The Kennedy Center/Aspen Institute Arts Summit
The Road Forward
May 16, 2015

I am certain that after the dust of centuries has passed over our cities, we, too, will be remembered not for our victories or defeats in battle or in politics, but for our contribution to the human spirit.

—John F. Kennedy

The Kennedy Center, in association with the Aspen Institute, is excited to present the 2015 Aspen Institute/Kennedy Center Arts Summit. Drawing on the Kennedy Center's national artistic prominence and the Aspen Institute's thought leadership, this Summit will identify how the arts should move forward in addressing the issues that we face in our society today.

The Arts Summit will feature conversations, live performances, town hall style debates, and discussions with artists, innovative thinkers and policy leaders. We will focus on race, education, technology and free speech, envisioning a road forward for the arts in these areas.

We hope you will join us for Arts Summit 2015. Your participation will play an essential role in finding and furthering our purpose: to explore the ways the arts can both progress and make progress, by facing the important issues we contend with as a nation.

The life of the arts, far from being an interruption, a distraction, in the life of the nation, is close to the center of a nation's purpose, and is a test of the quality of a nation's civilization.

—John F. Kennedy

Deborah F. Rutter
The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts

Damian Woetzel
The Aspen Institute Arts Program


David Brooks, Johnny Gandelsman, Howard Gardner, Walter Isaacson, Maz Jobrani, Alan Kay, Spike Lee,
Kate Levin, Sarah Lewis, Eric Liu, David Rubenstein, Deborah Rutter, Michael Sandel,
Split This Rock DC, Justice Sonia Sotomayor, Darren Walker, Damian Woetzel,
Alfre Woodard, Beau Willimon, Camille Zamora,
Ai Weiwei (via video)

Additional participants to be announced.

Betsy DeVos, Summit Chair

Summit Co-Directors: Deborah Rutter & Damian Woetzel

  • Saturday May 16th

    9:00am - 5:00pm, with lunch $200
  • To register please call 202.416.8394 or email
  • Ai Weiwei
    Chinese Artist

    Ai Weiwei is an artist. Born in 1957, he currently resides and works in Beijing, China. From architecture to installations, social media to documentaries, Ai uses a wide range of mediums as expressions to set up new possibilities and conditions for his audience to question and confront society and its values. An outspoken advocate of human rights and freedom of speech, his actions led him to frequent run-ins with the authorities and, eventually, a secret detention of 81 days from April 3, 2011 to June 22, 2011. His passport remains held by the government to this day. Despite his travel restrictions, Ai continues to develop projects and showcase his works on the international stage.

  • Alan Kay
    Computer Scientist

    Alan Kay is best known for pioneering the ideas and development of personal and laptop computers, and the inventions of the now ubiquitous overlapping-window interface (GUI), and modern object-oriented programming, as part of the larger Advanced Research Projects Agency and Xerox PARC research communities. He likes to say "No one owes more to his research community than I do".

    His deep interests in developing children's learning and thinking were the catalysts for these ideas, and they continue to inspire his research. He has intertwined "the Arts"—professional jazz musician in his early years, composing, deep involvements in theater and design, and in the present is an avid classical pipe organist—and "the Sciences" (which are also Arts)—with a B.A. in Mathematics and Molecular Biology, with concentrations in Anthropology and English from the University of Colorado at Boulder, M.S. (1968) and Ph.D degrees in Computer Science from the University of Utah.

    Recognition includes the ACM's Turing and Software Systems Awards, National Academy of Engineering's Draper Prize, the Kyoto Prize, and other awards and honorary degrees. He is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, the National Association for the Advancement of Science, the Royal Society of Arts, and the Computer History Museum.

  • Alfre Woodard

    Alfre Woodard's work as an actor has earned her an Oscar nomination, four Emmy Awards, seventeen Emmy nominations, three Screen Actors Guild Awards, and a Golden Globe. Her body of work includes her Oscar-nominated performance in Martin Ritt's Cross Creek, HBO's Mandela, Lawrence Kasdan's Grand Canyon, John Sayles' Passion Fish, Joseph Sargent's Miss Evers' Boys—for which she won an Emmy, SAG, and Golden Globe Award—Spike Lee's Crooklyn, Gina Prince-Bythewood's Love and Basketball, Tyler Perry's The Family That Preys, and Maya Angelou's Down in the Delta. Her television roles include Betty Applewhite on Desperate Housewives and Ruby Jean Reynolds, mother to Lafayette Reynolds, on True Blood. Woodard co-starred as Ouiser in the Lifetime remake of Steel Magnolias, for which she was nominated for a Screen Actors Guild and Emmy Award and won an NAACP Image Award. She appeared in 12 Years a Slave, directed by Steve McQueen, which won an Oscar for Best Picture. She currently stars as POTUS in the NBC drama series, State of Affairs. In addition to her acting career, Woodard is a longtime activist. She co-founded Artists for a New South Africa, a nonprofit working to reverse the spread of HIV/AIDS and further the cause of democracy and human rights in South Africa. In 2009, President Barack Obama appointed her to the President's Committee on the Arts and Humanities. As part of her work on the committee, Woodard has adopted several high-poverty and under-performing public schools around the country, including ReNew Cultural Arts Academy in New Orleans and Noel Community Arts School in Denver. She is an active advocate for the arts in education, largely through her work on the Committee's Turnaround Arts initiative.

