Tracey Flower: Looking Back on 45 Years of the Vail Symposium

Tracey Flower: Looking Back on 45 Years of the Vail Symposium


TRACEY FLOWER – Executive Director 2013-2015

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

2010-2015. I started at the end of 2010, in November of that year, as a Communications Intern. They needed extra help in the office in preparation for the 40th anniversary celebration in 2011 and I was looking for a cause to join and, well, it ended up being a pretty good fit. A year or so later I was hired on part-time, as Marketing & Development Associate and not too long after that I was offered a full-time position, where I did literally a little bit of everything; bookkeeping, speaker coordination, board meeting minutes, writing the brochure–you name it! At the end of 2013, the organization found itself in need of a new Executive Director and I was honored when they offered me the position; I served in that role for two years, from the beginning of 2014 to the end of 2015.

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

So hard to pick just five!

Majka Burhardt (Winter 2011)

Sanho Tree (Winter 2015)

Timothy Standring (Summer 2015)

Caroline Heldman (Winter 2015)

Erica Chenoweth (Winter 2015)

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

Global Climate Change: in particular the international relations side of it; what global regulations will it take to halt or reverse the effects, how nations are preparing to deal with climate refugees, etc.

American Politics: (is everyone cringing?) But, really, I don’t know how you can get away from it after this election. Whether its the phycology of voting, the electoral college, or the pitfalls of a two-party system, this stuff is so important and it’s relevant to literally everyone. I think it will be important for the Symposium to find a way to provide an opportunity for conversation around these topics.

Health for an Aging Population: whether it be breakthroughs in dementia research or even trends in senior care, these topics will be more and more relevant both nationally and locally as our population ages.

Sir Ken Robinson speaks to members of the Eagle County community on education, Friday, at Battle Mountain High School in Edwards. Robinson was brought in through Vail Symposium's "Educate!" program on how we need to change how we educate youth.

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

Well, there was that time I had to pick up an angry Barney Frank from the airport in my Surbaru…

Yes, though not a single moment per se: I always loved the moment a big program was finally off and running; the more chaos leading up to it, the better. There’s so much behind-the-scenes coordination that goes into bringing a program together and no two are the same, really. With a really popular program, you arrive in the office early the day-of the event and the phones are ringing off the hook, your email box is filling up, and you have a mile-long list of last-minute to do’s that have to get done to pull it all off and you have this moment where you think, there’s just no way this is all going to come together. And then, the next thing you know, you’ve got the venue ready to go, the house is packed, and the speaker takes the stage… and it’s just a little bit of magic, you know? That moment right after the speaker starts talking when you realize that it did all come together and it hits you that it was all worth it for this moment where you witness your community convening to learn and engage together.

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

Hmmm… I imagine there will continue to be a focus on the important local and national policy and social issues of the day, and there will definitely be continued conversation on education. But I also see a bigger focus on technology and science.


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