Upcoming Events

Thu 12/1

Image - Dr Nadine Burke Harris

Resilience: A Story about Hope and Research

Date: Thu, December 01, 2016
Time: 6:00 PM
Linking early childhood experiences to problems later in life.

Nadine Burke Harris, M.D., Founder and CEO, UCSF Center for Youth Wellness
Joyce Dorado, Ph.D. UCSF Healthy Environments and Response to Trauma in Schools
Jane Stevens, Founder, Publisher, ACEs Connection
James Redford, Director and Producer, Resilience—Moderator

Resilience is an amazing story of research, understanding and hope for our children's futures and for ourselves. People hope that every child lives in an safe and healthy environment. Most people know that neglect, abuse and unhealthy environments are damaging to children. The new documentary Resilience is about dedicated people discovering that adverse childhood experiences can lead to poor physical and mental outcomes in childhood and can carry over to life-threatening issues and health risks in adulthood. The film is about new discoveries and research about life, health and hope for people at all ages.

Mon 12/5

Image - James Hoggan

I'm Right and You're an Idiot: The Toxic State of Public Discourse and How to Clean It Up

Date: Mon, December 05, 2016
Time: 6:00 PM

James Hoggan, President, Hoggan & Associates; Chair of the Board, David Suzuki Foundation; Author, I'm Right and You're an Idiot

James Hoggan contends that the most pressing environmental problem we face today is not climate change. It is pollution in the public square, where a smog of adversarial rhetoric and propaganda stifles discussion and creates resistance to change, thwarting our ability to solve our collective problems. In I'm Right and You're an Idiot, Hoggan grapples with this critical issue, conducting interviews with such notables as Thich Nhat Hanh, Noam Chomsky and the Dalai Lama.

Image - Cecile Richards

The Future of Choice with Cecile Richards, President of Planned Parenthood

Date: Mon, December 05, 2016
Time: 7:00 PM
One hundred years of Planned Parenthood

Cecile Richards, President, Planned Parenthood Federation of America and Planned Parenthood Action Fund

This year, Planned Parenthood marks its 100th year of providing vital health-care services, education and information to women, men and families across America.

While 2.5 million men and women visit Planned Parenthood affiliate health centers annually, the organization faces major opposition and during this historic election year, Planned Parenthood and its supporters have been under scrutiny by politicians and others who want to eliminate the organization’s state and federal funding and shut down its clinics. One side argues that Planned Parenthood’s initiatives should not be bolstered by the government and often have a negative impact, while Planned Parenthood’s supporters assert that without the organization’s services, public health and safety are potentially endangered.

Join INFORUM at The Commonwealth Club in welcoming Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards for a powerful and timely discussion about Planned Parenthood’s history, its role in our political and cultural dialogue, and what the future holds for the organization as it looks toward its next 100 years.

Tue 12/6

Image - Thomas Friedman
This event is Sold Out

Thomas Friedman: A Field Guide to the 21st Century

Date: Tue, December 06, 2016
Time: 7:00 PM
A call for nations to be fast, fair and slow.

Thomas Friedman, Columnist, The New York Times; Author, The Lexus and the Olive Tree, The World Is Flat, Thank You for Being Late: An Optimist’s Guide to Thriving in the Age of Accelerations; Twitter

In his most ambitious work to date, Thank You for Being Late: An Optimist’s Guide to Thriving in the Age of Accelerations, Thomas L. Friedman shows that we have entered an age of dizzying acceleration—and explains how to live in it. Due to an exponential increase in computing power, climbers atop Mount Everest enjoy excellent cell-phone service, and self-driving cars are taking to the roads.

A parallel explosion of economic interdependency has created new riches as well as spiraling debt burdens. Meanwhile, Mother Nature is also seeing dramatic changes as carbon levels rise and species go extinct, with compounding results. Today, it is easier than ever to be a maker (try 3-D printing) or a breaker (the Islamic State excels at using Twitter), but harder than ever to be a leader or merely "average."

Friedman concludes that nations and individuals must learn to be fast (innovative and quick to adapt), fair (prepared to help the casualties of change), and slow (adept at shutting out the noise and accessing their deepest values). Join Friedman for an engaging conversation on how we should think about and cope with all of these changes.