  • Beau Willimon
    Playwright and screenwriter

    Screenwriter, playwright, and producer Beau Willimon is the creator of Netflix's original series "House of Cards" for which he serves as showrunner and executive producer. "House of Cards" made television history in its first season, earning nine Emmy nominations, including Best Drama, the first online streaming show to ever be so honored. Since then the show has garnered multiple Emmy, Golden Globe and Producers Guild, and SAG-AFTRA and WGA nominations, and gone on to win in many categories.

    Willimon's play "Farragut North" became the basis for the motion picture screenplay "Ides of March," which he co-wrote with George Clooney and Grant Heslov. The film earned Willimon Academy Award®, Golden Globe and BAFTA nominations for Best Adapted Screenplay.

    His recent stage productions include "The Parisian Woman" (South Coast Rep, 2013) and "Breathing Time" (Fault Line Theatre, 2014). He currently has play commissions at South Coast Rep and the National Theatre of Great Britain.

    Willimon was a recipient of the Lila Acheson Wallace Juilliard Playwriting Fellowship, named 2008 Playwright-in-Residence at the Donmar Warehouse, and he is a two-time winner of the Lincoln Center Le Comte du Nouy Award.

    Willimon is the co-founder of Westward Productions, a film and television production company. Through Westward Productions, Willimon is currently producing several documentaries. One of them – about adventurer Karl Bushby's quest to walk around the world on foot – will air on National Geographic this year.

    A St. Louis native, he now resides in Brooklyn, NY.
  • Betsy DeVos
    Summit Chair

    Betsy DeVos is Chairman of The Windquest Group (TWG). TWG is a Michigan-based, privately held enterprise and investment management firm with diversified projects in technology, manufacturing, clean-tech and nonprofit solutions. Active in politics since college, Betsy DeVos was elected chairman of the Michigan Republican Party four times, serving as chairman nearly six years between 1996 and 2005. Her political involvement has spanned more than 30 years and includes numerous leadership roles with campaigns, party organizations, and political action committees. Betsy is also active in her community. She currently chairs the American Federation for Children and serves on a number of other national and local boards including ArtPrize, Philanthropy Round Table, Foundation for Excellence in Education and the DeVos Institute for Arts Management at the University of Maryland. A graduate of Holland Christian High School and Calvin College, Betsy and her husband Dick have two daughters, a daughter-in-law, three granddaughters, two sons, two sons-in-law and one grandson.

  • Camille Zamora
    Co-Founding Director, Sing for Hope

    Camille Zamora is the Co-Founding Director of Sing for Hope, a leading non-profit that brings arts outreach programs to communities in need, and presents initiatives – including NYC's summertime street pianos – that make the arts accessible to all. An internationally acclaimed soprano, she has appeared with ensembles including London Symphony and Glimmerglass Opera and with collaborators ranging from Plàcido Domingo to Sting. A graduate of The Juilliard School, she has performed recitals on five continents and live concerts on NPR, BBC Radio, Deutsche Radio and Sirius. She has been recognized by the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and named one of CNN's Most Intriguing People, NY1's "New Yorker of the Week" and one of the "Top 50 Americans in Philanthropy" by Town&Country. A regular contributor to The Huffington Post and a leading voice in the "artist as citizen" discussion, Camille has performed and spoken at the Fortune Most Powerful Women's Summit, Aspen Ideas and The United Nations.

  • Damian Woetzel (Arts Summit Co-Director)
    Director of the Aspen Institute Arts Program

    Damian Woetzel, director of the Aspen Institute Arts Program, has taken on multiple roles in arts leadership since retiring from a twenty-year career as principal dancer at New York City Ballet. In addition to his work for the Aspen Institute, he is the artistic director of the Vail International Dance Festival and the founding director of the Jerome Robbins New Essential Works Program. Also active as a director and producer, his recent projects include tributes to ballerinas Natalia Makarova and Patricia McBride for the 35th and 37th Kennedy Center Honors,and the award-winning show Lil Buck @ (le) Poisson Rouge. Woetzel holds a Master in Public Administration degree from Harvard's Kennedy School of Government and has taught as a visiting professor at Harvard Law School. In 2009, President Obama appointed Woetzel to the President's Committee on Arts and Humanities. He will be awarded the Harvard Arts Medal in April 2015.

