Promoting Civil Discourse
On February 26, 2010, Ted Tedesco stood in front of a crowd of 400 professionals, students, and local leaders in Santa Barbara, Calif., and asked them to think back to the year 2000: “What if we’d held a meeting then?” he asked. “Could anyone have predicted the next 10 years?”
The World Trade Center attack, wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, hurricane Katrina, oil spills, economic collapse, climate change—why did we seem so ill-prepared for these situations? “Are we prepared for what the next 10 years might offer?” he asked the crowd. “How do we think about these things now?”
To initiate the process, Tedesco founded the Santa Barbara Institute for World Affairs (SBIWA), a non-profit organization promoting civil discourse and a deeper understanding of contemporary global and national issues.
At the opening forum in February 2010, experts spoke on such issues as human rights, globalization, and the future of money. Audience members were invited to interact directly with the speakers, fostering a discourse on a survey of world issues.
Tedesco has always had a strong interest in public affairs. After he graduated from URI with a political science degree, one of his former professors, John Stitely, suggested that he look into a career in city management. Tedesco went on to work as city manager in Enfield, Conn., Boulder, Colo., and San Jose, Calif. Later he became vice chancellor of the University of Colorado and eventually vice president, corporate affairs of American Airlines.
After retiring in 1998, Tedesco sustained his interest in public affairs and public management, culminating in the founding of SBIWA in 2010: “I was very concerned about the apparent polarization throughout our nation,” he explains. “No civil discourse by our leaders, as well as ourselves, could take place, yet we needed exactly that kind of discussion to answer our nation’s problems.”
SBIWA will hold its next session this fall, dealing with issues surrounding China and its relationship with the U.S.
To view videos from the previous sessions go to sbiwa.org.
—Bethany Vaccaro ’06