Wed 12/7

Mind over Genes: Heredity Is not Destiny—The Science of Epigenetics

Date: Wed, December 07, 2016
Time: 6:00 PM
Learning about epigenetics

Bruce Lipton, Ph.D., Stem Cell Biology Pioneer; Best-selling Author, The Biology of Belief

A renaissance in science is creating a revolution in thought and understanding—and in our physical bodies—that is changing the world and our health. Epigenetics reveals that we are not victims of our genes. Cancer, depression and diseases were once believed to be preprogrammed in our genes. In fact, the nervous system can send different signals to cells, reprogramming their genetic activity and behavior. Dr. Lipton says that this provides for miraculous spontaneous remissions from cancer or other diseases.

Cell biologist and bestselling author Bruce H. Lipton will take you on a fast-paced journey from the microcosm of the cell to the macrocosm of the mind. This informative and self-empowering presentation on the mechanics of the mind-body interaction explores his views of how our thoughts, attitudes and beliefs create the conditions of our body and our place in the world. He has designed this presentation to inspire your spirit, engage your mind and empower you to become the master of your fate rather than the "victim" of your heredity.

Thu 12/8

Image - Steven Machtinger

Lamentation and the Limits of Philosophy

Date: Thu, December 08, 2016
Time: 6:00 PM
Mozart and grief

Steven Machtinger, Attorney; Violist; Independent Mozart Scholar

Mozart and Homer both understood that philosophical perspectives can be of limited utility in providing comfort to the bereaved. In commemoration of the 225th anniversary of Mozart’s death, we will listen to the extraordinarily moving lamentation section of his String Quintet in G minor performed by the London Quintet. After examining how Mozart uses musical devices to achieve emotional effects, we will compare his musical evocation of grief with passages in The Iliad lamenting the death of heroes.

Image - Max Stier

Max Stier: How to Ensure a Smooth Presidential Transition

Date: Thu, December 08, 2016
Time: 6:30 PM
Making the peaceful transfer of power a smooth one

Max Stier, Founding President and CEO, Partnership for Public Service 
In conversation with Lenny Mendonca, McKinsey & Company Director Emeritus; Member, Commonwealth Club Board of Governors.

The peaceful transition of power has been a hallmark of our democracy, but new presidents consistently fail to get their new administrations up and running quickly and effectively. Max Stier has been leading a comprehensive initiative to reform the system and advise both the outgoing administration and the incoming transition teams. He will give a candid, insider’s perspective on the most complex takeover in the world and a case study on changing how Washington works.

Under Max Stier’s leadership, the Partnership for Public Service has been widely praised as a first-class nonprofit organization and thought leader on federal government management issues. In 2015, the Partnership launched the Center for Presidential Transition, a first-of-its-kind effort to ensure the smoothest transition of power yet by working with campaign teams, federal agencies and the outgoing administration.  

Mr. Stier has worked previously in all three branches of the federal government, having served on the personal staff of U.S. Representative Jim Leach, clerked for Chief Judge James Oakes of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, and clerked for Justice David Souter of the United States Supreme Court. Most recently, he was deputy general counsel in the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Mr. Stier is a graduate of Yale College and Stanford Law School.

Mon 12/12

Israel: A Concise History of a Nation Reborn

Date: Mon, December 12, 2016
Time: 12:00 PM
The story of Israel

Daniel Gordis, Author; Israel Analyst; Commentator

Dr. Gordis, a former Conservative rabbi, award-winning author of several books on Jewish thought and Israeli currents, and columnist for the Jerusalem Post, will discuss the topic of his latest book, which has been described as a luminous history shedding light on Israel's culture, politics and economy, so people can understand her future.

Gordis was the founding dean of the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies in Los Angeles before moving to Jerusalem, where he helped to found Israel's first liberal arts college. Presently, he is senior vice president and Koret Distinguished Fellow at Shalem College in Jerusalem.

Image - Tom Toles

Is Climate Denial Destroying Our Planet?

Date: Mon, December 12, 2016
Time: 12:00 PM
It's undenable — or is it?

