Upcoming Events

Thu 8/18

Image - Francis Fukuyama

American Political Decay or Renewal?

Date: Thu, August 18, 2016
Time: 6:00 PM
Part of our special series Big Solutions for Big Problems

Francis Fukuyama, Olivier Nomellini Senior Fellow, Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies, Mosbacher Director of the Center on Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law, and Professor by Courtesy, Department of Political Science, Stanford University; Author, The End of History and the Last Man (1992) and Political Order and Political Decay: From the Industrial Revolution to the Globalization of Democracy

Professor Fukuyama presents the keynote lecture of our special August series, Big Solutions for Big Problems. He asks whether our current “vetocracy” has made it easier to stop our government from doing anything than to accomplish something for the common good. Meanwhile, the presidential race has caused a lot of apprehension. The Republican Party has succumbed to Donald Trump’s hostile takeover, and the ultra-insider Hillary Clinton had to face surprisingly strong competition from Vermont socialist Bernie Sanders.

Whatever the issue—from immigration to financial reform to trade to stagnating incomes—large numbers of voters from both ends of the spectrum have rejected what they see as a corrupt, self-dealing establishment, and turned instead to radical outsiders in the hopes of a purifying cleanse. But is that what we will be getting?

Thu 8/25

Image - Marty Nemko

What's the Big Idea?

Date: Thu, August 25, 2016
Time: 6:00 PM
Finding solutions to big problems

Marty Nemko, Ph.D., Contributor, Time; Host, "Work with Marty Nemko," KALW 91.7 FM

What's the Big Idea? Some big, hard questions we all have to deal with ... and their possible answers. Health care is changing: How can we get good care when the system is likely to experience more demand, including from millions of low-pay/high-need people? The job world is also changing: Full-time benefitted, stable, well-paying jobs are being replaced by part-time/temp gigs—how can we thrive in a gig economy? Terrorism and jihad seem to only be accelerating: Now what? U.S. spending on education is near the top among developed nations, but student achievement flounders near the bottom: What to do? The U.S. government is almost $20 trillion in debt—$1.25 trillion to China—and the debt is growing: Is that sustainable? If not, what to cut? Where to raise taxes?

Dr. Marty Nemko, Time contributor, KALW host and author of eight books, including What's the Big Idea? 39 Reinventions for a Better Society, will address these issues.

Mon 8/29

Go to Middle East Forum Discussion

Middle East Forum Discussion

Date: Mon, August 29, 2016
Time: 5:30 PM
Discussion group

This month's topic: Turkey.

The Middle East Forum discussion group—which primarily covers the Middle East, North Africa and Afghanistan—has been meeting monthly for more than eight years. We are not a debate group; we are a discussion group.

Tue 8/30

Image - An Evening with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

An Evening with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

Date: Tue, August 30, 2016
Time: 6:30 PM
An American icon lets loose on politics, race, religion, inequality, sports and media

An American Icon Lets Loose on Politics, Race, Religion, Inequality, Sports, and Media

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, NBA Hall of Fame Inductee; Columnist, Time Magazine; Author, Writings on the Wall: Searching for a New Equality Beyond Black and White
In conversation with Van Jones, CNN Commentator

Since retiring from professional basketball as the NBA's all-time leading scorer, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has become a lauded observer of culture and society, a New York Times bestselling author, and a regular contributor to The Washington Post, Time magazine and Time.com. At a pivotal time in our history and in the midst of a presidential race that threatens to divide us, Mr. Abdul-Jabbar will give his take on the origins of bias and inequality that remain a stubborn part of America, 240 years after its founding document declared that all Americans are created equal. He contends that many Americans, out of fear and sometimes ignorance, make too many false assumptions about fellow citizens who aren’t like them.

Join Mr. Abdul-Jabbar for an unabashed and important conversation on how America can be a more unified country.

Thu 9/15

Image - Peace Corps program

Let It Begin Here: Peace Corps and Problem-Solving at the Last Mile

Date: Thu, September 15, 2016
Time: 6:00 PM
Swords into ploughshares

Carrie Hessler-Radelet, Director , U.S. Peace Corps
Karl W. Eikenberry, Ambassador; William J. Perry Fellow in International Security, Center for International Security and Cooperation, Stanford University

With contrasting backgrounds of peace and war, Peace Corps Director Carrie Hessler-Radelet and Ambassador Karl Eikenberry will engage the audience in a dynamic, informational conversation on the power of relationships in international development.

Hessler-Radelet has served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Samoa, executive director to the Special Olympics in The Gambia, and HIV/AIDS advisor in Indonesia, prior to her employment as vice president and director of the Washington, D.C., office for John Snow, Inc. Ambassador Eikenberry is a retired U.S. Army lieutenant general who had commanded and held staff positions in airborne, ranger and mechanized infantry units in the United States, Korea and Europe, before serving two tours of duty in Afghanistan, and his appointment as U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan.

Learn from these two leaders how to make swords into plowshares.

Mon 9/26

Go to Middle East Forum Discussion

Middle East Forum Discussion

Date: Mon, September 26, 2016
Time: 5:00 PM
Discussion group

The Middle East Forum discussion group—which primarily covers the Middle East, North Africa and Afghanistan—has been meeting monthly for more than eight years. We are not a debate group; we are a discussion group.

Tue 10/4

Image - Roger Penrose

Sir Roger Penrose: What We All Need to Know About Physics

Date: Tue, October 04, 2016
Time: 6:30 PM
Separating fact from fiction in the world of physics

Roger Penrose, Theoretical Physicist; Author, Fashion, Faith, and Fantasy in the New Physics of the Universe 
In conversation with Dr. David Eisenbud, director, Mathematical Sciences Research Institute and Professor of Mathematics, University of California, Berkeley

Here’s a chance to meet one of the world’s most renowned scientific thinkers. Sir Roger Penrose, colleague of Stephen Hawking and acclaimed theoretical physicist, will separate fiction from reality when it comes to physics and discuss the fact-based truths of the universe.

