Stepping into an event at which the cream of the intellectual world were speaking, or in attendance, is simply a privilege beyond words. The amount of sheer influence, whether political or financial, was so palpable you could nearly reach out and cup a little helping into your hands, even if it was only to savor that fleeting moment. Simply put, I was star struck, but beyond the glitz, glamour, and prestige; at its core, Aspen Ideas Festival was an event that brought to the mainstage our nation’s deepest needs for unity, equity, and wellbeing. The strongest kernel of truth from that day has resonated, entirely. Regardless of social stance, all in attendance, whether spectator or speaker, were actively pursuing strategies in developing a more inclusive America. 

Out of all the speakers, from last Wednesday’s sessions, former United States Secretary of The State John Kerry had the most impactful message, by far. He spoke to our nation’s turbulent political arena, instability, and the level of manipulation that has taken place this past year and a half. We’re living in a time where our rights, specifically from our Latino Communities, are being brazenly stripped away for the world to see. He believes that the only solution is to create policies that ensure the wellbeing of our neighbors to the south – Mexico, El Salvador, Honduras, and Central America as a whole. 

Rather than acting in violence, however, John Kerry spoke to the strength of utilizing the power of civility to enact change. He assured everyone that only speaking of civility will achieve nothing. As a nation, from its roots in American communities, we must exhaust every possibility for diplomacy and respect for all our neighbors, regardless of ethnicity or political affiliation. In summary, we must take ownership, not only of our strengths, but also our shortcomings, if we hope to make a positive change in the lives of everyone. We must do something and that more than likely is a simple hello, or kind gesture, to someone who’s different than you. 

Working at YouthZone, under United Way Battlement of The Bells as an AmeriCorps Vista Volunteer, I’ve seen that exact message in use daily, for nearly eight months now. It’s one of YouthZone’s most prominent policies; we never turn anyone away, for any reason. It doesn’t matter who you are. It doesn’t matter how much money you may, or may not, have and whatever you’re experiencing, big or small, is important to us as well. These are the spaces that the most tangible change can take place, within the structures of our local support networks and it’s up to our communities, like The Roaring Fork Valley, to continue actively supporting our neighbors; not just talking about it. 

Thanks to the generosity of Comcast and NBC, our local United Way Battlement to The Bells had the privilege of attending Aspen Ideas Festival 2018. Thank you, Comcast and NBC, for supporting our local nonprofits.