05/03/2011 03:12 pm ET Updated Jul 02, 2011

Milken Conference 2011

Monday marked the first morning of the 2011 Milken Conference, a four-day long event hosted by the Milken Institute at the Beverly Hilton Hotel. Thousands of top-tier entrepreneurs, executives, philanthropists, forward-thinking academic experts, journalists, senior foreign and U.S. government officials, scientists and Nobel laureates congregate this week to discuss today's most pressing social, political and economic challenges. The Milken Institute states, "Discussions delve into the issues deeply enough to produce meaningful insights. Participants don't just debate the issues — they help move policy toward realistic solutions. Whether the challenge is market stability, energy security or health care."

This week panelists spoke on numerous topics that included, Retirement (In)Security, The Future of Print, The Future of Wall St., Small-Cap High-Yield Outlook, Next-Generation Biofuels, The New Economics of Food, Slowing Climate Change: Plan B, Recovery in Real Estate. Panelists included Alan Schwartz of Guggenheim Partners, TPG's David Bonderman, NYSE CEO Duncan Niederauer, Joseph Dear CIO calPERS, Ariel Emanuel Co-CEO WME Entertainment, and Adrian Fenty Former Mayor, Washington, D.C.

Focused primarily on the current state of our world, the conference was infused with elements of camaraderie and humor. At The Promise of Medical Science after a heated debate on breast cancer statistics with Susan Desmond-Hellman, Nobel Laureate James Watson asserted, “The erectile dysfunction drugs are the great triumph, at least for people my age--they have had a few winners.” The crowd erupted in laughter.

Monday afternoon at Energy Security, BP Capital founder, T. Boone Pickens’ monologue lasted for forty of the seventy allotted minutes regardless of his fellow panelists Gary Doer, Michael K. Wirth, R. James Woolsey sitting beside him. Pickens captivated the packed audience in declarative moments such as, “the energy table is not very big, but we don’t have a seat,” and humorous ones “Ethanol—it’s an ugly baby, but it’s our baby.” His biggest crowd pleaser was when he said with a smile, “You know, you can say anything with a smile and its okay.”

Education reform took the spotlight when panelists Craig Barrett, Eli Broad, Jeb Bush, Allan Golston, and Randi Weingarten took the stage at Ensuring American Students Remain Competitive. The audience grew very quiet as moderator Lowell Milken approached the podium. He dissolved any tensions in the room by intentionally skipping Eli Broad’s introduction. When he had finished with the other panelists biographies and achievements, Milken paused, “and Eli.” Craig Barrett playfully slapped Broad on the back and the entire room cheered. The K-12 themed dialogue touched on the conflicts within the domestic education systems, the competitions of international efforts, and what to do next.

Tuesday afternoon, "The Future of Print," stirred up some controversy as James Crawford (Engineering Director of Google Books), Steve Ennen (President and CIO of Social Strategy1), Bethlam Forsa (EVP of Global Product and Content Development for Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), and Jane Friedman (co-Founder and CEO of Open Road Integrated Media, former President and CEO, HarperCollins Publishers Worldwide) met to evaluate the next chapter of publishing. Questions of copyright infringement, e-book advances, and the iPad's ability to salvage publishing had the audience chomping at the bit to ask the panel questions. After being prompted to discuss the financial compensation of e-book and print-on-demand contacts, Friedman' announced that "after three months we sent someone a check for seventy-five thousand." Much more profitable than a generic ten thousand dollar book advance, and it is accompanied by digital marketing cutting edge digital marketing strategies.

The conference was expansive, to say the least, with iconoclasts from business and social ventures across myriad genres engaged in unforgettable conversations. NBA Hall-of-Famer and former Los Angeles Clipper, Bill Walton spoke at the annual Pavilion talk, a more casual event Monday evening. He recalled the late John Wooden's last public appearance at an awards dinner wherein Wooden stood up an announced, "I made a mistake. I forgot to include the word love in the Pyramid of Success." In a way, that too sums up the conference. It is clear that there is a love for innovation, education, and reformation at the Global Conference that will most certainly maintain throughout the next few days.

The Milken Institute's live Global Conference feed can be read via Twitter and #GC2011.