In his provocative new book, Penrose argues that fashion, faith, and fantasy, while sometimes productive and even essential in physics, may be leading today's researchers astray in three of the field's most important areas—string theory, quantum mechanics and cosmology. Arguing that string theory has veered away from physical reality by positing six extra hidden dimensions, Penrose cautions that the fashionable nature of a theory can cloud our judgment of its plausibility. In the case of quantum mechanics, its stunning success in explaining the atomic universe has led to an uncritical faith that it must also apply to reasonably massive objects, and Penrose responds with suggestions for possible changes in quantum theory. Turning to cosmology, he argues that most of the current fantastical ideas about the origins of the universe cannot be true, but that an even wilder reality may lie behind them. Penrose even describes how fashion, faith, and fantasy have ironically also shaped his own work.

Come for a discussion that will illuminate physics and its significance to all of us.

Wed 10/5

Image - Tara Smith

Can Courts Get the Law Right? Judicial Review’s Problem with Objectivity

Date: Wed, October 05, 2016
Time: 6:00 PM
Judicial review and the rule of law

Tara Smith, Professor of Philosophy, University of Texas at Austin; Author, Judicial Review in an Objective Legal System

The best laws in the world are useless if they are misunderstood by the courts. Yet the debate over judicial review—proper interpretation of laws—tends to be a minefield of loaded concepts, straw men and false alternatives. Tara Smith explains the pillars of objective law and the essentials needed to restore objective judicial review. Hear Smith's unique perspective on the originalism vs. living constitution vs. minimalism debate.

Thu 10/6

Image - China Economic Slowdown

China’s Economic Slowdown: Will It Hurt the U.S. and the World?

Date: Thu, October 06, 2016
Time: 6:30 PM
What is happening in China, and how does it affect the rest of us?

Yingyi Qian, Dean and Professor, School of Economics and Management, Tsinghua University, China
Nicholas Lardy, Senior Fellow, Peterson Institute for International Economics; Board Member, Asia Policy and The China Review
George Lewinski, Former Foreign Editor, "Marketplace"—Moderator

With China's growth slower than it has been in 25 years, it is undoubtable that China is experiencing an economic slowdown. The government has made changes to stabilize the situation and move the economy toward "a new normal." Our panelists will discuss the different kinds of reforms China is working on now, and how likely these reforms are to succeed.

What does it mean for Americans if these reforms succeed—or if these reforms fail? Do we need to fear a stronger China, or moreso, a weaker one?

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.

Tue 10/18

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.

Mon 10/24

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

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.

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.

Thu 11/3

Image - Kerrin Meis

Egon Schiele: A Feminist Artist Ahead of His Time

Date: Thu, November 03, 2016
Time: 6:00 PM

Kerrin Meis, Retired Lecturer, SFSU; Teacher, OLLI Berkeley and OLLI San Rafael

Egon Schiele, artistically active in Vienna during the last days of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, adored women, and was influenced by the fin-de-siècle preoccupation with sex. The Viennese artist was excited by Sigmund Freud's 1905 Theories of Sexuality, Gustav Mahler’s suggestive music, and Gustav Klimt's gorgeous images of desire. Schiele was even more audacious in his nudes and his explorations of self in his self-portraits, in his landscapes of the small village where he had retreated from Vienna (and was imprisoned for his erotic art) and in his deeply perceptive portraits. His many masterpieces explore the mysteries of love and death.

Wed 11/16

Go to A Holiday Toast to the 2016 Wine Harvest: Sustainable Practices and Pairings

A Holiday Toast to the 2016 Wine Harvest: Sustainable Practices and Pairings

Date: Wed, November 16, 2016
Time: 6:00 PM
Panel discussion and wine tasting

Lucas Pope, Halter Ranch Vineyards
Neil Collins, Tablas Creek Vineyard
Dirk Heuvel, McManis Family Vineyards
Katie Jackson, Jackson Family Wines
Allison Jordan, California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance, Moderator

Join our distinguished panelists, recipients of the 2016 Green Medal Awards, as they share their year-long journey toward the 2016 vineyard harvest and their commitments to environmental stewardship, social responsibility and the desire to keep land and businesses sustainable for future generations.

Following the program, continue the conversation with our panel and celebrate the holidays with a tasting of their outstanding wines!

Tue 11/29

Go to Better End-of-Life Care: Using Video and Story to Aid Decisions

Better End-of-Life Care: Using Video and Story to Aid Decisions

Date: Tue, November 29, 2016
Time: 6:00 PM
Making better end-of-life decisions

Angelo Volandes, M.D., Faculty Member, Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School

Why do so many Americans die in ways they say they don’t want, suffering and tethered to machines? When Harvard physician Dr. Angelo Volandes had trouble explaining to his dying patient the possible consequences of her treatment options, he walked her down to the ICU. She immediately understood where her decision might lead, and it changed her outlook. Since then, Dr. Volandes has created dozens of powerful videos to support advance care planning and facilitate difficult conversations about end-of-life care. His ground-breaking work has attracted support from the NIH and private foundations, and his efforts have helped thousands of clinicians, patients and families have “the conversation.”

Dr. Volandes’ efforts have demonstrated the power of stories and video in helping patients make decisions that reflect their preferences and values. He has applied his approach to large health-care systems and entire states, and his work has been translated into multiple languages. His presentation will include excerpts from several videos as well as from his recent book, The Conversation: A Revolutionary Plan for End-of-Life Care.

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.