  • Darren Walker
    President, Ford Foundation

    Darren has been connected to the Ford Foundation nearly all his life. Ford-sponsored programs made his education possible, from the inaugural class of Head Start in 1965 to Pell Grants that helped him earn undergraduate and law degrees at the University of Texas. After a decade on Wall Street, he went to Harlem to serve as COO of the Abyssinian Development Corporation, a Ford grantee. Following eight years in urban development, he was recruited to the Rockefeller Foundation, where he rose to vice president for U.S. and international programs. He joined the Ford Foundation as vice president in 2010, and was named president in 2013. Today he guides a global social justice institution with $12 billion in assets and $500 million in annual grants. He serves on numerous boards and is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.

  • David Brooks
    Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times

    David Brooks became an Op-Ed columnist for The New York Times in September 2003. He is currently a commentator on "The PBS Newshour," NPR's "All Things Considered" and NBC's "Meet the Press." He is the author of "Bobos In Paradise: The New Upper Class and How They Got There" and "On Paradise Drive: How We Live Now (And Always Have) in the Future Tense." In March of 2011 he came out with his third book, "The Social Animal: The Hidden Sources of Love, Character, and Achievement," which was a number 1 New York Times bestseller. Mr. Brooks also teaches at Yale University, and is a member of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences. Born on August 11, 1961 in Toronto, Canada, Mr. Brooks graduated a bachelor of history from the University of Chicago in 1983. He became a police reporter for the City News Bureau, a wire service owned jointly by the Chicago Tribune and Sun Times. He worked at The Washington Times and then The Wall Street Journal for 9 years. His last post at the Journal was as op-ed editor. Prior to that, he was posted in Brussels, covering Russia, the Middle East, South Africa and European affairs. His first post at the Journal was as editor of the book review section, and he filled in as the Journal's movie critic. He also served as a senior editor at The Weekly Standard for 9 years, as well as contributing editor for The Atlantic and Newsweek.

  • David M. Rubenstein
    Chairman of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts

    David M. Rubenstein is a Co-Founder and Co-CEO of The Carlyle Group, one of the world's largest private equity firms. Mr. Rubenstein co-founded the firm in 1987. Since then, Carlyle has grown into a firm managing more than $176 billion from 34 offices around the world.

    Mr. Rubenstein, a native of Baltimore, is a 1970 magna cum laude graduate of Duke, where he was elected Phi Beta Kappa. Following Duke, Mr. Rubenstein graduated in 1973 from The University of Chicago Law School, where he was an editor of the Law Review.

    From 1973-75, Mr. Rubenstein practiced law in New York with Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison. From 1975-76 he served as Chief Counsel to the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on Constitutional Amendments. From 1977-1981, during the Carter Administration, Mr. Rubenstein was Deputy Assistant to the President for Domestic Policy. After his White House service and before co-founding Carlyle, Mr. Rubenstein practiced law in Washington with Shaw, Pittman, Potts & Trowbridge (now Pillsbury, Winthrop, Shaw Pittman).

    Mr. Rubenstein is Chairman of the Boards of Trustees of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and Duke University, a Regent of the Smithsonian Institution, Vice-Chairman of the Boards of the Council on Foreign Relations and the Brookings Institution, and is President of the Economic Club of Washington.

    Mr. Rubenstein is on the Board of Directors or Trustees of Johns Hopkins University, University of Chicago, the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, Johns Hopkins Medicine, the Institute for Advanced Study, the National Museum of American History of the Smithsonian Institution and the National Museum of Natural History of the Smithsonian Institution.

    Mr. Rubenstein is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Business Council, Visiting Committee of the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, the Harvard Business School Board of Dean's Advisors, the Woodrow Wilson School Advisory Council at Princeton, the Board of Trustees of the Young Global Leaders Foundation, Advisory Board of School of Economics and Management Tsinghua University, the Madison Council of the Library of Congress, and the International Business Council of the World Economic Forum.

    Mr. Rubenstein is married to Alice Rogoff Rubenstein, and they have three grown children.

  • Deborah F. Rutter (Arts Summit Co-Director)
    President of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts

    Deborah F. Rutter began her tenure as President of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts on September 1, 2014. Known for emphasizing collaboration, innovation, and community engagement, she is considered one of the most influential arts administrators in the nation. As president of the Kennedy Center, Ms. Rutter is the artistic and administrative director of the world's busiest performing arts center, managing all facets of the facility, including expansive theater, contemporary dance, ballet, chamber music, and jazz seasons as well as its affiliates the National Symphony Orchestra and Washington National Opera. The Center encompasses one of the nation's largest arts education programs, reaching millions of people of all ages each year, and includes VSA, the international organization on arts and disability. From August 2003 through June 2014, she served as president of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association (CSOA), employing her dynamic influence to further enhance the Chicago Symphony Orchestra's reputation as one of the world's most highly acclaimed orchestras. As CSOA president, Ms. Rutter oversaw the operations of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (CSO), Symphony Center Presents, the Institute for Learning, Access and Training (including the Civic Orchestra of Chicago), and the Chicago Symphony Chorus. The management of the renowned Symphony Center facility, and its extensive presentations of chamber music, jazz, and eclectic performances from around the world, was also under her direction. Prior to her position in Chicago, she has served as executive director of the Seattle Symphony, executive director of the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, and the orchestra manager of the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

