Alfred Snider (known to all as Tuna) died today. He was the Professor of Debate at the University of Vermont in Burlington; but he is being mourned by thousands across the world, who were enthralled by his lectures and classes in debate on almost every continent.
It is easy to judge America and Americans by the likes of Donald Trump. There’s another America, and another American, that paints a very different picture of the USA. Tuna empowered and inspired students in countries too numerous to mention, including many that the media portrays as terrorist battle grounds. He fought against tyranny, oppression and fundamentalism – not with bombs and bullets, but with the greatest weapons of all: free speech, and the open discussion of ideas. He made a lasting positive mark on the world that will endure long after the likes of Donald Trump are reduced to hyperlinks to Page 404 Unobtainable .
In his deeds and words, Tuna reminded us of what actually makes America great. It is not military power or immense wealth. It is values and ideals – of tolerance, free expression, listening to others, engaging in discussion and debate, respecting different views. Tuna spread these generously and enthusiastically wherever he went.
Yet he would reject the suggestion that these values and ideals are exclusively American. He was a citizen of the world (who happened to be American), who promoted values and ideals that he passionately believed are universal.
The tributes to Tuna reveal a man with an appalling taste in flowery shirts, a quirky sense of humour, an obsession with strangely filtered pics on Instagram, a devotion to Doctor Who, and a deep love for his wife, soul mate and fellow debate teacher, Bojana Skrt from Slovenia. Theirs was the ultimate long-distance relationship, improbably born in international debating tournaments, and cemented through debate championships, lectures and conferences they attended together across the globe.
And today, Tuna has embarked on his longest and most ambitious journey, from this life to whatever lies beyond. Travel spirits be kind; may he travel in peace.