Walter Isaacson

Biographer, former editor of Time, former president of the Aspen Institute, professor of history at Tulane University

My vision of a more unified and less polarized America is one in which we each personally make a concerted effort to be more open-minded, curious, and willing to challenge our own assumptions. That was why the young Benjamin Franklin added “humility” to the list he drew up of the virtues we need to nurture in ourselves in order to be good citizens.

Walter Isaacson, a professor of history at Tulane, has been the CEO of the Aspen Institute, where he is now a Distinguished Fellow, the chairman of CNN, and the editor of TIME magazine. He is a host of the show “Amanpour and Company” on PBS and CNN, a contributor for CNBC, and host of the podcast “Trailblazers, from Dell Technologies.” He is also an advisory partner at Perella Weinberg, a financial services firm based in New York City. Isaacson is the author of The Code Breaker: Jennifer Doudna, Gene Editing, and the Future of the Human Race (2021), Leonardo da Vinci (2017), The Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution (2014), Steve Jobs (2011), Einstein: His Life and Universe (2007), Benjamin Franklin: An American Life (2003), and Kissinger: A Biography (1992), and coauthor of The Wise Men: Six Friends and the World They Made (1986).

Isaacson was born on May 20, 1952, in New Orleans. He is a graduate of Harvard College and of Pembroke College of Oxford University, where he was a Rhodes Scholar. He began his career at The Sunday Times of London and then the New Orleans Times-Picayune. He joined TIME in 1978 and served as a political correspondent, national editor, and editor of digital media before becoming the magazine’s 14th editor in 1996. He became chairman and CEO of CNN in 2001, and then president and CEO of the Aspen Institute in 2003.

He is chair emeritus of Teach for America. He was the vice-chair of the Louisiana Recovery Authority, which oversaw the rebuilding after Hurricane Katrina. He was appointed by President Barack Obama to serve as the chairman of the Broadcasting Board of Governors, which runs Voice of America, Radio Free Europe, and other international broadcasts of the United States. He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Royal Society of the Arts, the American Philosophical Society, and the Society of American Historians, of which he served as president in 2012. He serves on the board of United Airlines, Halliburton Labs, and Bloomberg Philanthropies.