The May 1 lecture featuring Harvard law professor and Bloomberg columnist Noah Feldman and CNN senior analyst and bestselling author Jeffrey Toobin brought to a close the 2018-19 Jefferson Series season.
It was another memorable season, with visits from health expert Dr. Sanjay Gupta, a national-security town hall featuring former United Nations ambassador Samantha Power, former CIA director Michael Hayden and former National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley and moderator Fareed Zakaria, and actress and mental-health advocate Glenn Close.
Not surprisingly, all the lectures sold out.
The New Albany Community Foundation also reached a milestone with its student-lecture program, surpassing 13,000 central Ohio students who have participated. The feedback from students, teachers and educators has been overwhelmingly positive. The speakers, too, have expressed how fun and rewarding it has been to interact with the students.
The Feldman/Toobin forum was special because it was the first program for the New Albany Center for Civil Discourse and Debate. The center was established by the Barbara W. and Philip R. Derrow Family Foundation to provide a platform for students and residents to come together and discuss opposing views freely, passionately and respectfully. It provides a forum where everyone can explore views on sometimes controversial topics and ultimately arrive at their own opinions.
We have all witnessed political discourse in our country descend into vitriolic, partisan and often personal attacks. We increasingly are divided into tribes defined by party affiliation, where we live, economic status, race, gender, education and other factors. Understanding that informed citizenry and good policy-making rely on an openness to consider other ideas and views, the Derrow family established the center and an endowment to support its mission.
The Derrows have been involved in the community before, supporting any number of community programs and initiatives. They viewed the Jefferson Series as an ideal platform to engage in this kind of community dialogue. The foundation's goal is each year to devote one Jefferson Series forum to present opposing views on a relevant issue or issues.
New Albany-Plain Local School District leaders are working on additional programs in the schools with the same objective. The goal is to model to students that controversial issues can be debated in a civil, respectful manner. Holding different views is OK, but it's imperative to consider other views and attempt to understand other perspectives. Moreover, it's important to be able to make sound arguments based on facts, as opposed to rhetoric, sound bites and personal attacks.
We're grateful to the Derrows for their vision, leadership and generosity. We're appreciative to all the Jefferson Series and "A Remarkable Evening" sponsors who make this kind of extraordinary programming possible.
Craig Mohre is president of the New Albany Community Foundation.