19th Ave New York, NY 95822, USA

Mission Statement

Mission Statement

We aim to strengthen our students’ capacities for public discourse, enabling them to serve as better citizens, civic leaders, and stewards of our democracy.

We foster civic virtue and democratic citizenship by promoting the rhetorical dimensions of civic engagement, including speech, dialogue, argumentation, and debate. We utilize such tools as essential means of facilitating robust public deliberation.

The integrity of public deliberation is predicated upon mutual respect for the truth, competing perspectives, the deliberative process, and one another, i.e., civility. We define civility as an active commitment to recognizing the humanity and legitimacy of one’s interlocuters, and we recognize civility as a precept to the free and open exchange of ideas.

Ideas matter because they have consequences. To produce better ideas, we must learn how to think critically. Critical thinking is a social and communicative activity that requires an appetite for difficult dialogue and even agonistic debate. Thus, to serve the public good, citizens must learn how to argue effectively.

Democracy requires its participants to make and evaluate claims about the world. To make a claim persuasive, one must support it with compelling reasons, undergirded by public knowledge and adapted to its audience and situation. Conversely, the capacity to evaluate an argument effectively requires sound reasoning and an optimal balance of curious and critical listening.

Our commitment to cultivating rhetorical acumen is wide-ranging. We mentor students through extracurricular programming. We assist faculty in incorporating deliberative practices into the classroom. We host public events featuring speakers who demonstrate the transformative potential of agonistic dialogue, i.e., collaborative disagreement.

Above all, we strive to cultivate an ethos of engaged citizenship by facilitating proto-public spaces for students to practice public discourse while heightening their democratic sensibilities.