Wednesday marks the start of The Atlantic’s sixth annual Washington Ideas Forum – in partnership with The Aspen Institute – an impressive gathering of some of the nation’s top minds on topics of national and international importance.
This year’s lineup includes Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of NIH’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases; Aspen Institute president and CEO Walter Isaacson on his forthcoming book The Innovators; co-founder and CEO of Vice Shane Smith; Revolution founder and partner Steve Case; United States Chief Technology Officer Megan Smith; Cornell University president David Skorton; Etsy CEO Chad Dickerson; Houston mayor Annise Parker; and more than five dozen others.
The two day event takes place Wednesday, October 29 and Thursday the 30 at the Harman Center for the Arts. In advance of the Forum, The Atlantic‘s Washington editor-at-large Steve Clemons and the Washington Ideas Forum (WIF) editorial director and Bloomberg View columnist Margaret Carlson completed a “Fishbowl Five” – or six – to preview what’s in store come later this week.
FishbowlDC: How will this year’s Forum differ than that of year’s past?
Clemons & Carlson: “More attendees. A lot more. New theater. Deeper dives and brilliant innovators outside DC showing paralyzed players inside DC what is possible. NASCAR and the New Orleans Saints. Popcorn.”
FishbowlDC: What makes WIF unique compared to similar conversations had inside and outside the Beltway?
Clemons & Carlson: “Not all of the usual suspects. In our scrum we will hear how a guy selling glistening vegetables creates entire new neighborhoods (Whole Foods CEO Walter Robb) next to genomic sequencers (Craig Venter) and brain experts who are genuinely sculpting what it will mean to be human in the future. We are convening dramatic innovators in science, media, health and education from outside Washington to have a conversation with those inside DC. And very few get Susan Rice, John Kerry, Chuck Hagel, Anthony Fauci, Ernest Moniz and others from deep in a presidential administration to bat in the same ball game.”
FishbowlDC: How far in advance do you book participants, and how close to the event are you able to add new people and conversations to the mix?
Clemons & Carlson: “Ideas get stale – so we are careful of booking too early, but some people come in four to five months before. Most come in a month or two before – but some come in the last two weeks. Last year, we had people jump in the night before we opened the show. Not sure if that will happen again – but we are prepared.”
FishbowlDC: Who are you most looking forward to hearing from at this year’s Forum?
Clemons: “I want to hear how Square and LaunchCode co-founder Jim McKelvey is working with digital education revolutionary Anant Agarwal to democratize access to ivy league education. And McKelvey in particular is retraining people from young to old to learn how to code. Potential game changer. And interested in how brain research guru Jacopo Annese convinces so many to donate their skulls at death to him in San Diego.”
Carlson: “How did Eric Holder get Paul Rand to join him on reforming unfair criminal justice system? Does business really hate Obama or is Secretary Penny Pritzker making them feel the love? Have the pandas finally mated under the tutelage and millions of David Rubinstein?”
FishbowlDC: Any last minute surprises you might be able to share?
Clemons & Carlson: “It wouldn’t be a surprise if we told you.”
FishbowlDC: What do you have planned once the Forum is completed?
Clemons & Carlson: Onward to New York to pick up their ideas.