2019 Words to the Wise Interview with Sponsor & Board Member, James F. Basile

Tell me about the importance of SVUDL and its programs in our community today: 

It’s very important. One of the largest problems facing our nation and Silicon Valley is increasing inequality.  High school debate, especially for the students SVUDL serves, is one of the most powerful tools to battle inequality. 

SVUDL gives students a booster shot of the support, training and coaching that kids who are born into wealth and privilege are handed as a matter of course. And that booster shot of debate and speech nurtures the very skills, talents and qualities essential to opportunity and mobility in career, education and life - critical thinking, research, public speaking, skills and habits of preparation and time management, using technology and information, winning and losing, and working together on a team.  Perhaps most important, it gives students a sense of confidence that they can compete and find their own unique voices to change their community and be leaders. No local philanthropic investment can better attack inequality and create opportunity.    

What are your hopes and dreams for the organization’s future?

The most important goal is increasing the number of students in our program.  The more students we can serve, the greater our impact will be.  There is a tremendous ripple effect.  The student touches his/her family and their community.  Each SVUDL student’s growth and confidence, in turn, fosters more hope and opportunity for everyone around them. We need to sustain the financial wherewithal to increase that impact by further bolstering our support and coaching staff.

 Why are you committed to the success of the Words to the Wise event?

The Words to the Wise event is a way for SVUDL to forge a path to increase our already incredible impact.  What better way to spread the word of SVUDL?  We can increase our base of connected people in the community who can contribute financially as well as offer their own skills and resources.

This is our first major event outside of the legal community, our natural ally, because we teach what lawyers do in their jobs every day. This is phase two. We are out of start-up mode. We’ve seen that our model works, and it works well.  Now we need to expand, and to network to identify even more allies in the community. This is a fantastic way to reach them.

Why do you hope other companies, law firms and even individuals will support the event?

Everybody talks about where their own volunteer and philanthropic efforts can have the most macro impact on the planet. But we can’t overlook what’s happening in our own backyard.

Over the last few decades, the Bay Area has seen the largest accretion of wealth in the history of the world.  Yet many people are struggling in this sea of prosperity. Right here in our communities, people can’t afford housing, medical care, or proper schooling. Their children often are denied the resources needed to move forward with the same opportunity and confidence others are so fortunate to have.

Those who live and work in this area have a responsibility to contribute to efforts that improve life right here. And SVUDL touches absolutely anything you’d want to impact as a philanthropist in the valley. Why? Because SVDUL addresses the key issues from education and equity to building a future diverse pipeline of qualified employees for all kinds of jobs. In short, SVUDL should be at the top of your list if you are thinking about how to make such an impact.


Thank you to our Words to the Wise Platinum Sponsor, Kirkland & Ellis LLP