Upcoming Events

Tue 10/11

Image - Steve Blake

Parkinson’s Disease: Nutritional Therapy

Date: Tue, October 11, 2016
Time: 12:00 PM
Can diet affect Parkinson's disease?

Steve Blake, Sc.D., Faculty Nutritional Biochemist, Hawaii Pacific Neuroscience; Author, Vitamins and Minerals Demystified and Parkinson’s Disease: Dietary Regulation of Dopamine

Parkinson’s disease involves a deficiency of the neurotransmitter dopamine. Symptoms can include tremor, rigidity and slow movements. In this program, you will learn about changes in dietary protein that have been found to reduce these symptoms by half.

Neurodegeneration is the loss of function and death of our brain cells. Why do our brain cells lose function and die? Learn about specific pollutants in certain foods that can damage our ability to make dopamine, and which foods harbor these persistent organic pollutants and how to avoid them. In contrast, certain foods and nutrients can help protect brain cells and slow degeneration. Since Parkinson’s disease symptoms do not often show up before half of the dopamine-producing brain cells are gone, all of us can benefit from proactive risk reduction.

Steve Blake is faculty nutritional biochemist at Hawaii Pacific Neuroscience. He is a research scientist who has just finished a clinical study successfully using nutrients to combat neurodegeneration. Among his publications, he authored the Diet Doctor software to analyze dietary nutrients.

Fri 10/14

Image - Nancy Cohen

Nancy Cohen: Is the U.S. Ready to Elect a Woman President?

Date: Fri, October 14, 2016
Time: 12:00 PM
Gender politics in the nation's highest office

Nancy L. Cohen, Historian; Author, Breakthrough: The Making of America’s First Woman President
In conversation with Dan Ashley, ABC 7 News Anchor; Member, Commonwealth Club Board of Governors

With election day just a few weeks away, Nancy Cohen, a frequent writer and commentator on women's political leadership, will draw on some 125 interviews with elected officials and strategists of both parties to assess the history of women's experience in politics, the changing political climate, and the current prospects for Hillary Clinton to win the country's highest elective office.

Dr. Cohen is author of four books, including the widely acclaimed Delirium: The Politics of Sex in America and The Reconstruction of American Liberalism. Her writing on American politics has appeared in the Guardian, the Los Angeles Times, The New Republic, and Rolling Stone. She has taught politics and history at Occidental College, UCLA and Cal State Long Beach, and holds a Ph.D. from Columbia University.

Image - Nob Hill Walking Tour

Nob Hill Walking Tour

Date: Fri, October 14, 2016
Time: 1:45 PM
Explore one of San Francisco's original "Seven Hills"

Explore one of San Francisco’s 44 hills, and one of its original “Seven Hills.” Because of great views and its central position, Nob Hill became an exclusive enclave of the rich and famous on the West Coast who built large mansions in the neighborhood. This included prominent tycoons such as Leland Stanford, and other members of the Big Four.

Highlights include the history of four landmark hotels: The Fairmont, Mark Hopkins, Stanford Court, and Huntington Hotel. Visit the city’s largest house of worship, Grace Cathedral, and discover architectural tidbits and anecdotes about the railroad barons and silver kings. A true San Francisco experience of elegance, urbanity, scandals and fabulous views.

Mon 10/17

Image - Brower Youth Award Winners

Special Preview: Meet the 17th Annual Brower Youth Award Winners

Date: Mon, October 17, 2016
Time: 6:00 PM
Recognizing youth environmental activism

Rosemary Brower Olsen, Granddaughter of David R. Brower—Moderator
Panelists TBA

The Brower Youth Awards are recognized as North America's most prestigious prize for youth environmental activism between the ages of 13-22. Six winners will be announced at the public awards ceremony in San Francisco.

Join us for a special preview night, when we will hear more about what inspires, challenges and excites each of these young environmental change-makers. Learn more about past winners and the awards program by visiting broweryouthawards.org.

Week to Week Political Roundtable and Social Hour 10/17/16

Date: Mon, October 17, 2016
Time: 6:30 PM
Are you prepared for the November election? We'll help

Panelists TBA

Election Day is almost here. Some of you will have already voted, and are now biting your nails for the final outcome.

Join us then as we explore the biggest, most controversial, and sometimes the surprising political issues with expert commentary by panelists who are smart, are civil, and have a good sense of humor. Join our panelists for informative and engaging commentary on political and other major news, audience discussion of the week’s events, and our live news quiz!

