Dozens of Newsmakers to Join 7th Annual Washington Ideas Forum

Secs. Julián Castro, Arne Duncan, Penny Pritzker; Sens. Booker, Corker, Cotton, McCain; Deputy National Advisor Ben Rhodes; Former Secs. of State Colin Powell and Madeleine Albright; Former Governor Mitt Romney

Washington, D.C. (September 17, 2015)--The seventh annual Washington Ideas Forum, presented by The Atlantic and the Aspen Institute, returns to Washington, D.C. on September 3o and October 1, 2015, featuring dozens of interviews with leading newsmakers on defense and national security, violence and justice, race and society, education, healthcare, and more. Tickets are available to purchase now; interested media will be registered with complimentary credentials.

Newly added speakers include: Obama administration cabinet secretaries Julián Castro (Dept. Housing and Urban Development), Arne Duncan (Dept. of Education), and Penny Pritzker (Dept. of Commerce); plus former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney.

On national security and America’s role in the world, former Sec. of State Colin Powell, Sens. Bob Corker (R-TN); John McCain (R-AZ), Mark Warner (D-VA), Tom Cotton (R-AK), and Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes will take the stage for a series of candid conversations. David Miliband, president of the International Rescue Committee and former UK Foreign Minister, will weigh in on the overwhelming refugee crisis facing Europe; and Theo Padnos, who was held hostage in Syria for two years, will discuss his experiences for the first time at a live event.

#BlackLivesMatter co-founder Opal Tometi will sit down with The Atlantic’s editor Scott Stossel for a conversation on how a social movement can transform society; and Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) will address mass incarceration and his efforts to enact reform.

All participating speakers to date are listed below by topic, and continue to be updated at A full agenda will be released in the coming weeks. NOTE: This list is subject to change.

Politics and Domestic Policy:

  • Cory Booker, United States Senator (D-NJ)
  • ​Julián Castro, United States Secretary of Housing and Urban Development
  • Lincoln Chafee, Presidential Candidate, Former Governor of Rhode Island
  • Al Gore, Chairman, Climate Reality Project, Former Vice President of the United States
  • Ed Markey, United States Senator (D-MA)
  • Cathy McMorris Rodgers, Member (R-WA) and Chair of the House Republican Conference, United States House of Representatives
  • ​Mitt Romney, Former Governor, Commenwealth of Massachusetts

Foreign Affairs and National Security:

  • Madeleine Albright, Former Secretary of State; Chair, Albright Stonebridge Group
  • Bob Corker, United States Senator (R-TN)
  • Tom Cotton, United States Senator (R-AR)
  • John McCain, United States Senator (R-AZ)
  • Claire McCaskill, United States Senator (D-MO)
  • David Miliband, President and CEO, International Rescue Committee; Former Minister of Foreign Affairs, United Kingdom
  • Theo Padnos, Journalist and Former Jabhat al-Nusra Hostage with mother Nancy Curtis and cousin Amy Rosen
  • Colin Powell, General, US Army (Ret); Former US Secretary of State and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
  • Arati Prabhakar, Director, Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA)
  • Ben Rhodes, Deputy National Security Advisor, The White House
  • Mark Warner, United States Senator (D-VA)
  • ​Lawrence Wright, Staff Writer, The New Yorker; Author, The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and The Road to 9/11

Culture and Society:

  • Lonnie Bunch, Director, Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture
  • Stanley Nelson, Director, “The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution
  • Anne-Marie Slaughter, President and CEO, New America Foundation  
  • Opal Tometi, co-founder, #BlackLivesMatter
  • ​Glynn Washington, Host and Executive Producer, NPR's "Snap Judgment"


  • Jonathan Bush, Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer, athenahealth
  • Francis Collins, Director, National Institutes of Health (NIH)
  • Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Disease, National Institutes of Health
  • ​Vanessa Kerry, Co-Founder and CEO, Seed Global Health


  • Arne Duncan, United States Secretary of Education
  • ​Rev. John Jenkins, President, University of Notre Dame

Business, Technology, and the Economy:

  • Marc Brackett, Director, Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence, Yale University
  • Mick Ebeling, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Not Impossible Labs
  • Bran Ferren, Co-Founder and Chief Creative Officer, Applied Minds
  • Martine Rothblatt, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, United Therapeutics; Founder, SiriusXM
  • David Rubenstein, Co-Founder and Co-Chief Executive Officer, The Carlyle Group
  • Laura D’Andrea Tyson, Former Chair, White House Council of Economic Advisers; Professor of Business Administration and Economics, Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley
  • ​Jeff Weiner, Chief Executive Officer, LinkedIn

Conversations will be moderated by The Atlantic’s Molly Ball, James Bennet, Ron Brownstein, Steve Clemons, James Fallows, Jeffrey Goldberg, Mary Louise Kelley, Amanda Ripley, Hanna Rosin, Scott Stossel, and Derek Thompson; Aspen Institute President and CEO Walter Isaacson; and ABC’s Jonathan Karl, CNN’s Jake Tapper, NBC’s Chuck Todd, Chris Matthews and Joy-Ann Reid of MSNBC, Helene Cooper of The New York Times, and other journalists.

For those unable to attend in person, the program will be webcast live via The Atlantic’s Events Channel and on the Aspen Institute’s website. Follow the conversation online via @Atlantic_LIVE, @AspenInstitute, and by using #IdeasForum.

Athenahealth, Comcast and Hitachi are Presenting Level underwriters of the Forum. The American Federation of Teachers, Google, and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation are Supporting Level underwriters. Allstate, Clear Channel Outdoor, and Steelcase are Contributing Level underwriters.