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October 18-24, 2006

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Carlos and Deborah Santana

Photograph by Jay Blakeberg
Optimists: Carlos and Deborah Santana remain positive.

Among The Stars

Deborah and Carlos Santana want to confront more than just musical challenges

By David Templeton

CARLOS and Deborah Santana want to change the world; they just have different ideas about how to do it. "Carlos and I are completely different," admits Deborah Santana, with a laugh, at the San Rafael office where she serves as vice president and COO of the New Santana Band Inc., and vice president of the Milagro Foundation, which the couple started in 1998 to provide health support, education and artistic encouragement to underprivileged and underrepresented children around the world.

According to Santana, author of the bestselling memoir Space Between the Stars, her husband, the Grammy-winning musician and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame honoree, is an optimist who chooses to see the world as a good and positive place, while she tends to see things in more, um, realistic terms.

"To Carlos," she says, "everything is positive, we are all evolving, and everything is going toward the light. To him, the greatest challenge of the 21st century is probably the U.S. government. I'm a little more grounded, and I tend to look more at what we can do as everyday people, not as these visionaries who look at what is possible. I prefer to stay focused on what is happening right now. Our differences make for a very interesting ongoing conversation."

The Santanas will be taking that ongoing conversation to the public on Oct. 23, at the San Jose Civic Auditorium, as part of the Commonwealth Club's popular Medallion Speakers Series, in which a number of the world's most eloquent leaders—experts in the fields of culture, politics, business, media and science—are asked a single Big Question: "What do you see as the most significant challenge confronting humanity in the 21st century, and what should be done about it?" Past speakers include astronaut Sally Ride, Queen Noor of Jordan, author Tom Wolfe, the Rev. Jesse Jackson, former Secretary of State Madeline Albright, Dr. Jane Goodall and author Norman Mailer.

While most of the Medallion events have featured one person delivering a speech, the Santanas will be interacting with one another conversationally, with a moderator still to be announced. While each has a fairly good idea how he or she would answer the Big Question, Deborah points out that they will have just returned from an extended visit to South Africa (where they will be attending Archbishop Desmond Tutu's 75th birthday celebration), so she anticipates that by the time they sit down for the Commonwealth Club event, their answer—and their world view—may have been significantly altered.

"My expectation is that when we return from that trip we will be very different people," Santana says. "What seems simple now—the answers we are so certain of in regards to world politics and what the challenges are in the world—will probably have changed for us, because our perspective will probably have been changed.

"What seems very cut-and-dried now," she continues, "what seems so oh-if-only-the-politicians-cared-more-about-the-people, and all those other very, very simple answers that we cling to now, I think we'll find that our understanding and perspectives have shifted by our experiences in Africa, because I think Carlos and I will have a whole new way of seeing and talking about the world after this trip."

At the moment, this afternoon, however, Deborah Santana has a pretty good idea what we need to do to face the challenges of the world.

"It's been said before, but I think every person on the planet has to become conscious," she says. "We have to want to make the world better. And we have to love one another."

Carlos and Deborah Santana appear Monday, Oct. 23, at 7pm at the San Jose Civic Auditorium, 135 W. San Carlos Ave., San Jose. Standard seating $20 for members, $35 for nonmembers, $8 for students. To reserve student tickets, call 415.597.6705, premium seating (including reception) is $60 for Commonwealth Club members, $75 for nonmembers. (800.847.7730)

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