Some might find it hard to believe that our small town has one of the country's best lecture series, but it's true.

Of course, New Albany was built on aspirational ideas.

Based on the quality of its speakers, continued sellouts, accessible ticket prices and an audience that increasingly is drawn from the broader region, New Albany's Jefferson Series rivals lecture series presented in New York, Los Angeles and the finest colleges and institutes in America.

The New Albany Community Foundation recently announced the speakers who will appear as part of the 2018-19 season.

Speakers include:

* Dr. Sanjay Gupta, a neurosurgeon and Emmy Award-winning chief medical correspondent for CNN.

* A National Security Townhall panel featuring Stephen Hadley, a former U.S. national-security adviser; Samantha Power, a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations; retired Gen. Michael Hayden, former director of the CIA and the National Security Agency; and moderator Fareed Zakaria, a columnist and host of CNN's Fareed Zakaria GPS.

* Glenn Close, an award-winning actress and mental-health advocate.

* Noah Feldman, a Harvard law professor and Bloomberg columnist, with Jeffrey Toobin, a CNN senior legal analyst and best-selling author.

Close is the fourth Jefferson Series speaker with a focus on mental health and well-being. She follows Mariel Hemingway, Patrick Kennedy and Elizabeth Vargas.

The community foundation is working with the New Albany-Plain Local School District and the new Well-being Initiative to advance the well-being of students.

Gupta will focus on health issues, and the town-hall discussion marks the second consecutive year the foundation has presented a high-powered panel to cover the myriad of national-security challenges facing our country.

Finally, Feldman and Toobin will be the first speakers to appear as part of the New Albany Center for Civil Discourse and Debate.

The center is being established by Barb and Phil Derrow and their family to provide a platform for students and residents to come together and discuss opposing views freely, passionately and respectfully. It will provide a forum in which everyone can explore the multitude of views that exist on sometimes controversial topics and ultimately arrive at their own opinions.

Most would agree that the discourse in America has become divisive, negative and filled with vitriol and personal attacks. The Derrows hope to demonstrate that we, as a community, can debate the issues in a respectful manner, based on facts rather than personal attacks.

Each year, as part of the New Albany Center for Civil Discourse and Debate, the community foundation will present opposing views on a timely issue. We anticipate that this first forum featuring Feldman and Toobin will focus on free speech.

I want to thank the Derrows and all of the Jefferson Series sponsors and foundation donors for supporting lifelong learning opportunities made accessible to all residents of the community and thousands of students from across central Ohio.

Look for tickets to go on sale in August. Gupta's lecture will get things started Sept. 13.

Lynne Smith is a member of the New Albany Community Foundation board of trustees.