Michael Mann, Distinguished Professor of Meteorology, Penn State University; Co-author, The Madhouse Effect
Cristine Russell, Freelance Science Journalist
Tom Toles, Political Cartoonist; Co-author, The Madhouse Effect

The majority of Americans agree climate disruption is a major concern. The Paris Climate Agreement has been ratified by 61 countries and counting, which so far represents 47.81 percent of the world’s emissions. So we all agree, climate change is the biggest problem humankind has ever faced? Not so fast.

Here in the United States, denial and confusion about the science is rampant, and we may be the only developed nation where it is written into a major political party’s platform. Climate scientist Michael Mann and Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist Tom Toles take a satirical look at how this lack of consensus came to be. Cristine Russell is a veteran science journalist with deep knowledge about conveying complex scientific issues to a broad public. How deep does climate doubt run, and how can communication help us move on to solutions?

Join us for a fun and informative look at manufactured doubt and genuine skepticism.

Image - David Grinspoon

David Grinspoon: Shaping Our Planet's Future

Date: Mon, December 12, 2016
Time: 7:00 PM
Human impact on planet Earth

David Grinspoon, Ph.D., Astrobiologist; Senior Scientist, Planetary Science Institute; Author, Earth in Human Hands: Shaping Our Planet’s Future; Twitter
Alison van Diggelen, Host, “Fresh Dialogues”; BBC Contributor—Moderator

For the first time in Earth’s history, our planet is experiencing rapidly accelerating changes prompted by one species: humans. Climate change is the most visible, and our current behavior threatens not only our own future but that of countless other creatures.

As we stand at this pivotal juncture, Dr. Grinspoon calls upon all of us to be planetary engineers, conscious shapers of our environment and caretakers of the Earth’s biosphere.

With our future at stake, Dr. Grinspoon shares his 10,000-year perspective by not only asking what kind of future we want to avoid, but what do we ultimately seek to build?

Tue 12/13

Image - Mae Jemison

Astronaut Mae Jemison: Launching Women into Science and Tech

Date: Tue, December 13, 2016
Time: 6:30 PM
Getting Americans excited about science

Mae Jemison, M.D., Astronaut; Physician
Kimberly Bryant, Electrical Engineer; Founder and Executive Director, Black Girls Code—Moderator

Physician and astronaut Dr. Mae C. Jemison is a science literacy advocate and the lead ambassador of the Making Science Make Sense program. The goal of the initiative is to provide 1 million hands-on science experiences to children by 2020. Dr. Jemison is particularly devoted to getting more girls, young women and minorities into careers in science, tech, engineering and math (STEM). 

Join Dr. Jemison for an inspiring call-to-action on how to get Americans psyched about science!

Wed 12/14

Image - Dava Sobel

Dava Sobel: The Women Who Rocked the Cosmos

Date: Wed, December 14, 2016
Time: 6:30 PM
Meet the women who changed the way we see the universe

Dava Sobel, Former Science Reporter, The New York Times; Author, The Glass Universe: How the Ladies of the Harvard Observatory Took the Measure of the Stars
Becky Worley, Tech Contributor, "Good Morning America"—Moderator

This program is part of our Good Lit series, underwritten by the Bernard Osher Foundation.

Dava Sobel argues that in the 19th century, it was women and not male astronomers who actually made some of the great discoveries of the universe. In the mid-19th century, the Harvard College Observatory began employing women as calculators, or “human computers,” to interpret the observations made via telescope by their male counterparts each night. At the outset, this group included the wives, sisters and daughters of the resident astronomers, but by the 1880s the female corps included graduates of the new women's colleges—Vassar, Wellesley and Smith. As photography transformed the practice of astronomy, the ladies turned to studying the stars captured nightly on glass photographic plates. The “glass universe” of a half-million plates that Harvard amassed in this period—thanks in part to the early financial support of another woman, Anna Draper, whose late husband pioneered the technique of stellar photography—enabled the women to make extraordinary discoveries that attracted worldwide acclaim.

Come hear this captivating, little-known true story of a group of women whose remarkable contributions to the burgeoning field of astronomy forever changed our understanding of the stars and our place in the universe. Sobel is a noted author, and in addition to her work for The New York Times she has been a longtime science contributor to Harvard MagazineAudubonDiscoverLifeOmni, and The New Yorker.

