This week, Johns Hopkins University announced a $150 million gift from the Stavros Niarchos Foundation to establish an interdisciplinary center for public discourse and the exchange of ideas. In ancient Greece, the agora was the center of civic life; likewise, Hopkins hopes the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Agora Institute will serve a similar purpose—to foster civic discussion of divisive issues as a way to communicate differing perspectives.
OSI-Baltimore director Diana Morris welcomed the idea of a center for civic debate, saying it would benefit all of Baltimore. “We know that a good democracy is inclusive,” she told the Baltimore Sun. “That means being open to new ideas. From those new ideas, we often can come up with innovation and different approaches.”
Since 2009, OSI has been hosting the Talking About Race series, a forum—free and open to the public—to help spark conversations and the exchange of ideas about how race intersects with our lives. OSI also helped to establish the Baltimore Urban Debate League in 1999 as a way to improve educational outcomes for Baltimore City Public School students.