Steamboat Institute to hold annual conference in Beaver Creek again
Beaver Creek allows for more space, but the group still wants to bring high profile events to Steamboat Springs in the future.
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to clarify Alan Dershowitz has been a part of previous events, but is not slated to speak at this year’s conference.
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — For the second year in a row, the Steamboat Institute will host its annual conference in Beaver Creek rather than the town the organization is named after.
“We have not made any decisions past this summer. I can’t tell you what we are going to do next year,” said Jennifer Schubert-Akin, co-founder, chairman and CEO of the Steamboat Institute. “People love Steamboat and so do we. Steamboat will always be included in our plans one way or another.”
The conservative-leaning, nonprofit organization based in Steamboat Springs moved its annual Freedom Conference to Beaver Creek last year amid the pandemic. The move allowed the group to space out guests more at the conference because Beaver Creek has a larger conference center than anything locally, Schubert-Akin said.
When planning for the 13th iteration of the conference this winter, Schubert-Akin sent out a survey to guests of last year’s conference, many of them from Steamboat. She said people overwhelmingly wanted to stay in Beaver Creek, and the space also allows them to spread out if COVID-19 protocols are still required in August.
Since it was founded in 2008, the Steamboat Institute has come a long way from offering lift tickets to entice speakers to come up to Steamboat. Schubert-Akin has op-eds published in newspapers on the Front Range and in Washington, D.C.
This year’s conference will feature Mike Pompeo, former U.S. Secretary of State during the Trump administration, and previous events have featured Alan Dershowitz, former President Donald Trump’s lawyer during the his first impeachment.
The hallmark of the group recently has been a series of debates it is calling the Campus Liberty Tour at colleges across the country. Topics have ranged from socialism versus capitalism, creating a wealth tax and popular vote versus Electoral College for deciding elections, among others.
One debate set for Monday night at the University of Colorado Boulder will focus on social justice and identity politics with two Black speakers: Wall Street Journal columnist and editorial board member Jason Riley and longtime Democratic Party strategist Donna Brazile. Debates featuring people on both sides of the political spectrum have been increasingly a focus for the Steamboat Institute.
“(What) I am really against is people who spend all their time in echo chambers and only listen to people who think like they do. I think that is boring and unproductive,” Schubert-Akin said. “If we are ever going to bridge some of the divides in this country, we’ve got to get people with different viewpoints to come together and talk about things.”
Sure, part of the debates are to persuade people to come around to seeing issues the way the Steamboat Institute does, but the larger point is just to get people talking, Schubert-Akin said.
Spending time on campuses for the debates, she said she finds that college students are generally very open-minded. Organizers for these debates work to get qualified people to argue each side of an issue because it will get students from both sides to show up as well.
“You will get kids on both the left and the right who are very willing to attend if they think the viewpoints are going to be presented fairly on both sides,” Schubert-Akin said.
This was particularly notable for Schubert-Akin when they hosted a series of debates on globalism versus capitalism with former Mexican President Vicente Fox and Brexit leader Nigel Farage. Neither students on the left or the right would likely have come to see the speakers of the opposing view individually, but together, they bring a wide variety of students across the thought-spectrum.
She hopes it will help students realize the importance of substantive conversations with those who disagree and will better prepare them to solve problems.
“When you spend all of your time being angry and just telling the other side that they are stupid, you are not going to see a lot of progress that way,” Schubert-Akin said.
The group does still host events in Steamboat, with the most recent one being at the Steamboat Grand in March. Schubert-Akin said they hope to bring either the Freedom Conference back or bring a higher profile debate to Steamboat in the future.
The Steamboat Institute has employees based around the country, and Schubert-Akin is quick to point out they have been working remotely since long before the pandemic. Still, she says there are a lot of local people that are active in the group.
Though they have grown to take on a more national presence, Schubert-Akin said there would never be talk of changing the group’s name to have more national appeal.
“The Steamboat Institute is an idea, not a place,” Schubert-Akin said. “Steamboat is a special place; we would never ever change the name.”
To reach Dylan Anderson, call 970-871-4247 or email danderson@SteamboatPilot.com.
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