you wouldn’t provide a great product for which you had no marketing.

We need to find a way that we applaud and celebrate, not only … America’s best singer but … America’s brightest student.

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