If all goes as Ted Tedesco plans, Santa Barbara will soon become known as a center for global thought, and the former American Airlines executive just might save democracy along the way. That’s the hope for the Santa Barbara Institute on World Affairs, which Tedesco founded last year in order to bring prominent speakers to town, promote civil discourse from divergent standpoints, and engage the audience to ask questions and get involved in issues that matter. The Institute’s inaugural event will be on Saturday, February 26, at the Lobero Theatre, where experts from UCSB will present their views on a variety of relevant topics.

“Issues that need to be discussed and debated and decided have been so polarized that there’s very little room, if any, for civil discourse,” said Tedesco, who retired to Santa Barbara in 1995 and quickly became involved in civic affairs and charity work, “so I’m trying to structure this institute with a prime interest in developing that civil discourse.”

To ensure that the speaking engagements have impact, Tedesco—who may be best known around town for being the chair of the governor-appointed group that investigated the Santa Barbara County split—will inform the audience about each speaker in the days leading up to the event, plan for plenty of dialogue between the speakers and the audience, and then provide ways that attendees can follow up on the ideas or projects that inspired them. In addition, Tedesco will film, edit, and present the speeches as video clips and podcasts available for free download online via sbiwa.org.

The February 26 event will feature Mark Juergensmeyer on the planet’s next 10 years; Richard Falk and Hilal Elver on climate change; Richard Appelbaum on the rise of China and the implications for American foreign policy; Benjamin Jerry Cohen on the future of money; Eve Darian-Smith on human rights; Michael Curtin on media sources; Michael Stohl on shifts in political power; and Cynthia Stohl on cyber networks and the Internet’s impact on the world. Each speaker will have about 15 minutes to present, and then the audience will get to ask questions. The speeches will start at 9 a.m. and wrap up by around 1 p.m. Altogether, Tedesco says the morning’s varied topics will “set the stage for what we’re trying to accomplish with the institute.”

At the end of the day, Tedesco’s intent is to build the Santa Barbara Institute on World Affairs into something like the internationally renowned Aspen Institute. And he believes he can bring it, thanks in part to his varied career, which—in addition to his 14 years with American Airlines—includes work as a city manager in Boulder and San Jose and as a vice chancellor for the University of Colorado. That gives him valuable perspectives on modern life from the corporate, government, and educational perspectives, so he just might be able to attain his goal, which is “to be identified as a group that does things on a very sophisticated, knowledgeable basis with the best speakers we can find, while giving the community an opportunity to interact with those kinds of people.”


To register for the free lectures and to learn more about the Santa Barbara Institute on World Affairs, visit sbiwa.org. The first event takes place Saturday, February 26, at the Lobero Theatre, 33 E. Canon Perdido St.; 963-0761.


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