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Aspen Institute for Humanistic Studies

Aspen Institute for Humanistic Studies

Acronym/Code: ASPEN

Updated: 11/89

Categories:Education

Background: The Aspen Institute was founded in 1950 by Walter Paepeke, chair of the Container Corporation, to bring together leading citizens from private and public sectors of the U.S. and abroad to consider interrelated issues of the human mind and spirit in contemporary society. (2,3) Basically, the group believes that immersion in the Humanist tradition can make participants in its program better decision makers. (3) It is an international nonprofit organization. (2) The Institute holds seminars primarily for business executives "for reflection, rediscovery of personal values, and examination of contemporary issues in the company of some of the best minds in the world."(3) The Institute strives to add a human dimension to the business world, an element often overlooked in the world of commerce and capital. The group also gives cross-cultural training "to go beyond immediate business issues to the underlying questions faced in all cultures…"(3)

Funding: The Aspen Institute has three major sources of funding-tuition from those attending the group’s seminars, grants from foundations and corporations, and gifts from individuals. (5)

The seminar tuitions vary, depending on length and type of seminar. In 1987, the average fee for a one week seminar was $2,500. Fees for two week sessions generally started around $4,000. (4)

The following is a list of grants received by the Aspen Institute: 1985–$5,000 from the Exxon Education Foundation for support of seminar on justice and society; $15,000 from Mobil Foundation, Inc. ; $225,000 from the Hewlett Foundation for the Inter-American Dialog, a project of Aspen Institute, a 3 year grant for general support; $300,000 from John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation for the Inter-American Dialog, a three year grant; $200,000 from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation toward the Aspen Nuclear Strategy Group, a three-year grant; $250,000 from the Calder Foundation for the InterAmerican Dialog, a three-year grant; $50,000 from the Booth Ferris Foundation for a People’s Republic of China seminar; $250,000 from the Arco Foundation for operational support; $13,688 from the Arco Foundation in matching funds; $15,000 from the Arca Foundation to a travel delegation to Central America organized by the Inter-American Dialog; $20,000 from the Benton Foundation in matching support toward a conference on communications technology and the democratic process; $6,000 from the Benton Foundation to develop a set of papers for a research project that will address the future of government regulation, structuring and support of television media in the U.S. ; $10,000 from the AT&T Foundation for conference support; $7,000 from the New York Times Company Foundation; and $10,000 from the Pfizer Foundation, Inc. (6)

1986–$310,000 from the Calder Foundation for meetings on US/USSR relations for U.S. lawmakers, as part of the Foundation’s program on avoidance nuclear war; $15,000 from the German Marshall Fund of the U.S. for a Berlin conference on challenges to public service broadcasting; $165,000 from the Ford Foundation to build a national network of individuals and institutions engaged in studies of U.S. rural policy as well as to organize workshops and seminars for scholars, policy makers, and rural leaders, and to administer research competition on rural policy; $150,000 from the Arco Foundation for operating support; $11,500 in matching support from the Arco Foundation; $15,000 from the Mobil Foundation; $5,000 from the Community Foundation of Greater Washington; $300,000 from the Carnegie Corporation of New York for meetings on US/USSR relations for U.S. lawmakers; $10,000 from the Mountain Bell Foundation; $5,000 from the Pacific Telesis Foundation for the conference entitled "The Changing Mission of Telecommunication Regulations at the State Level" (CMTRSL); $5,000 from the Benton Foundation for CMTRSL; $10,000 from the AT&T Foundation for the Tradition and Change Seminar; $362,281 from John and Mary R. Markle Foundation for conferences and reports on electronic publishing, educational and entertainment computer software for home use, and communications and information technology to serve the elderly; $10,000 from the John and Mary R. Markle Foundation for CMTRSL conference; $7,000 from the New York Times Company Foundation;(6,7)

1987–$600,000 from the Ford Foundation for research and conferences on effects of the changing domestic and international economy on rural communities and workers; $75,000 from the Ford Foundation for a conference on Eastern Europe for members of the U.S. Congress; $30,000 from the Ford Foundation for a conference on the U.S. and world economy. (7)

Activities: The Aspen Institute’s work concentrates on two basic areas: seminars and "governance programs."(2) The seminars are run by "moderators" and open discussion ensues between the participants. (3)

Seminars: The seminars are for business executives and are subdivided into seven groups: Executive Seminar, American Experience Seminar, Tradition and Change Seminars, Traditional Values Seminar, Justice and Society, Communicatons and Society, and Wye Weekends. (2,3)

