Sometimes it's not what you know, but who you know.
And in the case of a group of part-time Steamboat Springs residents, some of their friends, acquaintances and colleagues happen to be renowned experts in particular areas of public policy.
Bringing those experts to Steamboat to engage the community in relevant and timely discussions of policy issues is the goal behind Seminars at Steamboat, a series of talks that begins next week when U.S. District Judge Andre Davis hosts a discussion titled "Terrorism and the Courts since 9/11: A View From the Federal Bench." The seminar is scheduled at 4 p.m. Thursday in Centennial Hall.
This is the second year of Seminars at Steamboat, which kicked off last summer with two discussions; one led by Joseph Nye, dean of the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, and the other led by a group of panelists that included Sara McLanahan, director of the Center for Research on Child Wellbeing at Princeton University and Irwin Garfinkel, an economist and professor of contemporary urban problems at Columbia University.
In addition to Davis' discussion of terrorism and how the judicial system is responding to corresponding legislation and issues, Seminars at Steamboat will feature two discussions relevant to the upcoming elections.
The first, scheduled for Aug. 6, is titled "Foreign Policy in an Election Year." Strobe Talbott, president of The Brookings Institution, author, founding director of the Yale Center for the Study of Globalization and a former State Department official and Time magazine reporter, editor and columnist, will lead the discussion.
The second, scheduled for Aug. 12, is titled "Why the American Electorate is So Polarized." E.J. Dionne, a nationally syndicated columnist for The Washington Post, an author and a senior fellow at The Brookings Institution, will lead that discussion.
"E.J. Dionne is really a first-class political columnist," said Jim Goodrich, one of the Steamboat residents responsible for organizing Seminars at Steamboat. "We think these topics are really timely, and that's what gets people interested. These are people you'd get an audience for anywhere."
Bob Stein, another Seminars at Steamboat founder, said attendees needn't expect a political debate or partisan discussion.
"We recognize the difference between policy and politics," Stein said. "What we're bringing to Steamboat are people discussing policy issues. It isn't whether someone is a Republican or a Democrat."
The speakers' visits to Steamboat can be directly attributed to their friendships with Seminars at Steamboat organizers, particularly Belle Sawhill, a part-time resident who is a senior fellow and vice president at The Brookings Institution. Judge Davis is an acquaintance of Bob and Jane Stein.
The hope of the series' founders is that support for the program will grow to a level where notable policy experts who aren't connected to members of the Routt County community can be brought to Steamboat to share wisdom and ideas.
"We're starting out relatively slow and trying to see what the acceptance level is," Goodrich said. "People do like to come to Steamboat, but not everyone who isn't a friend will be willing to come here for free."
"We have a limit on our number of friends," he added.
Seminars at Steamboat is relying on financial and other contributions, such as lodging and activities, to support the series.
"We have really been heartened so far by the financial support from the community," Bob Stein said. "We have gotten superb cooperation from the city in making Centennial Hall available for us."
In an ideal situation, Seminars at Steamboat eventually will need a new home.
"Our hope is that we'll outgrow (Centennial Hall)," Bob Stein said.
Each seminar is free to anyone interested, but donations are encouraged. Each seminar is scheduled for 4 p.m. at Centennial Hall. A question-and-answer session will follow each discussion.
For more information about the series or for how to become a contributor to Seminars at Steamboat, contact Goodrich at goodrichjw @aol.com.