Thu 12/15

Image - Dr. Naomi Oreskes

Dr. Naomi Oreskes: The 2016 Stephen Schneider Award

Date: Thu, December 15, 2016
Time: 6:30 PM
6th annual Stephen Schneider Award winner

Naomi Oreskes, Ph.D., Professor of the History of Science and Affiliated Professor of Earth and Planetary Sciences, Harvard University 

Climate One presents Naomi Oreskes the 6th Annual Stephen Schneider Award for Outstanding Climate Science Communication. According to Schneider Award juror Ben Santer, “Her 2004 Science paper helped to quantify, for the first time, the broad scientific consensus on climate change. Her recent research unmasked the forces behind denial of human effects on climate and improved our chances of having a responsible, science-based discussion of climate change solutions.”

Dr. Oreskes’ work first became well known when her paper “The Scientific Consensus on Climate Change” was featured in Al Gore’s seminal documentary An Inconvenient Truth. Later, she co-authored the influential book Merchants of Doubt, which explores the public-relations tactics used by the tobacco industry to obfuscate the health risks of smoking, and draws a parallel to the similar tactics used by the oil industry to forestall government action on climate change. This widely read book inspired a successful documentary of the same name.

The award was established in honor of Stephen Henry Schneider, one of the founding fathers of climatology, who died suddenly in 2010. Internationally recognized for research, policy analysis and outreach in climate change, Dr. Schneider focused on climate change science, integrated assessment of ecological and economic impacts of human-induced climate change, and identifying viable climate policies and technological solutions. He also consulted with federal agencies and/or White House staff in the Nixon, Carter, Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Clinton and George W. Bush administrations. His work is chronicled at climatechange.net.

This special evening will include a conversation with Dr. Oreskes and other special guests in addition to a reception.

Mon 12/19

Image - Socrates Café

Socrates Café

Date: Mon, December 19, 2016
Time: 6:30 PM

On one Monday evening of every month the Humanities Forum sponsors Socrates Café at The Commonwealth Club. Each meeting is devoted to the discussion of a philosophical topic chosen at that meeting. The group's facilitator, John Nyquist, invites participants to suggest topics, which are then voted on. The person who proposed the most popular topic is asked to briefly explain why she or he considers that topic interesting and important. An open discussion follows, and the meeting ends with a summary of the various perspectives participants expressed. Everyone is welcome to attend.

Mon 1/9

Image - Lauren Leader-Chivee

Crossing the Thinnest Line

Date: Mon, January 09, 2017
Time: 6:00 PM
The case for embracing greater diversity

Lauren Leader-Chivee, Founder and CEO, All In Together; Author, Crossing the Thinnest Line

Monday Night Philosophy explores the social advantages of diversity. Crossing the Thinnest Line argues passionately and persuasively for the possibility, power, purpose and payoff of embracing difference. Already 89 percent of the world’s educated population is either female or minority. In less than a generation, the U.S. will become minority majority. The world economy is global and interconnected, and Leader-Chivee says that embracing diversity has never been more imperative.

With compelling data and powerful, personal stories, Leader-Chivee looks at challenges and solutions to immigration, education, business, media and politics and inspires Americans to rise to the challenge.

Wed 1/11

Image - Dr. Elizabeth Blackburn and Dr. Elissa Epel

Dr. Elizabeth Blackburn and Dr. Elissa Epel: The New Science of Living Younger

Date: Wed, January 11, 2017
Time: 7:00 PM
The factors that contribute to aging and illness

Dr. Elizabeth Blackburn, President, Salk Institute; 2009 Nobel Prize Winner; Co-author, The Telomere Effect: The New Science of Living Younger
Dr. Elissa Epel, Founder and Director, UCSF’s Center on Obesity Assessment, Study, and Treatment, University of California San Francisco; Co-author, The Telomere Effect: The New Science of Living Younger

Have you ever wondered why some 60-year-olds look and feel like 40-year-olds and why some 40-year-olds look and feel like 60-year-olds?

