Story and photos by Sharon King Hoge
Kent Presents 2018
Travel offers a variety of luxury experiences and along with the likes of five-star palace hotels, cruise ship penthouse suites, private safaris, there is the luxury of hobnobbing with international influencers. Kent Presents, a Festival of Ideas, invites participants to interact with distinguished laureates and prize winners, ambassadors and politicians, distinguished journalists, curators, authors, and professors.
Held annually in northwest Connecticut and modeled after the Aspen Ideas Festival, it attracts attendees from all around the US -- California and New Orleans, Boston and New York-- who check into local inns and hotels and come to the Kent School campus ready to be dazzled by new ideas.
For three summer days, distinguished speakers the likes of Nobel laureates Henry Kissinger and Harold Varmus, Pulitzer Prize winners Jerry Saltz and Bret Stephens, Ambassadors Christopher Hill and Nicholas Burns, NY Times columnists Charles Blow and David Sangerappear on panels and discussions. Five to seven daily 45-minute sessions run two-at-a-time, so that participants ae confronted with choosing between tempting topics discussed back-to back and ranging all over the spectrum: immunotherapy, designer babies, Russia on top, Origami in science, cyber currencies, the contemporary art world, where is the Supreme Court headed, in Kent’s Mattison Hall and Recital Room.
Picking between them can be excruciating. 3D printing and nanomaterials vs. the social media crisis; the race to find planet #9 vs. Jasper Johns in America; psychedelics vs. the Middle East in turmoil. One of this year’s toughest choices was between a discussion of guns in America vs. 60 Minutes correspondent Lesley Stahl’s conversation with Henry Kissinger! Appearances by the Philobolus dance troupe and genius musician Wynton Marsalis closed out two respective days.
Surrounding the sessions are coffee breaks, meals, and receptions in which the participants have opportunities to interact one-on-one with the speakers. In contrast to often maligned school lunch fare, the meals and snacks prepared by the Kent School staff under the direction of CIA alumnus chef Darin Hudson are remarkably delicious. A jazz combo plays tunes during the cocktail reception.
Founded four years ago by local residents Ben and Donna Rosen, Kent Presents is designed to support local charities. Since part of each tuition contributes to grants made to over three dozen regional institutions, attendance is a luxury that reaps not only personal enrichment but good work as well.
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