And come early before the program to meet other smart and engaged individuals and discuss the news over snacks and wine at our member social (open to all attendees).

Tue 10/18

Image - Elaine Kamarck

Why Presidents Fail and How They Can Succeed Again

Date: Tue, October 18, 2016
Time: 6:00 PM
Success and failure in the White House

Elaine Kamarck, Professor, Harvard Kennedy School; Senior Fellow, Brookings Institution; Author, Why Presidents Fail and How They Can Succeed Again

Elaine Kamarck argues that for most of their lives, Americans have experienced government failure. The idea that government can and will produce results, implement policy, and efficiently govern the nation is met with rolled eyes. Kamarck explores the failings of presidents Carter, Bush and Obama with a bipartisan analysis of how and why each fiasco occurred.

Her insider’s perspective provides accessible explanations into the inner-workings and political bureaucracy that can cause a governmental meltdown. One big problem she sees is that we reward communicators over managers, rhetoric over governing skills. But persuasive speeches and tweets need to be balanced with a grasp of policy and how to implement it.

Image - Wine

Bread, Wine and Chocolate in a Warming World

Date: Tue, October 18, 2016
Time: 6:30 PM
A matter of good taste

Simran Sethi, Author, Bread, Wine, Chocolate: The Slow Loss of Foods We Love
Anna Lappe, Author, Diet for a Hot Planet: The Climate Crisis at the End of Your Fork and What You Can Do About It

The industrialization of food has caused much of the food we eat to taste the same, whether you are nibbling at a farmer’s market in San Francisco, a Midwestern barbecue or a fast food joint in China. Ninety-five percent of the world’s calories now come from only 30 species, and Simran Sethi says a closer look at America’s cornucopia of grocery store options shows that our foods are primarily made up of only corn, wheat, rice, palm oil and soybeans. Sethi traveled to six continents in search of delicious and endangered tastes and how we can save the foods we love.

Anna Lappe is a prominent leader in the sustainable food movement. She is founder of the Small Planet Institute and head of the Real Food Media Project, which spreads the story of the power of sustainable food using creative movies and grassroots events. She and her mother, Frances Moore Lappe, co-founded the Small Planet Fund, which has raised nearly $1 million for democratic social movements worldwide, two of which have won the Nobel Peace Prize.

Image - Simon Sinek

Simon Sinek: Author and Optimist

Date: Tue, October 18, 2016
Time: 7:00 PM
Embrace working together to overcome challenges

Simon Sinek, Author, Start with Why and Together is Better: A Little Book of Inspiration; Twitter

Sinek's newest book, Together is Better, is a celebration of that simple human idea that we are better when we help each other than we are when we work alone.

Too often, we avoid asking for help when we need it or refuse to accept it when it’s offered for fear that it will make us look weak or put us or our job at risk. We often keep self-doubt to ourselves instead of turning to someone we trust for inspiration.

Together is Better has combined some of Sinek’s favorite quotes, amazing illustrations, storytelling and commentary. In the simplest way possible, Sinek reminds us what it means to be a leader, the courage it takes to ask for help and the value of working together. It is a story that illustrates the need for leaders to foster environments in which trust and cooperation can thrive.

Sinek, the best selling author of Start with Why and Leaders Eat Last, has taught companies and employees around the world how to inspire people. He is known for popularizing the concept of “Why,” and his TED talk is the third most-watched presentation with more than 27 million views.

Wed 10/19

Image - Marcus Samuelsson

Chef Marcus Samuelsson: The Story of Food and Hustle in Harlem

Date: Wed, October 19, 2016
Time: 6:30 PM
Kitchen adventures from Ethiopia to Sweden to Harlem

Marcus Samuelsson, Chef; Author, The Red Rooster Cookbook: The Story of Food and Hustle in Harlem; Twitter:

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

When Chef Samuelsson opened Red Rooster in Harlem, he envisioned more than just a restaurant. He wanted to create a melting pot that would highlight Harlem’s vibrant multicultural history with food, art and music.

A James Beard award-winner, Samuelsson reflects on his journey from Ethiopia to Sweden to Harlem, and all the kitchen adventures he has encountered along the way.

