When Bezos Scholars arrive in Colorado for the Aspen Ideas Festival, they are introduced to a rarified air. It’s the altitude, sure, at just under 8,000-ft in the Rocky Mountains.
But it’s also rare to be among such a significant collection of creative artists, entrepreneurs, journalists, scientists, Supreme Court justices, and world leaders as those who attend or speak at the Festival. Many of these global notables even devote time to Scholars-only conversations where they discuss their lives and careers, answer questions, and offer advice.
Attendance at the Festival is often a time of “firsts.” Many students have never before seen the Rocky Mountains, or in the case of a few Scholars from the African Leadership Academy, snow! Some have never traveled without their parents. For educators, it’s a time that provides great rigor and intellectual freedom to support—but not chaperone—students.
Experiences range from simple “Aha moments” to life-changing, heart-stopping moments. Who can forget Justice Sandra Day O'Connor signing pocket-size copies of the U.S. Constitution for the 2011 Scholars? Who didn’t love when Scholars created a rowdy, rippling wave for ocean champion Sylvia Earle at a 2010 tent session? What about the hilarious scramble by 2008 Scholars to take a group photo with U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell Who wasn’t blown away by Jon Boogz and Lil Buck’s 2017 performance of “Color of Reality”?
And is there anyone who didn’t fall under the spell of Damian Woetzel, longtime principal dancer with New York City Ballet, who taught the first steps of the ballet Serenade! (music by Piotr Tschaikovsky; choreography by George Balanchine) to the audience at the 2008 opening ceremonies? Pure magic.
Think you know the Bezos Scholars Program? This trivia test illuminates some top Scholar moments at high altitude. Let’s get started!
Which Supreme Court Justices have spent time with Bezos Scholars?Sandra Day O'Connor with 2008 Bezos Scholars
Sandra Day O’Connor met with Scholars four different times, and even signed pocket-size copies of the U.S. Constitution for them.
Justice Stephen Gerald Breyer met with Scholars at two festivals.
How many Queens have the Scholars met?Her Majesty Queen Noor from Jordan with 2007 Bezos Scholars
The Scholars had a conversation with Her Majesty Queen Noor of Jordan in 2007.Joel Baraka with Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II
Which top journalists have spent the most time with Scholars?David Brooks with 2017 Bezos Scholars
David Brooks, New York Times columnist, has met with Scholars four times.Michele Norris, founder of The Race Card
Other noteworthy newsroom and studio pros include Katie Couric, longtime Today show host; , Washington Bureau Chief, USA Today; Thomas Friedman, New York Times columnist; Arianna Huffington, founder of Huffington Post; Brian Lehrer, host at WNYC/NPR; Michele Norris, former NPR host, founder, The Race Card Project; and Amanda Ripley) of Time, The Atlantic and more.
How many Presidents have Scholars met?President Obama speaking with the US Presidential Scholar Program group.
A few Scholars met President Clinton in 2008.
Additionally, Simon Bohme (2009) met President Obama when the president spoke at his high school graduation. Watch President Obama call out Simon at 3:27. Simon also appeared in an MTV video with President Obama, and served as a White House intern. Valerie Shen (2009) also met President Obama when she was part of the US Presidential Scholars Program.
Naturally, education is important to the Bezos Scholars Program. How many leaders in education have met with them?U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan with 2009 Bezos Scholars
U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan scheduled an hour to meet with 2009 Scholars, asked questions about their views on public education in America and listened to their responses. Scholars also met with Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings in 2008, with Braven founder Aimée Eubanks-Davis in 2017, and with top professors Howard Gardner, Adam Grant, Sherry Turkle and Philip Zimbardo; and with Wendy Kopp, founder of Teach for America, and CEO/co-founder of Teach for All.
While Bezos Scholars spend most of their time on the Aspen Institute campus, there are many off-campus adventures. Name two mountain adventures and one in-town spot we visit every year.2009 Scholars at Maroon Bells
The Aspen Center for Environmental Studies (ACES) at Hallam Lake
What’s the Scholars’ favorite end-of-day spot in downtown Aspen?2017 Scholars at Paradise Bakery
How many ice cream cones have Scholars consumed?
At least 354 ice cream cones from since 2005. Admittedly, we may be off by a few as some Scholars have eaten more than one!
What’s the highest elevation Scholars visit in Aspen?
Aspen Mountain reaches at 11,212 feet at the top.Aspen Mountain
Aspen Mountain reaches at 11,212 feet at the top.