Zale Lecture and Award 2023

By Mara Stojanovic, 2023

The Stanford Public Policy Program had the great honor of hosting Sam Liccardo, the former mayor of San Jose, for the 2023 Zale Lecture on May 2, 2023. Since 1980, the Morris B. and Edna Zale Lectureship has brought dedicated leaders, policymakers, and innovators from a broad spectrum of public and private life to campus. The Zale Lecture is open to the Stanford Public Policy community and has been presented by such distinguished speakers as Toni Atkins, Willie Brown, George Shultz, Tino Cuéllar, and Sara Cody. 

Mr. Liccardo began his lecture by emphasizing the urgent need to embrace multiple perspectives in policy making. He asserted that polarization can limit the range of policy solutions we explore to address challenging problems and urged us to demonstrate our willingness to be persuaded so that we may also persuade others. By engaging with many perspectives and exhibiting this willingness to be persuaded, Mr. Liccardo argued, we can develop stronger policies that address the needs of our communities. 

As an example of the importance of perspective, Mr. Liccardo cited his experience with launching an inclusionary zoning measure, which required a percentage of new housing development be affordable to low- to moderate-income households in 2007. Launching the measure was against the advice of those who said that this initiative would make building infeasible during a recession. These opposing perspectives led Mr. Liccardo to craft necessary policy exemptions for high-density housing for the inclusionary zoning measure, improving the policy’s impact on the community. 

Mr. Liccardo also told us about the impactful role that cities play in shaping policy. Across the nation, cities serve as the site of much policymaking action, and critical decisions are constantly made on the local level. Mr. Liccardo shared that policymaking on the local level allows for nimble innovation and pragmatism, qualities that are more difficult to achieve on the state and national levels. 

During a question and answer session after the lecture, students asked Mr. Liccardo to share his thoughts on housing crisis solutions, cross-city collaboration to address climate change, and how policymaking differs across cities. After this discussion, Mr. Liccardo was awarded the 2023 Zale Award for his dedication to public service. The Public Policy Program thanks Mr. Liccardo for his persistent commitment to thoughtful and impactful policymaking and expresses our sincere gratitude for his willingness to share his insights and perspectives with the Stanford community.