  • Eric Liu
    Founder and CEO, Citizen University

    Citizen University is a national nonprofit that promotes and teaches the art of powerful citizenship ( Eric Lius is also the founding executive director of the Aspen Institute's Citizenship & American Identity Program. Liu's books include the national bestsellers The Gardens of Democracy, and The True Patriot, both co-authored with Nick Hanauer, and his most recent, A Chinaman's Chance: One Family's Journey and the Chinese American Dream. Liu served as a White House speechwriter for President Bill Clinton and later as the President's deputy domestic policy adviser. He and his family live in Seattle, where he serves on numerous civic and nonprofit boards and teaches courses on civic leadership at the University of Washington. A columnist for and a correspondent for, Eric can be found on Twitter @ericpliu.

  • Heather Raffo
    Award-winning Iraqi-American playwright

    Heather Raffo is an award-winning Iraqi-American playwright and actress who has spent the last decade performing off Broadway, off West End in regional theater and in film. She is the author and solo performer of the play 9 Parts of Desire (Lucielle Lortel and Susan Smith Blackburn awards, Drama League, OCC, Helen Hayes nominations), which The New Yorker called "an example of how art can remake the world". The play ran off Broadway for nine months and has played across the U.S. and internationally over the last ten years. In 2009, Heather created a concert version of the play for The Kennedy Center's Arabesque Festival with renowned Iraqi maqam musician, Amir ElSaffar.

    Currently she can be seen in the newly released film Vino Veritas. And her libretto for the opera Fallujah, detailing the life of a US Marine who served in the Iraqi city in 2004, was recently heard as part of Kennedy Center's International Theater Festival. Most recent NYC acting credits: Food and Fadwa, NYTW; Palace of the End (Drama League Nomination), Epic Theater Center; Seven, Skirball, Aspen Ideas Festival, London's House of Lords.

    Raffo is the recipient of two grants from the Doris Duke Foundation to use theater as a means of bridge building between her Eastern and Western cultures. Through this grant she has developed a storytelling workshop, Places of Pilgrimage, focusing on personal narrative, which she has taken to universities and community centers both in America and in the Middle East. Through this grant she is also re-imagining A Doll's House from a Middle Eastern perspective and working on her adaptation from an embedded position within the communities where she works.

  • Howard Gardner
    Hobbs Professor of Cognition and Education, Harvard Graduate School of Education

    Howard Gardner is the John H. and Elisabeth A. Hobbs Professor of Cognition and Education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. He also holds positions as Adjunct Professor of Psychology at Harvard University and Senior Director of Harvard Project Zero. Among numerous honors, Gardner received a MacArthur Prize Fellowship in 1981 and the University of Louisville's Grawemeyer Award in Education in 2000. He has received honorary degrees from thirty colleges and universities, including institutions in Bulgaria, Chile, Greece, Hong Kong, Ireland, Israel, Italy, South Korea, and Spain. He has twice been selected by Foreign Policy and Prospect magazines as one of the 100 most influential public intellectuals in the world. In 2011, Gardner received the Prince of Asturias Award for Social Sciences, and in 2015, he was awarded the Brock International Prize in Education.The author of twenty-nine books translated into thirty-two languages, and several hundred articles, Gardner is best known in educational circles for his theory of multiple intelligences, a critique of the notion that there exists but a single human intelligence that can be adequately assessed by standard psychometric instruments. During the past two decades, Gardner and colleagues at Project Zero have been involved in the design of performance-based assessments; education for understanding; the use of multiple intelligences to achieve more personalized curriculum, instruction, and pedagogy; and the quality of interdisciplinary efforts in education. Since the middle 1990s, in collaboration with psychologists Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and William Damon, Gardner has directed the Good Project, a group of initiatives that investigate work, collaboration, citizenship, digital life, and more. Recently, with long time Project Zero colleagues Lynn Barendsen and Wendy Fischman, he has conducted reflection sessions designed to enhance the understanding and incidence of good work among young people. With Carrie James and other colleagues at Project Zero, he is also investigating the ethical dimensions entailed in the use of the new digital media. Among new research undertakings are a study of effective collaboration among non-profit institutions in education; a study of conceptions of quality, nationally and internationally, in the contemporary era; and a major study of the traditional 4-year residential college experience. His latest book with co-author Katie Davis, The App Generation: How Today's Youth Navigate Identity, Intimacy, and Imagination in the Digital World, was published in October 2013. In 2014, in honor of Gardner's 70th birthday, his Festschrift entitled Mind, Work, and Life was published and is available for free electronically.