Image - Pascal Lee and Andy Weir

Pascal Lee and Andy Weir: Exploring Mars

Date: Wed, October 19, 2016
Time: 7:00 PM
How to turn the Earthling into the Martian.

Dr. Pascal Lee, Co-founder, Mars Institute; Planetary Scientist, SETI Institute; Principal Investigator of the Haughton-Mars Project, NASA Ames Research Center; Author, Mission: Mars
Andy Weir, Author, The Martian

Sooner or later, humans will walk on the Red Planet. Weir and Lee want it to be “sooner,” and they have deep insights—both physical and psychological—about how to make it happen. Join Lee and Weir for a spirited conversation on the promise and peril of humanity’s first in-person exploration of an alien planet.

Thu 10/20

Image - Ralph Nader

Ralph Nader: Fighting for Democracy

Date: Thu, October 20, 2016
Time: 7:00 PM
Of the people, by the people

Ralph Nader, Activist; Author, Breaking Through Power: It’s Easier Than We Think; Twitter:

In this unprecedented election year, Nader makes an inspired case about how he thinks our country can—and must—be democratically managed by communities guided by the U.S. Constitution, not by big business or the wealthy few.

Nader has fought for decades to give Americans back their political voice. He draws from his own experiences and shares his core political beliefs on how we can protect our rights to ensure democracy for all.

Fri 10/21

Image - Bill McKibben

Bill McKibben: An Unlikely Activist

Date: Fri, October 21, 2016
Time: 12:00 PM
A veteran of three decades of climate activism

Bill McKibben, Co-founder, 350.org

As we careen toward unknown climatic changes and near the end of an equally unpredictable election cycle, what will the political and planetary climate be in 2017? Is climate disruption an issue high on the minds of the voters and political leaders? As co-founder of 350.org, Bill McKibben has been working to influence major policy decisions around the world with campaigns such as Stop the Keystone XL Pipeline, Frack Free California and Break Free from Fossil Fuels.

Have those demonstrations actually kept carbon in the ground? What has his organization 350.org been focused on this election cycle, and what are his thoughts on 2017? Join us for politics, activism and stories from 30 years of writing and fighting.

Mon 10/24

Humanities West Book Discussion: The World of Yesterday, by Stefan Zweig

Date: Mon, October 24, 2016
Time: 5:00 PM
Portrait of an era

Join us to discuss Stefan Zweig's The World of Yesterday. Written as both a recollection of the past and a warning for future generations, it recalls the golden age of literary Vienna—its seeming permanence, its promise and its devastating fall. Surrounded by the leading literary lights of the epoch, Zweig draws a vivid and intimate account of his life and travels through Vienna, Paris, Berlin and London, touching on the very heart of European culture. His passionate, evocative prose paints a stunning portrait of an era that danced brilliantly on the edge of extinction. Discussion led by Lynn Harris.

Image - David Bodanis

Einstein's Greatest Mistake

Date: Mon, October 24, 2016
Time: 6:00 PM
Just how great could Einstein have been?

David Bodanis, Author, Einstein's Greatest Mistake

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

David Bodanis, best-selling author of E=mc2, has written a brisk, accessible biography of Albert Einstein that reveals his genius and his hubris. Einstein revolutionized our understanding of the cosmos with his general theory of relativity. Yet in the final decades of his life he was also ignored by most scientists. Bodanis explains how Einstein’s imagination and self-confidence led to his early successes, but when it came to newer revelations in quantum mechanics, those same traits undermined his quest for the ultimate truth. Einstein’s conviction in his own intuition proved to be his ultimate undoing.

An intimate and enlightening biography of the celebrated physicist, Einstein’s Greatest Mistake reveals how much we owe Einstein today—and how much more he might have achieved.

Image - Socrates Café

Socrates Café

Date: Mon, October 24, 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. 

Image - spaceship

How to Make a Spaceship! (without NASA)

Date: Mon, October 24, 2016
Time: 6:30 PM
The private space race is on!

Julian Guthrie, Journalist; Author, How to Make a Spaceship: A Band of Renegades, an Epic Race, and the Birth of Private Spaceflight
Mike Melvill, World's First Commercial Astronaut
Matt Stinemetze, Engineer and Project Manager, Burt Rutan's SpaceShipOne
Erik Lindbergh, Grandson of Aviators Charles and Anne Morrow Lindbergh; Supporter of Private Race to Space
Brian Hackney, Electrical Engineer and Meteorologist, KPIX-TV CBS San Francisco—Moderator

Virgin founder Richard Branson said of Guthrie’s book, “This tells of a turning point in history, when entrepreneurs were offered the chance to do something only governments had done before. Whether you are 9 years old or 99, this inspiring tale will capture your imagination.”

