As the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum prepares to celebrate the 50-year anniversary of the moon landing, its director Dr. Ellen Stofan knows the milestone is as important to the future as the past.
“A young girl who comes in to the museum to celebrate [the moon landing anniversary] … I want her to be the first person to walk on Mars,” said Dr. Stofan (pictured above) in an interview last week at The Atlantic Festival in Washington, D.C.
For the past 10 years, the Festival has brought together leaders in business, politics, technology and the arts to “grapple with the most consequential issues of our time.” This year it featured discussion ranging from space flight to racial justice to artificial intelligence to the #MeToo movement, and more.
U.S. Bank was an underwriter of the festival and its Chief Social Responsibility Officer Reba Dominski (pictured below), Chief Ethics Officer Katie Lawler and Chief Communications Officer Dana Ripley hosted discussions throughout the week.
In kicking off a panel focused on how private business can be an agent for social good, Dominski said, “Strong business is inextricably linked to strong communities.”
Throughout the Festival, The Atlantic editors and other journalists led fireside chat-style interviews to illuminate ideas that drive intersections between those oft-parallel paths: business and good; humans and machines; Republicans and Democrats; football and safety; women and men – the list goes on. Here’s a snapshot of the conversations:
Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson talked about undergoing companywide anti-bias training earlier this year after a manager called the police on two African American men waiting in a store to meet with a business associate. (“Taking something terrible and turning it into something good,” he reflected.)
Architect Bjarke Ingels described what it took to build a ski slope on top of a power plant in Copenhagen or a Sistine Chapel-esque art display under a high-rise in Vancouver. (“Hedonistic sustainability,” he called it.)
Patagonia Vice President of Environmental Affairs Rick Ridgeway gave an update on the company’s progress since running the first commercial – a stand on environmental policy – in its 44-year history last year. (“We have never been more successful as a business than we are right now,” he shared.)
B Lab Chief Marketing Officer Anthea Kelsick (pictured above on right) spoke about how the nonprofit behind the B Corp certification is instilling the notion of corporate social responsibility in future business leaders (“We’re working with universities to create curriculum, programs and internships,” she explained.)
Author Deray Mckesson recalled pausing his life to head to Ferguson in the unrest of 2014. (Regarding Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s famous quote that the arc of the moral universe is long but bends toward justice, he expanded, “The arc bends because people bend it.”)
Of course, a nation’s most pressing social issues aren’t solved during a three-day festival. But one theme from the event was that with the right people at the table, nothing is out of reach.
For proof, there are moon dust-covered space boots at the Air and Space Museum.
As Dr. Stofan said it, “[We’re telling] the story of the human struggle against gravity.”
Story by Pat Swanson of U.S. Bank. Photos of Dominski, Kelsick and table group by Kris Tripplar.