  • Johnny Gandelsman

    Johnny Gandelsman's musical voice reflects the artistic collaborations he has been a part of since moving to the United States in 1995. Through his work with such artists as Yo-Yo Ma, Bono, Osvaldo Golijov, David Byrne, Bela Fleck, Kayhan Kalhor, Suzanne Vega, James Levine, Mark Morris, Alim Qasimov and Fargana Qasimova, Nigel Kennedy, and Martin Hayes, Gandelsman has been able to integrate a wide range of creative sensibilities into his own point of view. Combining his classical training with both a desire to reach beyond the boundaries of the concert hall and a voracious interest in the music of our times, Johnny has developed a unique style among today's violinists, one that, according to the Boston Globe, possesses "a balletic lightness of touch and a sense of whimsy and imagination." A passionate advocate for new music, Johnny has premiered dozens of works written for Brooklyn Rider and Silk Road Ensemble. In 2012–2013, he premiered works by Lev "Ljova" Zhurbin, Dmitri Yanov-Yanovsky, Vijay Iyer, Bela Fleck, Daniel Cords, Rubin Kodheli, Dana Lyn, Gabriel Kahane, Colin Jacobsen, Shara Worden, John Zorn, Christina Courtin, Ethan Iverson, Padma Newsome, Gregory Saunier, Evan Ziporyn, Bill Frisell, and Nik Bartsch, as well as a violin concerto by Gonzalo Grau, commissioned for Johnny by Community Music Works. Johnny was born in Moscow into a family of musicians. His father Yuri is a professor of Viola at Michigan State University, his mother Janna is a pianist, and his sister Natasha is a violinist as well. Johnny lives in Brooklyn.

  • Kate Levin
    Former Commissioner of the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs

    Kate D. Levin served as Commissioner of the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs from 2002-2013. Managing the largest single arts funder in the U.S., she increased the number of nonprofit cultural organizations receiving support and average grant awards by over 30%, as well as creative sector participation in economic development, tourism, human service and education initiatives. During her tenure capital funding recipients tripled, expanding the agency's oversight of planning, design and financing for cultural construction projects—directing over $3 billion for projects in neighborhoods across the city. Technology improvements streamlined application procedures and data collection, and capacity building programs strengthened non-profit leadership. Levin oversaw the city's permanent public art commissioning program, and helped develop and promote numerous temporary exhibitions and performances. She worked to create several new cultural districts and organizations, extending New York's vitality and impact as a world cultural capital. A former Professor of English at City College/CUNY, Levin also served in the administration of Mayor Ed Koch.

  • Karlyn Boens
    Poet, Young Chicago Authors

    Karlyn Boens was born and raised on the West side of Chicago, Illinois and currently lives in Bellwood, Illinois. She attends George Westinghouse College Prep and in the fall will matriculate at Trinity Christian College, a private liberal arts school in Palos Heights, Illinois. She plans to study social work and English. Since her freshman year of high school, she has participated in Louder Than A Bomb, a poetry festival run by Young Chicago Authors, which seeks to transform the lives of young people and their communities by bringing together participants through writing, publication, and performance education for civic discourse and community celebration. Louder Than a Bomb is the largest youth poetry festival in the world. Founded in 2001, the annual event attracts around a thousand participants from 120 schools. Last summer, after representing Young Chicago Authors at the Aspen Ideas Festival, Karlyn returned to complete YCA’s Guthman internship, during which time she wrote her first chapter book of nostalgic poems, Finding Bethany.

  • Maz Jobrani
    Actor, Comedian, Founding Member of the Axis of Evil Comedy Tour

    Maz Jobrani is a founding member of The Axis of Evil Comedy Tour which first aired on Comedy Central. He has had two Showtime specials, Brown and Friendly and most recently, I Come In Peace. His book I'M NOT A TERRORIST BUT I'VE PLAYED ONE ON TV, published by Simon & Schuster, is now available in book stores and online at Maz performs stand-up live around the world, including the Middle East where he performed in front of the King of Jordan. He has also performed stand up on THE TONIGHT SHOW and THE LATE LATE SHOW WITH CRAIG FERGUSON. Most recently, Maz starred as the title character in the award-winning indie comedy, JIMMY VESTVOOD: AMERIKAN HERO, a film which he co-wrote and produced. He can next be seen (Summer 2015) playing the role of Jafar (from Aladdin) in the Disney movie, THE DESCENDANTS. With over 50 guest star appearances, Maz can regularly be seen on television's most popular shows. Recent guest stars include MISSION CONTROL, TRUE BLOOD, and SHAMELESS. Maz has been featured on CNN, the BBC, The New York Times, and Time Magazine. He has also given two TED talks on breaking stereotypes through comedy. He is a regular panelist on NPR's WAIT WAIT DONT TELL ME.