Come meet the band of renegades who launched the private race to space, and the scrappy engineers and pilots who set out to win the $10 million prize offered to the first team that could build and fly a rocket to the start of space without the government's help. This is the entrepreneurial adventure story of Peter Diamandis, the XPRIZE, SpaceShipOne, and the other teams in the hunt. The winning of the XPRIZE wasn’t just a victory for one team; it was the foundation for a new industry and a new age—SpaceX, Blue Origin, Virgin Galactic. It is about dreamers and doers, and making the impossible possible.

Tue 10/25

Image - Candice Shy Hooper

Lincoln’s Generals’ Wives: Four Women Who Influenced the Civil War, for Better and for Worse

Date: Tue, October 25, 2016
Time: 6:00 PM
Influencing history

Candice Shy Hooper, Author, Lincoln's Generals' Wives

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

The story of the American Civil War isn’t complete without examining the extraordinary lives of Jessie Fremont, Nelly McClellan, Ellen Sherman, and Julia Grant, who were their husbands’ closest confidantes and had a profound impact on their ambitions and actions. Once shots were fired on Fort Sumter, the women were launched into a new world, where their relationships with their husbands and their personal opinions of the president of the United States had national and historical consequences. Using letters, memoirs, and photographs—and for the first time, maps of the women’s wartime travels—Hooper reveals how these four generals’ wives powerfully influenced our history.

Wed 10/26

Image - Barbara Boxer

Senator Barbara Boxer: The Art of Tough

Date: Wed, October 26, 2016
Time: 12:00 PM
Senator Boxer's secret to success

Barbara Boxer, U.S. Senator (D-California); Author, The Art of Tough: Fearlessly Facing Politics and Life; Twitter

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

"One goal of this memoir is to inspire people to fight for change. It takes what I call the Art of Tough and I've had to do it all my life." —Senator Barbara Boxer

Barbara Boxer has made her mark, combining compassionate advocacy with scrappiness in a political career spanning more than three decades. Now, retiring from the Senate, she continues the work to which she's dedicated 30 years in Congress. Her memoir, The Art of Tough, shares her provocative and touching recollections of service, and cements her commitment to the fight for women, families, quality, and environmental protection—all in a peaceful world.

Sometimes lauded, sometimes vilified, but always standing tough, Boxer has fought for her values even when her personal convictions conflicted with her party or the majority rule.

Image - Tom Stienstra

Tom Stienstra: The Mighty T, from Glacier to Golden Gate

Date: Wed, October 26, 2016
Time: 6:00 PM
Meet the nation's most-award winning outdoors writer

Tom Stienstra, Outdoors Writer, San Francisco Chronicle

America's best-known outdoors man and the SF Chronicle outdoors editor (lucky us), Stienstra will share dramatic photos, videos and stories from his expedition to climb the Lyell Glacier in Yosemite National Park, where he traces the melting drops of water to the Tuolumne River en route to San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge. His expedition is the storyline for national PBS showing that will air in the late fall.

Stienstra is the nation's only four-time winner of the OWAA President's Award, National Outdoor Writer of the Year, and only the fourth living member inducted into the California Outdoors Hall of Fame

Image - Origami

Robert Lang: Origami — Between the Folds of Art and Technology

Date: Wed, October 26, 2016
Time: 7:00 PM
Science meets art

Roberg Lang, Origami Artist; Physicist

Origami is the centuries-old Japanese art of folding paper into decorative shapes and figures. Lang, a world-renowned origami artist, has taken this traditional art form one step further.

Lang is one of the pioneers of cross-disciplinary origami that combines mathematics, science, technology, engineering and design with origami. His applications have been used on medical devices, air bag designs and expandable space telescopes.

With 50 patents awarded and pending on semiconductor lasers, optics and integrated optoelectronics, Lang has more than 500 designs catalogued and diagrammed and his artwork has been shown around the world in exhibits at the MoMA in New York, Carrousel du Louvre in Paris and the Nippon Museum of Origami in Japan.

Hear more about the blending of art and technology what drives him to create such inspirational masterpieces.