Rob LeVine: Looking Back on 45 Years of the Vail Symposium

Rob LeVine: Looking Back on 45 Years of the Vail Symposium


ROB LEVINE – Current Board Member and Treasurer

What years did you spend with the Vail Symposium and in what capacity?

As background, I believe the Antlers has supported the Symposium every single year since at least 1978, when I started here. It was 2003 when Ebby Pinson called me looking for another room for a Symposium speaker. This time I could hear more pain than usual in her voice, the obvious result of many hours spent calling around looking for this kind of support. As usual, I said “Yes”, but decided to mitigate her angst even further … I told her that if the Antlers could be the “Official Hotel of the Vail Symposium”, we would host (almost) all of their speakers from then on. She practically jumped through the phone lines to accept our offer.

Naturally, it wasn’t much later (six months?) before she and the board of directors asked me if I would join the board. Obviously they wanted to anchor that housing deal. The Antlers was happy to do it. In answer to your question – After serving on the board from 2004 – 2007, I accepted the position of Vice-Chairman. Jan Broman left the board as the Chair a short time later, so I became the Chairman from about 2008 – 2011. Jim Ruh followed me and Rohn Robbins followed him.  I have remained on the board as Treasurer during most of that time.

Who are your five favorite speakers to have visited the Vail Symposium stage?

(In the modern era … )
Ayaan Hirsi Ali (author of “Infidel”)

Alex Honnold (what a spectacularly unique talent)

Bill George (a “leadership” guru, who impressed on me the “residual” value of the Symposium)

Reza Aslan (renowned expert on Iran … One of the best public speakers of all time)

Michael Brown (filmmaker – the most humble, genuine and endearing guy you’ll ever meet)

Jamie Metzl (a perennial favorite, for his polished presentations and incredible knowledge)

(I know … that’s six, but I could go on …)

What are the three most important topics you feel the Symposium will need to address in the coming years?

International affairs and U.S. foreign policy

The dysfunction of U.S. political partisanship and possible solutions.

The Vail Valley’s role in helping to address big problems beyond our borders … environmental, political, race relations, respectful conversations and debates


Do you have a single favorite moment from your time spent with the organization? If so, what was it?  

Meeting and then introducing Ayaan Hirsi Ali … she was just so “larger than life” and yet so down-to-earth … all at the same time.

And, just for fun, what topics do you think the Symposium will be talking about in 2061 on its 90th birthday?

I’m always amused when I come across some Vail Valley publication from many years ago … So many of the topics of conversation are still the same.  It’s almost like the articles could have been written yesterday, rather than forty years ago.

I suspect we’ll be talking about many of the same topics that we’re discussing today. And that’s not meant to project futility … We will have made great progress, but some things just don’t go away.


Leave a Reply