  • Megan Smith
    United States Chief Technology Officer, Office of Science and Technology

    United States Chief Technology Officer, Office of Science and Technology In September 2014, President Obama named Megan Smith to her current post, serving in this role as an Assistant to the President. Smith focuses on how technology policy, data, and innovation can advance the future of our nation. Megan Smith is an award-winning entrepreneur, engineer, and tech evangelist. She most recently served as a Vice President at Google, first leading New Business Development-where she managed early-stage partnerships, pilot explorations, and technology licensing across Google's global engineering and product teams for nine years-and later serving as a VP in the leadership team at Google[x]-where, among other projects, she co-created the company's "SolveForX" innovation community project as well as its "WomenTechmakers" tech-diversity initiative. She led Google's acquisitions of major platforms such as Google Earth, Google Maps, and Picasa. Megan previously served as CEO of PlanetOut, a leading LGBT online community in the early days of the web that broke through many barriers and partnered closely with AOL, Yahoo!, and MSN. Megan was part of designing early smartphone technologies at General Magic and worked on multimedia products at Apple Japan. Over the years, she has contributed to engineering projects such as an award-winning bicycle lock, space station construction program, and solar cookstoves. She was a member of the MIT student team that designed, built, and raced a solar car two thousand miles across the Australian outback. Megan has served on the boards of MIT, MIT Media Lab, MIT Technology Review, and Vital Voices; also as a member of the USAID Advisory Committee on Voluntary Foreign Aid and as an advisor to the Joan Ganz Cooney Center and the Malala Fund, which she co-founded. She holds a bachelor's and master's degrees in mechanical engineering from MIT, where she completed her master's thesis work at the MIT Media Lab.

  • Michael J. Sandel
    Anne T. and Robert M. Bass Professor of Government, Harvard University.

    Michael Sandel teaches political philosophy at Harvard University.  He has been described as “the most relevant living philosopher,” a “rock-star moralist,” (Newsweek) and “the most popular professor in the world.” (Die Zeit)
    His writings—on justice, ethics, democracy, and markets--have been translated into 27 languages. His legendary course “Justice” is the first Harvard course to be made freely available online and on television.  It has been viewed by millions of people around the world, including in China, where he was named “the most influential foreign figure of the year”(China Newsweek).

    Sandel’s books include What Money Can’t Buy: The Moral Limits of Marketsand Justice: What’s the Right Thing to Do? They relate the big questions of political philosophy to most vexing issues of our time and challenge us to reason together about our moral and civic disagreements.

    In his books and public lectures, Sandel relates philosophy to the dilemmas we confront in our everyday lives. In an Aspen Institute Arts event in New York’s Central Park, he led a public forum with Matt Damon and other actors on Shakespeare, money, and morals. Recently, in London, he led a discussion of democracy at Parliament with members of the House of Commons and the House of Lords.

    Sandel’s global lecture tours have taken him across five continents and packed such venues as St. Paul’s Cathedral (London), the Sydney Opera House (Australia), and an outdoor stadium in Seoul (S. Korea), where 14,000 people came to hear him speak. 

  • Oskar Eustis
    Artistic Director

    Oskar Eustis has served as the Artistic Director of The Public Theater since 2005. He came to The Public from Trinity Repertory Company in Providence, RI where he served as Artistic Director from 1994 to 2005. Eustis served as Associate Artistic Director at Los Angeles’ Mark Taper Forum from 1989 to 1994, and prior to that he was with the Eureka Theatre Company in San Francisco, serving as Resident Director and Dramaturg from 1981 to 1986 and Artistic Director from 1986 to 1989.

    Eustis is currently a Professor of Dramatic Writing and Arts and Public Policy at New York University, and has held professorships at UCLA, Middlebury College, and Brown University, where he founded and chaired the Trinity Rep/Brown University Consortium for professional theater training.

    Throughout his career, Eustis has been dedicated to the development of new plays as a director, dramaturg, and producer. At The Public, Eustis directed the New York premieres of Rinne Groff’s Compulsion and The Ruby Sunrise, and Larry Wright’s The Human Scale. At Trinity Rep, he directed the world premiere of Paula Vogel’s The Long Christmas Ride Home and Tony Kushner’s Homebody/Kabul, both recipients of the Elliot Norton Award for Outstanding Production. While at the Eureka Theatre, he commissioned Tony Kushner’s Angels in America, and directed its world premiere at the Mark Taper Forum. Eustis has also directed the world premieres of plays by Philip Kan Gotanda, David Henry Hwang, Emily Mann, Suzan-Lori Parks, Ellen McLaughlin, and Eduardo Machado, among many others.