Though many factors contribute to aging and illness, Dr. Elizabeth Blackburn — a Nobel laureate — and health psychologist Dr. Elissa Epel reveal the critical role that biological markers called telomerase and telomeres play in our health. Dr. Blackburn and Dr. Epel discuss how to increase not only your lifespan but your health-span (the number of years that you remain active and healthy). They say that to live healthier and younger, we need to understand how sleep, exercise, stress, and diet can affect our telomeres.

Tue 1/24

Image - Walter Alvarez

Walter Alvarez: A Most Improbable Journey

Date: Tue, January 24, 2017
Time: 7:00 PM
Big history and you

Walter Alvarez, Professor, Earth and Planetary Science Department, University of California, Berkeley; Author, A Most Improbable Journey: A Big History of Our Planet and Ourselves

One in a million doesn’t even come close.

Not when we’re talking about the odds that you would happen to be alive today, on this particular planet, hurtling through space. Almost 14 billion years of cosmic history, more than 4 billion years of Earth history, and a couple million years of human history, has led to you.

This panoramic viewpoint has captured the imagination of historians and scientists alike, and together they’ve created a new field—big history—that studies the entire known past of our universe to give context to our very existence.

Famed geologist Alvarez is best known for the impact theory explaining dinosaur extinction. His unique expertise and infectious curiosity gives us a new appreciation for the incredible occurrences?from the Big Bang and beyond?that have led to our improbable place in the universe.

Wed 1/25

Image - Brian Fishman

Terrorism Expert Brian Fishman: How Can ISIS Be Defeated?

Date: Wed, January 25, 2017
Time: 6:30 PM
To defeat ISIS, you need to understand ISIS

Brian Fishman, Counterterrorism Research Fellow, New America; Fellow, Combating Terrorism Center, West Point; Author, The Master Plan: ISIS, al-Qaeda, and the Jihadi Strategy for Final Victory 
In conversation with Kori Schake, Research fellow, Hoover Institution; Former Deputy Director, Policy Planning, U.S. State Department; Former Director, Defense Strategy and Requirements, National Security Council

To defeat ISIS, you need to understand ISIS.

Brian Fishman is a leading expert on ISIS. He served as the director of research at the United States Military Academy’s Combating Terrorism Center and began studying the progenitors of ISIS in 2005. He predicted the rise of the Islamic State in early 2011, prior to the Syrian civil war. Fishman says that the rise of ISIS was neither an accident of history nor an unpredictable product of chaos in Syria, but rather the fulfillment of a vision to capitalize on Syria’s demographic and geopolitical frailty, detailed in a plan that runs through 2020. He says that "master plan" offers important insight into how ISIS might now evolve. Fishman says that only by learning the Islamic State’s full history and the strategy that drove it can we understand the forces that could ultimately tear it apart. 

Fishman is a graduate of the University of California Los Angeles and Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs.

Mon 2/6

When Mental Health Meets Social Justice

Date: Mon, February 06, 2017
Time: 5:15 PM
The community's role

Christine Stoner-Mertz, Licensed Clinical Social Worker; President and CEO, Lincoln Child Center in Oakland

The link between mental health and social justice issues is increasingly apparent among the impoverished. As president and CEO of the 130-year-old Lincoln Child Center, the first integrated orphanage in Oakland, Stoner-Mertz believes that it is the responsibility of the greater community to understand, address and combat these issues. She reveals steps to transform a traditional, institution-based child-serving organization into an innovative, community-responsive venture.

Tue 2/7

Image - Lauren Leader-Chivee

Crossing the Thinnest Line

Date: Tue, February 07, 2017
Time: 6:00 PM
The new world of diversity

Lauren Leader-Chivee, Founder and CEO, All In Together; Author, Crossing the Thinnest Line

Monday Night Philosophy explores the social advantages of diversity. Crossing the Thinnest Line argues passionately and persuasively for the possibility, power, purpose and payoff of embracing difference. Already 89 percent of the world’s educated population is either female or minority. In less than a generation, the United States will become minority majority. The world economy is global and interconnected, and Leader-Chivee says that embracing diversity has never been more imperative.

With compelling data and powerful, personal stories, Leader-Chivee looks at challenges and solutions to immigration, education, business, media and politics and inspires Americans to rise to the challenge.