Imagine a place where retired-four-star General Stanley McChrystal, warmly shakes your hand and insists you call him Stan. He means it, too, joking when the word general pops out of your mouth while you position him properly in front of the cameras for a brief interview. He wants to talk about getting young people involved in public service through a program where they would dedicate a year of their lives to improving the country. But he’s game to talk about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, too. He served in both — becoming the man in charge in Afghanistan before comments he made to Rolling Stone that were critical of the Obama administration ended up costing him his job.
McChrystal makes a strong impression, and a positive one. And he’s not the only one who wants to talk with at least the appearance of frankness. In Aspen, Colorado, for the 10 days of the annual Ideas Festival, we’re all equals — of a sort. In my five days there, I met no one who wanted to be called mister, senator or any other title. It was first names all around, with the good and great wearing khakis, or even shorts. If people were trying to impress, it was mostly through trying hard to not impress at all.
The people I, Andy Sullivan, Lily Jamali and Zach Goelman interviewed work in the fields of art, science, international affairs, politics and romance. We’re all Reuters journalists with more than 50 years of experience among us. We’ve all interviewed interesting and powerful people before, but never such a diverse group in such a beautiful setting, nor in such quick succession.
Below are some of the things we took away:
Frank Underwood isn’t evil — at least not according the man writing House of Cards, Beau Willimon
How are things going in Colorado six months after marijuana became legal? It’s no a-pot-calypse