Upcoming Events

Tue 3/15

Ellen R. Malcolm: The Evolution of EMILY's List

Date: Tue, March 15, 2016
Time: 6:30 PM

Ellen R. Malcolm, Founder, EMILY's List
Christine Bronstein, Founder, Nothing But the Truth Publishing; Author; Mother—Moderator

In 1985 Ellen R. Malcolm launched EMILY’s List, which has grown into a powerhouse political organization over three million members strong, focused on creating change by electing pro-choice women to office. When EMILY’s List began, there were only 12 Democratic women in the House and none in the Senate; today, EMILY’s List has played a vital role in helping to elect 19 female senators, 11 governors and 110 Democratic women to the House.

Malcolm's new book, When Women Win: EMILY's List and the Rise of Women in American Politics, includes interviews with some of today’s most celebrated Democratic female politicians, including Hillary Clinton, Nancy Pelosi, Tammy Baldwin and others. The book also recounts some of the most daunting political challenges for Democratic female candidates over the past three decades, including the historic election of Barbara Mikulski as the first female U.S. senator, the defeat of Todd Akin by Claire McCaskill, and Elizabeth Warren’s hard-fought victory over Scott Brown.

Join us for a lively discussion with Ellen R. Malcolm about the evolution of EMILY’s List, the brave women who have successfully navigated our nation’s tough political landscape and what the future holds for women in politics.

Thu 3/17

How Early Nutrition Can Shape Gut Microbiota and Its Implications in the Autoimmunity Epidemics

Date: Thu, March 17, 2016
Time: 12:00 PM

How Early Nutrition Can Shape Gut Microbiota and Its Implications in the Autoimmunity Epidemics: The Lesson Learned From Celiac

Alessio Fasano, M.D., Mucosal Immunology and Biology Research Center, Massachusetts General Hospital for Children, Harvard Medical School, Boston

The gut microbiome consists of more than 100 trillion microorganisms, most of which are bacteria. It has been just recently recognized that there is a close bidirectional interaction between the gut microbiome and our immune system. Increased hygiene and a lack of exposure to various microorganisms have been held responsible for the "epidemic" of chronic inflammatory diseases over the past 30–40 years in industrialized countries.

While factors such as modality of delivery, neonatal feeding regimens, use of antibiotics, and infections can influence microbiota composition, diet is by far the most important variable affecting gut ecosystem. Dr. Fasano will discuss how the gut microbiome affects health and the steps that can be taken to keepthe microbiome healthy.

Mon 3/21

Image - The Commonwealth Club logo

San Francisco Green Film Festival: Wild Tales—Filmmaking and Conservation

Date: Mon, March 21, 2016
Time: 6:00 PM

Panelists TBA

Films can make us cry, make us laugh out loud and keep us thinking for days. From Blackfish to Racing Extinction, filmmakers are capturing the power people have to make significant change and to protect our environments and wildlife.

Join the San Francisco Green Film Festival and leading Bay Area wildlife filmmakers and environmentalists for a discussion about the role of filmmaking to save species and habitats. Whether it is butterflies on San Bruno mountain or lions in Kenya, we want to share how film has played a leading part in having stories heard and told. And a plus! A sneak preview of this year's San Francisco Green Film Festival. 

Week to Week Political Roundtable and Member Social 3/21/16

Date: Mon, March 21, 2016
Time: 6:30 PM
Smart, lively and civil political discussion (with a social hour and live news quiz)

Panelists TBA

Join us 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).

Somini Sengupta: The New India

Date: Mon, March 21, 2016
Time: 7:00 PM

Somini Sengupta, Foreign Correspondent, The New York Times; Author, The End of Karma: Hope and Fury Among India’s Young; Twitter:

Sengupta explores the people of India and how the country is dealing with issues relating to economic opportunity, gender equality and civil liberties.

Sengupta emigrated from Calcutta as a child and grew up in California. Thirty years later, she returned to India as the first Indian-American bureau chief for The New York Times.

Tue 3/22

Image - The Commonwealth Club of California

Women Fostering Women As Change-agents Through Global Mentoring

Date: Tue, March 22, 2016
Time: 6:00 PM

Eileen Brewer, Director, Symantec; Tech Advisor, WAKE
Trish Tierney, Co-founder, Women’s Alliance for Knowledge Exchange
Barbara Bylenga, Co-founder and Executive Director, SHE-CAN (formerly Open a Door)
Jocelyn Mizero, Scholar, Lafayette College
Julie Roberts, Health-care Executive; SHE-CAN Lead Mentor—Moderator

The panel will discuss how organizations are leveraging personal one-on-one connections and resource sharing in shifting the global female leadership paradigm. Represented organizations on this panel have experience in building female leadership through directly connecting women and girls in developing countries with professional women in the U.S. who help them access higher education, technology resources and—most important—connect them with a global network of professionals who help them succeed.