  • Ron “Prime Time” Myles

    Ron “Prime Time” Myles was born and raised in Memphis, Tennessee, in a neighborhood called Orange Mound. Growing up the only dancer in the area, Myles has described his friends and family as his greatest inspiration and motivation. In 2009, Myles moved to Los Angeles with his cousin and close friend Charles “Lil Buck” Riley, and since then has become one of the premier interpreters of the style of dance known as Memphis jookin, often in partnership with Riley. Myles appeared as a featured dancer in the 2011 film Footloose and has starred in several commercials, including for Diet Pepsi (alongside Sofia Vergara) and Adidas Originals. He appeared in a TED Talk and and headlined evenings at the Vail International Dance Festival, where he also worked with children from the Celebrate the Beat program, the Colorado affiliate of the National Dance Institute which offers hundreds of students in the Vail Valley intensive music and dance classes in a week-long summer residency.

  • Sarah Lewis
    Art historian and a Du Bois Fellow at Harvard University

    Sarah Lewis is an art historian and a Du Bois Fellow at Harvard University. She received her bachelor's degree from Harvard University, an M. Phil from Oxford University, and her Ph.D. from Yale University.

    Her second book, focused on the role of photography in the exposing the fiction of racial categories, is under contract with Harvard University Press. Her essays on race, contemporary art and culture have been published in many journals as well as The New Yorker, Artforum, Art in America and in publications for the Smithsonian, The Museum of Modern Art, and Rizzoli.

    She has served on President Obama's Arts Policy Committee and as a Trustee of Creative Time, The CUNY Graduate Center, the Brearley School, and the Andy Warhol Foundation of the Visual Arts. She has also held curatorial positions at The Museum of Modern Art, New York and the Tate Modern, London.

    She is also the author of The Rise: Creativity, the Gift of Failure, and the Search for Mastery (Simon & Schuster), a layered, story-driven investigation of how innovation, discovery, and the creative progress are all spurred on by advantages gleaned from the improbable foundations. She lives in New York and Cambridge, MA.

  • Sonia Sotomayor
    Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court

    Sonia Sotomayor was born in Bronx, New York, on June 25, 1954. She earned a B.A. in 1976 from Princeton University, graduating summa cum laude and receiving the university's highest academic honor. In 1979, she earned a J.D. from Yale Law School where she served as an editor of the Yale Law Journal. She served as Assistant District Attorney in the New York County District Attorney's Office from 1979–1984. She then litigated international commercial matters in New York City at Pavia & Harcourt, where she served as an associate and then partner from 1984–1992. In 1991, President George H.W. Bush nominated her to the U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, and she served in that role from 1992–1998. She served as a judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit from 1998–2009. President Barack Obama nominated her as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court on May 26, 2009, and she assumed this role August 8, 2009.

  • Spike Lee
    Founder, 40 Acres and a Mule Filmworks

    Spike Lee is a Writer-Director, Actor, Producer, Author and Educator who has helped revolutionize Modern Black Cinema. Lee is a forerunner in the 'Do It Yourself' school of independent film. Spike has recently finished his Kickstarter funded Da Blood of Sweet Jesus. Prior to this, was the release of the reinterpretation of the Korean Psychological Thriller Oldboy and Mike Tyson Undisputed Truth, a videotaping of Mike Tyson's Broadway show. An avid Knick fan, Spike will begin hosting a 1-hour bi-weekly sports-talk "Spike Lee's Best Seat In Da House" show featuring discussions on various news and topics concerning basketball and the NBA in January 2014. Lee received a Peabody Award for the Documentary If God is Willing and Da Creek Don't Rise, which revisits the recently storm-ravaged Gulf Coast region as residents attempt to rebuild in their cities while also demanding assistance and accountability from their political leaders. Recent Critical and Box Office successes have included such films as Inside Man, 25th Hour, The Original Kings of Comedy, Bamboozled and Summer of Sam. Lee's films Girl 6, Get on the Bus, Do the Right Thing and Clockers display his ability to showcase a series of outspoken and provocative Socio-Political critiques that challenge Cultural assumptions, not only about Race, but also Class and Gender identity. Lee began teaching a Course on Filmmaking at Harvard in 1991, and in 1993 he began as a Professor at New York University's Graduate Film Program Tisch School of the Arts where he received his Master of Fine Arts in Film Production. In 2002, he was appointed the Artistic Director of the Graduate Film Program. Spike Lee has combined his extensive creative experience into yet another venture: partnering with DDB Needham, he created Spike/DDB, a full-service advertising agency.

