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PBS’s Heffner to Speak on Civil Discourse Sept. 11 at UW

July 24, 2018
man sitting in a chair, talking into a microphone
Alexander Heffner

Alexander Heffner, the host of PBS’s “The Open Mind,” will be a keynote speaker for a program on civil discourse at the University of Wyoming Sept. 11.

The Malcolm Wallop Civic Engagement Project and UW Presidential Engagement Initiative, in collaboration with the College of Arts and Sciences, Center for Global Studies, and School of Politics, Public Affairs and International Studies, is partnering with the Wyoming Humanities Council, Wyoming PBS and Wyoming Public Radio to host Heffner for a public discussion on “Civil Discourse in an Uncivil Age: The Quest for a Post-Partisan Citizenship.” The event, which is free and open to the public, will start at 5:30 p.m. in the College of Arts and Sciences auditorium.

Additionally, the program will be live-streamed through Wyoming PBS’s website,, and be the focus of a future episode of “Wyoming Chronicle” on Wyoming PBS, making participation in the public forum widely available to students and citizens across the state. 

Heffner will present a keynote address, followed by a panel discussion with notable Wyoming political figures and public servants. The program will discuss the effects of divisiveness on discourse and governance and the impact of social media, fake news and filter bubbles that polarize information intake. What are possible prescriptions to correct this vicious cycle? How can our footprint translate into pro-social instead of anti-social behavior? How can the press restore faith in civic life and the construction of public policy?

Heffner (@HeffnerA) is the host of “The Open Mind” (@OpenMindTV) on PBS and co-author of “A Documentary History of the United States” (Penguin 2018). He has covered American politics, civic life and millennials for leading newspapers and magazines. He founded and edited the first-ever online national student newspaper covering the 2008 presidential campaign and the Obama presidency. His work has been profiled in The Washington Post, the New York Times and The Los Angeles Times.

He has lectured at the Kinder Institute for Constitutional Democracy at the University of Missouri; the Post-Truth Initiative at the University of Sydney; and the Center for Information and Bubble Studies at the University of Copenhagen, among other institutions of learning. He directed a civic education initiative for which he taught in underserved classrooms and was the political director for WHRB 95.3 FM.

A native New Yorker, Heffner is a graduate of Phillips Academy in Andover, Mass., and Harvard. More information on Heffner can be found at

“The Open Mind” is a nationally broadcast public affairs interview program and the longest running in the history of American public television. First broadcast in May 1956, this "thoughtful excursion into the world of ideas" across politics, media, technology, the arts and realms of civic life is broadcast from New York City. To ensure geographic diversity and representation, Heffner has taken his show on the road to meet with people at universities across the country, including at the University of Missouri, the Maxwell School at Syracuse University and the Annenberg School at the University of Southern California. More information on “The Open Mind” can be found at

The UW Presidential Engagement Initiative acknowledges the focus in UW’s strategic plan, “Breaking Through: 2017-2022,” on initiatives that impact Wyoming communities. It also acknowledges the anticipated launch in January of UW’s new Office of Engagement and Outreach to facilitate UW’s relationships with Wyoming communities.

The Wallop Civic Engagement Project offers an opportunity to build upon the legacy of U.S. Sen. Malcolm Wallop’s distinguished career as a public servant. Wallop’s life was about conversations around ideas, and the Wallop Civic Engagement Project honors that legacy, providing a platform for those making the effort to learn and champion their beliefs.

This event is sponsored, in part, by Wyoming Humanities through a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to the “Democracy and the Informed Citizen” initiative of the state humanities councils of the United States.

For further information on the program and other coming initiatives, call Jean Garrison, director of the Center for Global Studies, at (307) 766-6119 or email

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