One needs only to tune in to the nightly news to appreciate how volatile the world is today.

Just weeks ago, the United States engaged in military actions in Syria and Afghanistan while tensions among the United States and Iran, North Korea, Syria and Russia escalated.

What an opportune time for a speaker the caliber of retired Gen. David Petraeus to visit New Albany.

And what an opportunity it was for students from New Albany and 15 other other local high schools to learn about global affairs.

The New Albany Community Foundation, through its Jefferson Series, hosted Petraeus April 26 for the student lecture and an evening lecture open to the public.

Petraeus has served as director of the Central Intelligence Agency and was a highly decorated four-star general, serving more than 37 years in the U.S. Army. His last assignments in the Army were as commander of the International Security Assistance Force and commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan.

Petraeus was interviewed by Dr. Peter Mansoor, a retired colonel in the U.S. Army and presently the Gen. Raymond E. Mason Jr. Chair of Military History at Ohio State University. Mansoor served as the executive officer to Petraeus during the surge of U.S. forces into Iraq in 2007 and 2008.

He authored the book, "Surge: My Journey with General David Petraeus and the Remaking of the Iraq War."

The community foundation donated hundreds of copies of Mansoor's book to the local high schools in advance of the student lecture.

Over the years, the community foundation has made it possible for more than 10,000 students to interact with influential thought leaders, such as Condoleezza Rice, David McCullough, Doris Kearns Goodwin, John Irving, Walter Isaacson, Michael Beschloss, James Bradley, Clarence Jones, Dr. Paul Farmer, Michael Pollan, Mariel Hemingway, Peggy Noonan and Patrick Kennedy.

A recent student lecture featuring Michael Sandel, an American philosopher and a Harvard political-philosophy professor, resembled a lecture class, with New Albany students engaging in debate and discourse facilitated by Sandel.

Community foundation leaders have been bringing compelling speakers to New Albany since 2002. Their vision was to engage the entire community in dialogue, to promote the exchange of ideas and to promote lifelong learning.

All of us who live in this extraordinary community are the beneficiaries of their vision and the generosity of donors and sponsors who make it all possible.

Jeff Rodek is a member of the New Albany Community Foundation board of trustees, a senior lecturer at the Fisher College of Business at Ohio State University and former chairman and CEO of Hyperion Solutions Inc. He and his wife, Christine, established an endowment fund at the community foundation to support the Jefferson Series.