Podius exists to help Americans preserve and strengthen their democratic institutions by championing intelligent and thoughtful civic discourse. The initial movement toward the development of Podius took place in 2000, when the Arthur N. Rupe Foundation (a private, non-operating charitable foundation in Santa Barbara, California) made its first major debate grant, endowing a civic debate program at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Since then, the Foundation has expanded its efforts to become the largest funder of debate in the country, funding debate programs that range in focus and scope from middle school urban debate camps to large-scale national debates. In 2014, Podius was created to help realize the purpose of growing debate in America by increasing the Foundation’s ability to connect with organizations and audiences who share our passion.
The art of persuasion and the interchange of conflicting ideas are fundamental to the American form of deliberative democracy. It is impossible to have a healthy society that arrives at good political and philosophical conclusions through discussion without citizens who are engaged with and thinking critically about the various issues relevant to their communities. Podius supports both competitive and public debate, believing that the education of the civic body is best achieved by teaching students to thoughtfully consider and defend both sides of a proposition, and by educating and informing the civic audience about the policies they will vote on and the issues that will affect their lives. Our goal is to get people thinking carefully, listening to each other, and testing out their ideas through reasoned discourse.