Last week, I attended the Aspen Ideas Festival hosted by the Aspen Institute. Together with my fellow Aspen Scholars, a diverse group of 300 leaders from all over the United States and 25 different countries selected for their work, accomplishments, and ability to transform ideas into action, we attended unforgettable sessions on topics ranging from politics and culture to leadership and health.
Here are My Top 5 Takeaways from #AspenIdeas:
1. The Latino Community will Shape our Country for Generations to Come
In a session titled “The Secret Salsa of US Business,” Abigail Golden-Vazquez of the Aspen Latinos and Society Program made the case that we can no longer ignore the economic power of the Latino community in the United States. Latinos represent $2.13 trillion in GDP and are responsible for 46% in business growth between 2007 and 2012. We must continue to remove barriers to success however, including expanding access to capital, to help Latinos succeed in our economy. For if Latinos thrive, we all thrive.
2. The Way to Win Elections is to Talk to Voters
The 2016 Presidential Election taught us that polling can be wrong. Too often we have mistakenly relied on polls and the media to tell us, candidates, and campaigns what voters are feeling, thinking, or supporting. But as Lauren Leader, Founder of All in Together, stated: “The 2020 Presidential Election will be won on the enthusiasm of women, Latinos, and young people.” To ensure that these historically marginalized groups show up big for this next election, we must take the time to talk to them about the issues they care about, register them to vote, and mobilize them to the polls!
3. Mental Illness Does Not Discriminate, but There is Strength in Numbers
“Mental illness does not discriminate, no matter where you’re from, age, or socioeconomic status” said Kevin Love of the Cleveland Cavaliers. Despite the perception that basketball superstars like him live perfect lives, mental illness is something that all of us go through – whether you are a celebrity, athlete or nonprofit leader. In fact, over 300 million around the world suffer from some form of mental illness. But there is hope. Vulnerability with one another allows us to discuss these issues. Because of the courage of DeMar DeRozan of the San Antonio Spurs to come out first to admit to his mental illness, Kevin Love followed suit. And with their example, hopefully millions more will find the space to discuss the issues facing their lives.
4. The World is Changing, and So Must Corporate America
Starbucks COO Rosalind Brewer, one of the highest ranking African American women in corporate America, shared the story behind the April 2018 incident of when two black men were arrested at a Starbucks in Philadelphia, PA. In her story, she shared that the most critical lesson learned during this experience was that Starbucks’ policies were woefully out-of-date. To address this, the company immediately closed its stores, provided anti-bias training to its employees, and partnered with local communities to think about preventing incidents like this from ever happening again. As she put it, Starbucks’ reputation was at risk. “We know that society is coming into our doors. The world is changing.”
5. Love is Always a Better Strategy
“Love is a purpose and act that we give to each other and to ourselves” said hip hop artist Common. When our turbulent political times prevent us from agreeing with one another, the strategy of love allows us to understand where people are coming from and why we believe what we believe. It is through this expression of love where we can start to tear down these barriers with one another, said Common, where we create a better society where we all understand each other.