The Executive Seminar is the central program of the Aspen Institute. It is a two-week seminar for 20 senior-level corporate executives which examines "the values underlying significant decision making."(3) It is a philosophical exercise which begins with the study of the "foundations of civilized society" and explores other areas such as the role of capitalism today, and the nature of leadership. (3)

The American Experience Seminar lasts for one week and is basically a civics course. It examines the "basic values underlying American culture" and the major U.S. institutions that affect U.S. life. (2) The seminars are geared towards foreign executives of U.S. corporations, and foreign executives doing business with U.S. corporations. (3)

Tradition and Change seminars are targeted at executives wishing to become more familiar with other societies with which they do business. The countries studied include France, Japan, and others. The seminars explore political, economic, social, and security issues of the countries. Participants include people from business, the media, government, labor, academic, cultural and scientific institutions. The seminars are used to increase understanding of a country in order to improve business opportunities overseas. (2,3)

Traditional Values Seminars last for one week and deal with justice, freedom, property and democracy in the classical writings of the humanist tradition. This Seminar is run for either executives of a single corporation or people from a mix of corporations and other organizations. (3)

Justice and Society seminars focus upon "the concept of justice and its relation to contemporary law-related issues." These seminars host a variety of participants including lawyers, academics, and business executives. (3)

Communication and Society seminars are annual one-week seminars that examine changes in society as they have been facilitated by communication and information technology. (3)

Wye Weekends cover a variety of topics and last for two or three days. (3)

Governance Projects: These projects are limited in number and deal with current public policy questions. The projects are funded by corporations and foundations and are attended by invitation only. (3) Some of the subject areas covered include the environment, energy, and arms. Probably the most well known Governance Project is the Inter-American Dialog (IAD). The IAD is a non-governmental group composed of 60 business, civic, and political leaders from the Caribbean, Latin America, and North America. (1) The group discusses and offers advice on hemispheric issues they deem important. Sessions are held annually, and the results are published in book form. The group promotes negotiation and compromise in Central America."Exhaustion and stalemate have opened a chance for diplomacy in Central America… Any sign that the Bush Administration is not firmly committed to the diplomatic path surely will prolong the wars," concluded the group. To be sure, the IAD is quite moderate and straddles the proverbial ideological fence. It calls on all sides of the conflicts to "give."(8)

Government Connections: Many of the members of the Inter-American Dialog are former government officials. A selected list of members include Sol M. Linowitz, former U.S. Ambassador to the Organization of American States and negotiator of the Panama Canal Treaties; Bruce Babbitt, former governer of Arizona and presidential aspirant in the 1988 Democratic Primary; and former Secretary of State Cyrus Vance. (8)

Private Connections: The Aspen Institute’s board of trustees is a roster of the elite from business and academic institutions.

Misc: Comments:U.S. Address: Aspen Institute for Humanistic Studies, Wye Plantation, PO Box 222, Queenstown, Maryland 21658. (301) 8277168.

Principals: Robert O. Anderson, chair/pres pro tem; Colin W. Williams, exec vice pres/chief exec officer; James G. Nelson, vice pres/tres/gen manager; Eva Popper, vice pres; Trustees: Robert B. Anderson, Rodrigo Botero, Thornton F. Bradshaw, Charles L. Brown, Lisle C. Carter Jr. , Douglass Cater, Henry E. Catto Jr. , Jack G. Clarke, Umberto Columbo, Jack T. Conway, Lodwrick M. Cook, Gianni de Michelis, Francis Mading Deng, Paul Deutz, James L. Ferguson, Ann Getty, Marvin L. Goldberger, Jacqueline Grapin, Najeeb E. Halaby, Ichiro Hattori, Philip M. Hawley, Robert A. Helman, R. Michael Huffington, Shirley Hufstedler, William F. Kieschnick, Henry A. Kissinger, Yotaro Kobayashi, Leonard A. Lauder, Lee Hahn-Been, Wade H. McCree Jr. , David T. McLaughlin, Robert S. McNamara, Martin Meyerson, Robert Mosbacher Sr. , Olara Otunnu, Burnell R. Roberts, Walter Orr Roberts, Frederick P. Rose, Joseph E. Slater, Soedjatmoko, Maurice F. Strong, Cyrus R. Vance, A. George Weidenfeld, Clifton R. Wharton Jr., Lynn R. Williams, George Wills. (3)

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