  • Split This Rock: The DC Youth Slam Team

    The DC Youth Slam Team, a program of Split This Rock, uses poetry as a tool to educate and empower DC area youth on issues of social justice. Through free weekly writing workshops, exposure to professional poets, monthly open mics, poetry slams, and annual travel to regional and national competitions, the program offers training and performance opportunities for talented teenagers to develop their writing and public speaking skills. The team has performed at many renowned venues such as The Kennedy Center of the performing Arts and The State Theatre in South Africa. The DC Youth Slam Team is the current world champion of the 2014 Brave New Voices International Youth Poetry Slam Festival.

  • Walter Isaacson
    President & CEO, The Aspen Institute

    Walter Isaacson is the president and CEO of the Aspen Institute, a nonpartisan educational and policy studies institute based in Washington, DC. He has been the chairman and CEO of CNN and the editor of TIME magazine. Isaacson's new book, The Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution (October 2014) is a biographical tale of the people who invented the computer, Internet and the other great innovations of our time and will be a must-read from Wall Street to Silicon Valley to Main Street. He is the author of Steve Jobs (2011), Einstein: His Life and Universe (2007), Benjamin Franklin: An American Life (2003), and Kissinger: A Biography (1992), and coauthor of The Wise Men: Six Friends and the World They Made (1986). Isaacson was born on May 20, 1952, in New Orleans. He is a graduate of Harvard College and of Pembroke College of Oxford University, where he was a Rhodes Scholar. He began his career at The Sunday Times of London and then the New Orleans Times-Picayune/States-Item. He joined TIME in 1978 and served as a political correspondent, national editor, and editor of new media before becoming the magazine's 14th editor in 1996. He became chairman and CEO of CNN in 2001, and then president and CEO of the Aspen Institute in 2003. He is chair emeritus of Teach for America, which recruits recent college graduates to teach in underserved communities. He was appointed by President Barack Obama and confirmed by the Senate to serve as the chairman of the Broadcasting Board of Governors, which oversees Voice of America, Radio Free Europe, and other international broadcasts of the United States, a position he held until 2012. He is vice-chair of Partners for a New Beginning, a public-private group tasked with forging ties between the United States and the Muslim world. He is on the board of United Airlines, Tulane University, and the Overseers of Harvard University. From 2005–2007, after Hurricane Katrina, he was the vice-chair of the Louisiana Recovery Authority.

Travel and Accommodations

Travel and lodging are not included in the registration fee. The Kennedy Center has booked courtesy holds with the Mandarin Oriental to reserve a limited number of special-rate rooms for participants. All bookings are available on a first-come, first-served basis.

Preferred Hotels

Ask for the "Kennedy Center/Aspen Institute Arts Summit Rate"

Mandarin Oriental Hotel

1330 Maryland Ave SW, Washington, DC 20024

Deluxe Rate of $345.00 per night plus tax

Tai Pan Deluxe Rate of $445.00 per night plus tax. Includes access for two (2) daily to the Tai Pan Club Lounge

Executive Suite Rate at $465.00 per night plus tax or with Tai Pan Access $565.00 per night plus tax.

Please visit the following link to book a room using our special rate for Arts Summit attendees:

Additional Accommodation Options

For information on hotel accommodations near the Kennedy Center please click here:


  • Saturday May 16th

    9:00am - 5:00pm, with lunch $200
  • To register please call 202.416.8394 or email

Schedule of Events

Saturday, May 16, 2015

9 a.m.
Registration/Coffee (States Gallery)
9:30 a.m.
Welcome (Theater Lab)
Betsy DeVos, Deborah Rutter, Damian Woetzel
Johnny Gandelsman and Ron "Prime Time" Myles
9:50 – 11 a.m.
Education (Theater Lab)
Karlyn Boens, Howard Gardner, David Rubenstein, Split This Rock DC, Damian Woetzel, Alfre Woodard and Camille Zamora
11 a.m. - 12:15 p.m.
Technology (Theater Lab)
Walter Isaacson, Alan Kay, Sarah Lewis, and Megan Smith
12:15 - 1:25 p.m.
Lunch (Roof Terrace Restaurant)
Michael Sandel
Kate Levin, Darren Walker and Beau Willimon
1:35 - 2:40 p.m.
Free Speech (Theater Lab)
David Brooks, Oskar Eustis, Johnny Gandelsman, Kate Levin, Heather Raffo, Justice Sonia Sotomayor, and Ai Weiwei (via video)
2:40 – 3:45 p.m.
Race (Theater Lab)
Maz Jobrani, Spike Lee and Darren Walker
3:45 - 4:45 p.m.
Closing (Theater Lab)
Eric Liu
Musicorps with Camille Zamora
4:45 – 6 p.m.
Cocktail Reception (Terrace Gallery)
DC Youth Orchestra Violin Quartet


  • Saturday May 16th

    9:00am - 5:00pm, with lunch $200
  • To register please call 202.416.8394 or email