Cultivating Leadership: The Speaker Series
Events of recent weeks brought into focus this issue: How do we cultivate leadership that understands how to gather relevant, vetted evidence and utilize unbiased critical thinking to make decisions in the interest of the greater good.
Politics has gone from a place where people complained you could not tell the difference between the political parties to a point where the aisle between the parties is an ocean that a member of either party swims alone at their peril. In a time when our capacity to concentrate, engage in critical thinking, respectfully disagree, solve complex societal challenges, or even have confidence in shared information is declining, we need to assure future leaders come equipped for the task at hand.
The way to make change is to start locally. With the assistance of the University of Arizona Law School, the School of Journalism, and the School of Government and Public Policy, the schools have launched a Participatory Democracy Initiative. The purpose of the Initiative is to make a difference in practice by educating and developing students and the community to find ways out of the partisan thicket and share a common foundation for debate and rationally engaging in the challenges that lie ahead.
First, the Participatory Democracy Initiative in conjunction with the Pitt Family Foundation will bring four speakers (virtually) to our community this year. On Tuesday, January 26th at 5:30 p.m., Eddie Glaude, Jr., the Chair of the African American Studies Department at Princeton University, will discuss the challenges that face our democracy, particularly in the African American community.
On Tuesday, February 23rd at 12:15 p.m., Ezra Klein, the founder and Editor at Large of Vox and author of the book “Why We’re Polarized”, will recount how we became so polarized and ways to improve current dialogue. Mr. Klein’s work is based on a compendium of political and psychological studies and has included the work of University of Arizona professor Samara Klar.
On Tuesday, March 23rd at 5:30 p.m., Lawrence Lessig, a Harvard Law Professor and New York Times bestselling author, will speak to structural flaws in our current election system and the intersection of digital technologies and democracy.
On Thursday, April 22nd, Janet Napolitano will speak at 5:30 p.m. Ms. Napolitano has served as the Attorney General of the State of Arizona, the Governor of the State of Arizona, the Secretary of Homeland Security, and the 20th President of the University of California. Ms. Napolitano will speak from her vast array of practical experience in the lion’s den.
Additionally, there are core courses available to graduate students related to civic leadership, structure of government, mediation in the public setting, and effective communication in the public setting. Full disclosure, Sarah Gassen, the Editorial Page Editor of the Arizona Daily Star, will teach the effective communication course. Effective communication is evidence of deliberate thinking. By improving communication skills, we improve the ability to work through complex problems.
Finally, the Law School has students who will teach the Marshall-Brennan Program in Tucson. This program educates high school students about civics. The first cohort will launch this spring.
The University is committed to bring this curriculum to its students and the community at large. If you wish to attend any of the lecture series, register at: https://law.arizona.edu/news/2021/01/national-experts-discuss-law-and-democracy-university-arizona-law-speaker-series. We hope to see you there to raise the level of political communication, participation, and collaboration for common solutions locally, state-wide, and at the national level.