Upcoming Events

Tue 2/7

Image - Bret Baier, Fox News Chief Political Anchor

Bret Baier, Fox News Chief Political Anchor

Date: Tue, February 07, 2017
Time: 6:30 PM
Why you might still like Ike

Bret Baier, Chief Political Anchor, Fox News; Author, Three Days in January: Dwight Eisenhower’s Final Mission; Twitter:

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

Since 1998, Bret Baier has been a Fox news stalwart. In addition to being chief political anchor, he anchors "Special Report with Bret Baier," the top-rated cable news program in its time slot and one of the top five shows in cable news. Baier was the first reporter in Fox News’ Atlanta bureau and went on to become chief White House and then national security correspondent.

As the country grapples with the meaning of presidential leadership in 2017, Baier’s new book covers President Dwight Eisenhower’s leadership in guiding America out of war in Korea, through the apocalyptic threat of nuclear war with Russia, and into one of the greatest economic booms. In his last address to the nation, Eisenhower looked to the future, warning Americans against the dangers of elevating partisanship above national interest, excessive government budgets (particularly deficit spending), the expansion of the military-industrial complex, and the creeping political power of special interests.

Baier will discuss how these words resonate today and the lessons Eisenhower’s leadership impart. He’ll also discuss the current state of media and the new administration.

Thu 2/9

Image - Stephen Kinzer

Journalist Stephen Kinzer: History’s Lessons for American Foreign Policy in 2017

Date: Thu, February 09, 2017
Time: 6:30 PM
America's imperial temptations yesterday and today

Stephen Kinzer, Columnist, The Boston Globe; Senior Fellow, Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs, Brown University; Author, The True Flag: Theodore Roosevelt, Mark Twain, and the Birth of American Empire

As President Trump takes office, how should the United States act in the world? Drawing on his latest book, Stephen Kinzer will transport us back to the early 20th century, when the United States first found itself with the chance to dominate faraway lands. That prospect thrilled some Americans. It horrified others. Their debate gripped the nation. The country’s best-known political and intellectual leaders took sides. Theodore Roosevelt, Henry Cabot Lodge, and William Randolph Hearst pushed for imperial expansion; Mark Twain, Booker T. Washington, and Andrew Carnegie preached restraint. Only once before—in the period when the United States was founded—have so many brilliant Americans so eloquently debated a question so fraught with meaning for all humanity. Join Kinzer as he discusses these impassioned arguments and their great relevance to the world of 2017.

Stephen Kinzer is an award-winning foreign correspondent who has covered more than 50 countries on five continents. Kinzer spent more than 20 years working for The New York Times, where his foreign postings placed him at the center of historic events and, at times, in the line of fire. While covering world events, he has been shot at, jailed, beaten by police, tear-gassed and bombed from the air.

Wed 2/15

Humanities West Book Discussion: The Age of Vikings, by Anders Winroth

Date: Wed, February 15, 2017
Time: 6:30 PM
Learn more about the Vikings

Join us to discuss The Age of Vikings, whose image is often distorted by myth. Though it is true that they pillaged, looted and enslaved, the Vikings also settled peacefully and traveled far from their homelands in swift and sturdy ships to explore. Anders Winroth captures the innovation and pure daring of the Vikings without glossing over their destructive heritage, revealing how Viking arts, literature and religious thought evolved in surprising ways. Discussion led by Lynn Harris.

Thu 2/16

Image - North Beach

North Beach Walking Tour

Date: Thu, February 16, 2017
Time: 2:00 PM
Walking tour

Join another Commonwealth Club neighborhood adventure! Explore vibrant North Beach with Rick Evans during a two-hour walk through this neighborhood with a colorful past, where food, culture, history and unexpected views all intersect in an Italian “urban village.” In addition to learning about Beat generation hangouts, you’ll discover authentic Italian cathedrals and coffee shops. 

Tue 2/21

Image - Akil Palanisamy

The Paleovedic Diet: Early Human Diets and Ayurvedic Medicine

Date: Tue, February 21, 2017
Time: 6:00 PM
Boosting well-being and vitality

Akil Palanisamy, M.D., Author, The Paleovedic Diet: A Complete Program to Burn Fat, Increase Energy, and Reverse Disease

In this lecture, Dr. Akil Palanisamy will describe the outlines of a comprehensive roadmap to optimal health, one that combines the most effective aspects of the “paleo” diet (so-called because it seeks to emulate the diet of early humans), cutting-edge nutritional science, and the time-tested philosophy and techniques of ancient Ayurvedic medicine. He will share practical tips on what to eat in order to boost well-being and vitality, and he will have detailed and practical information about implementing these concepts in daily living.

Dr. Palanisamy is a Harvard-trained physician who practices integrative medicine, incorporating the best of conventional medicine and alternative therapies. A holistic doctor, he completed his premedical training in biochemistry at Harvard University, received his medical degree from the University of California, San Francisco, and completed his residency in family medicine at Stanford University. He also completed a Fellowship in Integrative Medicine with Dr. Andrew Weil at the University of Arizona, and is certified by the Center for Mind-Body Medicine at Georgetown University. Dr. Akil practices at The Institute for Health and Healing in San Francisco, one of the oldest centers for integrative medicine in the United States.

