Upcoming Events

Mon 12/5

Image - Cecile Richards
This event is Sold Out

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
Wade Davis, Former NFL Player; Thought Leader, Writer, Public Speaker and Educator on Gender, Race and Orientation Equality—Moderator

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 Conversation with Gavin Newsom, Lt. Governor of California

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.

Tue 1/3

Image - Hopkins Mansion on Nob Hill

Nob Hill Walking Tour

Date: Tue, January 03, 2017
Time: 1:45 PM
Walking tour

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.

Thu 1/12

Image - Week to Week Political Roundtable and Social Hour logo

Week to Week Political Roundtable and Social Hour 1/12/17

Date: Thu, January 12, 2017
Time: 6:30 PM
Our first political roundtable of the new year!

Panelists TBA

Join us for a new-year political roundtable 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 1/17

Go to A Neurologist's Insightful and Compassionate Look into the Misunderstood World of Psychosomatic Disorders

A Neurologist's Insightful and Compassionate Look into the Misunderstood World of Psychosomatic Disorders

Date: Tue, January 17, 2017
Time: 6:00 PM
Is it all in your head?

Suzanne O'Sullivan, M.D., Consultant, Clinical Neurophysiology and Neurology, The National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery; Former Consultant, Neurology, The Royal London Hospital

It's happened to all of us: our cheeks flush red when we say the wrong thing, or our hearts skip a beat when a certain someone walks by. But few of us realize how much more dramatic and extreme our bodies' reactions to emotions can be. Many people who see their doctors have medically unexplained symptoms, and in the vast majority of these cases, a psychosomatic cause is suspected. And yet the diagnosis of a psychosomatic disorder can make a patient feel dismissed as a hypochondriac, a faker or just plain crazy.

In Is It All in Your Head?, neurologist Dr. Suzanne O'Sullivan takes us on a journey through the world of psychosomatic illness, where we meet patients such as Rachel, a promising young dancer now housebound by chronic fatigue syndrome, and Mary, whose memory loss may be her mind's way of protecting her from remembering her husband's abuse. O'Sullivan reveals the hidden stresses behind their mysterious symptoms, approaching a sensitive topic with patience and understanding. She addresses the taboos surrounding psychosomatic disorders, teaching us that "it's all in your head" doesn't mean that something isn't real, as the body is often the stand-in for the mind when the latter doesn't possess the tools to put words to its sorrow. She encourages us to look with compassion at the ways in which our brains act out, and to question our failure to credit the intimate connection between mind and body.

Wed 1/18

Image - Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen
This event is Sold Out

Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen

Date: Wed, January 18, 2017
Time: 12:00 PM
Economic assessment from the Fed chief

Janet L. Yellen, Ph.D., Chair, Board of Governors, Federal Reserve System; Professor Emeritus, University of California, Berkeley

Two days before the new U.S. president is sworn in, join us for a rare opportunity to hear an economic assessment from the head of the Fed.

Dr. Janet Yellen took office as chair of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System in 2014, for a four-year term ending February 3, 2018. Dr. Yellen also serves as chairman of the Federal Open Market Committee, the country's principal monetary policymaking body. Prior to her appointment as chair, Dr. Yellen served as vice chair of the Federal Reserve Board of Governors, while simultaneously beginning a 14-year term as a member of the board that will expire January 31, 2024. Dr. Yellen is professor emeritus of business and economics at the University of California, Berkeley, where she has been a faculty member since 1980. From 2004 through 2010 she served as president and chief executive officer of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco and previously chaired President Bill Clinton’s Council of Economic Advisers. Dr. Yellen holds a Ph.D. in economics from Yale University and has written on a wide variety of macroeconomic issues, specializing in the causes, mechanisms and implications of unemployment.

Thu 1/19

Image - Carole Bayer Sager

Carole Bayer Sager: A Star-Studded Musical Journey

Date: Thu, January 19, 2017
Time: 6:30 PM
A legendary singer dishes

Carole Bayer Sager, Grammy and Academy Award-winning Songwriter; Author, They’re Playing Our Song; Twitter

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

For five decades, Carol Bayer Sager has been among the most admired and successful songwriters. Her recognizable hits have included, “Nobody Does It Better,” “A Groovy Kind of Love,” “Don’t Cry Out Loud,” and the theme from the movie Arthur, “The Best That You Can Do” (about getting lost between the moon and New York City). Get ready to hear stories about such celebrites as Peter Allen, Ray Charles, Celine Dion, Bob Dylan, Neil Diamond, Clint Eastwood, Kenny “Babyface” Edmonds, Aretha Franklin, Whitney Houston, Michael Jackson, Carole King, Bette Midler, Dolly Parton, Carly Simon, Frank Sinatra and Barbra Streisand.

Ms. Sager’s long relationship with composer Marvin Hamlisch was also the basis of the long-running hit musical, They’re Playing Our Song, for which she wrote the lyrics. And her work with composer Burt Bacharach, to whom she was also married for 10 years, produced pop standards such as “On My Own” and “That’s What Friends Are For” (inspired by her friendship with Elizabeth Taylor), which raised over $2 million for AIDS research.

Join us for an inside look at the dark and funny side of music and a personal story of inspiration.

Mon 1/23

Image - Socrates Café

Socrates Café

Date: Mon, January 23, 2017
Time: 6:30 PM
Discussion group

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.

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 1/30

Image - Week to Week Political Roundtable and Social Hour logo

Week to Week Political Roundtable and Social Hour 1/30/17

Date: Mon, January 30, 2017
Time: 6:30 PM
The administration and Congress are in office; let's talk!

Panelists TBA

We've got a new administration in the White House, a new Congress in the Capitol, and new down-ballot officeholders across the country, not to mention the impact of a raft of state and local propositions here in California.

So join us for our political roundtable 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). 

Thu 2/2

Image - Chinatown gate

Chinatown Walking Tour

Date: Thu, February 02, 2017
Time: 10:00 AM
Walking tour

Enjoy a Commonwealth Club neighborhood adventure. Join Rick Evans for a memorable mid-day walk and discover the history and mysteries of Chinatown. Explore colorful alleys and side streets. Visit a Taoist temple, an herbal store, the site of the first public school in the state and the famous Fortune Cookie Factory.

Mon 2/6

Go to When Mental Health Meets Social Justice

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

Explore 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.

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.

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 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.

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.