The University of Arizona has set up a new center on civil debate, weeks after a shooting in the school’s home base of Tucson left Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) seriously injured and six others dead. 

Former presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill ClintonBill ClintonLewandowski: 'I would clearly look at' White House job Washington needs high-level science and technology expertise – now! House lawmakers pitch ban on North Korean tourism MORE will serve as honorary chairs of the National Institute for Civil Discourse, which the university says will be nonpartisan and focus on education and research, among other things.

In statements, Clinton and Bush both said that the new center could elevate the debate in this country. 

"America faces big challenges in revitalizing the American Dream at home and preserving our leadership for security, peace, freedom and prosperity in the world,” Clinton said. “Meeting them requires an honest dialogue celebrating both a clarification of our differences and a genuine stand for principled comparisons.”

“Our country needs a setting for political debate that is both frank and civil,” Bush said. 

The New York Times reported that the idea for the center came after Fred DuVal, vice chairman of the Arizona Board of Regents, heard part of President Obama’s speech in Tucson last month. 

During his remarks, in which he called for a less polarized discourse, Obama also said he wanted the United States to live up to the expectations of the youngest victim killed in the Tucson shootings, nine-year old Christina-Taylor Green. 

“I want our democracy to be as good as Christina imagined it,” the president said. “I want America to be as good as she imagined it.  All of us -– we should do everything we can to make sure this country lives up to our children’s expectations.”

The new center hopes to, among other things, host discussions on polarizing issues with elected officials; organize conferences in both Washington and Tucson; and craft research and programs that look into how First Amendment freedoms can be exercised in respectful ways. 

Tom Daschle, the former Democratic senator from South Dakota, and Sandra Day O’Connor, the former Supreme Court justice, are honorary co-chairs at the institute. 

The center’s board members include Madeleine Albright, a secretary of state during the Clinton administration; Ken Duberstein, a White House chief of staff under President Reagan; Trey Grayson, a former Kentucky secretary of state and unsuccessful Republican candidate for Senate; Jim Kolbe, a former Arizona congressman who was succeeded by Giffords; and Greta Van Susteren, a Fox News personality.