Thu 2/23

Image - Linda Rugg

The End of the Vikings

Date: Thu, February 23, 2017
Time: 6:00 PM
The journey from paganism to Christianity to secularism

Linda Rugg, Professor of Swedish Studies, Department of Scandinavian Studies, University of California Berkeley

In the year 1000 AD, at the annual Althing (national assembly) in Iceland, a decision was made to make Christianity the official religion of the island. The road from paganism to Christianity was not, however, completely smooth, nor did the conversion process happen as abruptly as the political decision implied. A key text describing the declaration at the Althing appears in Njal’s Saga, and it will form the basis for this lecture, along with two medieval Icelandic short stories that illustrate how Christianization began to take shape in the North. The continued presence of the pagan past in modern Scandinavia can be traced in literature, artifacts and enduring cultural practices, indicating that while the Scandinavians eventually embraced Christianity and then secularism, they did not leave their Viking identity behind.

Thu 3/2

Image - Elizabeth Cobbs

The Hamilton Affair

Date: Thu, March 02, 2017
Time: 6:00 PM
The love story behind the controversial Revolutionary-era leader

Elizabeth Cobbs, Professor and Melbern G. Glasscock Chair in American History, Texas A&M University; Research Fellow, Hoover Institution, Stanford University; Author, The Hamilton Affair

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

Celebrate the imminent arrival of the musical Hamilton with a discussion of a new novel about this intriguing founding father. The Hamilton Affair tells the true story of Alexander Hamilton and Elizabeth Schuyler, from passionate and tender beginnings to his fateful duel.

Hamilton was a bastard and orphan, raised in the Caribbean and desperate for legitimacy, who became one of the Revolution’s most dashing—and improbable—heroes. Admired by Washington, scorned by Jefferson, Hamilton was the most controversial leader of the new nation. Elizabeth was the wealthy, beautiful, adventurous daughter of the respectable Schuyler clan—and a pioneering advocate for women. Together, the unlikely couple braved the dangers of war, the anguish of infidelity, and the scourge of partisanship that menaced their family and the country itself.

Wed 3/15

Image - detail from The Prose Edda book cover

Humanities West Book Discussion: The Prose Edda, by Jesse Byock

Date: Wed, March 15, 2017
Time: 6:30 PM
Gods and giants and dwarves and elves — what's not to like?

Join us to discuss The Prose Edda, the most renowned work of Scandinavian literature and our most extensive source for Norse mythology. The Edda was written in Iceland a century after the close of the Viking Age, and tells in clear prose, interspersed with powerful verse, the ancient Norse creation epic and stories of the battles that follow as gods, giants, dwarves and elves struggle for survival. Discussion led by Lynn Harris.

Mon 3/20

Life After Hate

Date: Mon, March 20, 2017
Time: 5:15 PM
Lessons from a former extremist

Antony McAleer, Executive Director, Life After Hate

A former organizer for the White Aryan Resistance (WAR), Tony McAleer served as a skinhead recruiter, proprietor of Canadian Liberty Net (a computer-operated voice messaging center used to disseminate messages of hatred), and manager of the racist rock band, Odin’s Law. It was love for his children that finally led Tony on a spiritual journey of personal transformation. Today he is the executive director of Life After Hate and shares his practice of compassion as an inspirational speaker.

Tue 3/21

Beethoven in China

Date: Tue, March 21, 2017
Time: 6:00 PM
How Beethoven became a cultural icon in China

Jindong Cai, Associate Professor of Music (performance), Stanford University; Orchestra Conductor; and Co-Author, Beethoven in China: How the Great Composer Became an Icon in the People's Republic

Sheila Melvin, Co-Author, Beethoven in China: How the Great Composer Became an Icon in the People's Republic

Beethoven in China demonstrates that there is no parallel to the depth and breadth of Beethoven's integration into the culture, politics and private passions of China. Schoolchildren routinely read Beethoven, My Great Model and busts of Beethoven are a common sight. Cai's and Melvin's research reveals that the process by which Beethoven became a Chinese icon was tumultuous, starting with a 1906 article by Li Shutong, who referred to him as The Sage of Music, and held him up as a moral exemplar for a struggling nation trying to prevent a slide into chaos. His stoicism in the face of paternal mistreatment and increasing deafness resonated with a culture focused on working hard, on "eating bitterness," in order to achieve greatness. That stoicism proved crucial when Mao had musicians arrested and executed during the Cultural Revolution. But at Tiananmen Square students accompanied their protests with his "Ode to Joy" anyway.

Tue 3/28

Image - Marty Brounstein

The Courage and Compassion to Do the Right Thing

Date: Tue, March 28, 2017
Time: 6:00 PM

Marty Brounstein, Author, Two Among the Righteous Few: A Story of Courage in the Holocaust

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

Come hear a true interfaith story of courage, compassion and rescue during the Holocaust. A Catholic couple in the Netherlands, despite great risk and danger, helped save the lives of at least two dozen Jews from certain death during World War II. Brounstein will also explain the meaningful personal connection that inspires him to tell and retell the story of their heroic actions.

Wed 4/19

Image - detail of book cover of Cleopatra

Humanities West Book Discussion: Cleopatra, by Stacy Schiff

Date: Wed, April 19, 2017
Time: 6:30 PM
The story of one of the most intriguing women in history

Join us to discuss Cleopatra by Stacy Schiff, the Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer who brings to life one of the most intriguing women in human history. Though the palace of the last queen of Egypt actually did shimmer with onyx, garnets and gold, it was richer still in political and sexual intrigue. Cleopatra died young, at 39, but first married two brothers, dispatching one in a brutal civil war while they were still teenagers, and poisoning the other, before eliminating a sister as well. She had a son with Julius Caesar and three children with Marc Antony, complicating but probably prolonging wealthy Egypt's fatal embrace by the relatively uncivilized Romans. In a masterly return to classical sources, Schiff boldly separates fact from fiction to rescue the magnetic queen whose dramatic death ushered in a new world order. Discussion led by Lynn Harris.