Wed 3/23

Image - Elizabeth Koehler-Pentakoff

The Missing Kennedy

Date: Wed, March 23, 2016
Time: 5:15 PM

Elizabeth Koehler-Pentacoff, The New York Times Bestselling Author

Koehler-Pentacoff shares Rosemary Kennedy's tragic story about being lobotomized at 23 and being sent away to live the rest of her years at a convent. Rosemary's story is interwoven with the author's own personal tale in the new book The Missing Kennedy. A New York Times bestselling author, Elizabeth is the niece of the nun who took care of Rosemary Kennedy for 35 years. The inspiration behind The Special Olympics and The Best Buddies program, Rosemary led a very meaningful life because of how her family responded to her misfortune. Koehler-Pentacoff will share the impact Rosemary had on her life and the life of so many others.

Image - Sean Carroll

Sean Carroll: The Quest to Discover How Life Works and Why It Matters

Date: Wed, March 23, 2016
Time: 7:00 PM

Sean Carroll, Vice President for Science Education, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Allan Wilson Professor of Molecular Biology and Genetics, University of Wisconsin–Madison; Author, The Serengeti Rules: The Quest to Discover How Life Works and Why It Matters

One of the most important revelations about the natural world is that everything is regulated—there are rules that regulate the amount of every molecule in our bodies and rules that govern the numbers of every animal and plant in the wild. But how is mankind impacting this delicate balance?

The most surprising revelation about the rules that regulate life at such different scales is that they are remarkably similar; there is a common underlying logic to life. Award-winning biologist Carroll explains how our deep knowledge of the rules and logic of the human body has spurred the advent of revolutionary life-saving medicines, and makes the compelling case that it is now time to use the Serengeti Rules to heal our ailing planet. 

Thu 3/24

Image - Russian Hill Walking Tour

Russian Hill Walking Tour

Date: Thu, March 24, 2016
Time: 1:45 PM

Join a more active Commonwealth Club Neighborhood Adventure! Russian Hill is a magical area with secret gardens and amazing views. Join Rick Evans for a hike up hills and staircases and learn about the history of this neighborhood. See where great artists and architects lived and worked, and walk down residential streets where some of the most historically significant houses in the Bay Area are located. 

Image- Douglas Rushkoff

Douglas Rushkoff: What Does the Digital Economy Really Mean?

Date: Thu, March 24, 2016
Time: 6:30 PM

Douglas Rushkoff, Professor of Media Theory and Digital Economics, CUNY/Queens; Author, Throwing Rocks at the Google Bus: How Growth Became the Enemy of Prosperity; Twitter

Digital technology was supposed to usher in a new age of distributed prosperity, but many have complained that so far it has been used to put industrial capitalism on steroids. Rushkoff says It’s not technology’s fault; but instead he blames a growth-driven, economic operating system that has reached the limits of its ability to serve anyone, rich or poor, human or corporate. But he says there must be a better response to the lopsided returns of the digital economy than to throw rocks at the shuttle buses carrying Google employees to their jobs, as protesters did in December 2013.

Acclaimed media scholar and technology author Douglas Rushkoff calls for people to embrace the more distributed possibilities of these technology platforms. He says we can optimize every aspect of the economy—from central currency and debt to corporations and labor—to create sustainable prosperity for business and people alike.

Fri 3/25

Saudi Arabia and Iran: Friends or Foes

Date: Fri, March 25, 2016
Time: 12:00 PM

Banfsheh Keynoush, Ph.D., Foreign Affairs Scholar; Author; Educator 
Jonathan Curiel, Award-winning Journalist; Author; Former Reuters Foundation Scholar, Oxford University—Moderator

Keynoush, a foreign affairs scholar and educator, was a former translator for four Iranian presidents. She is an advisor to policy centers on the Middle East and to American companies doing business in the region. Keynoush earned her Ph.D. at Tufts University and was a visiting scholar at the King Faisal University Center for Islamic Center and Research. She will discuss the topic of her latest book, Saudi Arabia and Iran: Friends or Foes.

Mon 3/28

Humanities West Book Discussion: Don Quixote, by Cervantes

Date: Mon, March 28, 2016
Time: 5:00 PM

Join us to discuss Cervantes’ classic novel Don Quixote. We will be using the Edith Grossman translation. If anyone has a windmill to bring in, we will all tilt our lances at it. The discussion will be led by Lynn Harris.

Middle East Discussion Group

Date: Mon, March 28, 2016
Time: 5:30 PM

Make your voice heard in an enriching, provocative and fun discussion with Club members as you weigh in on events shaping the face of the Middle East, North Africa and Afghanistan. Each month, the Middle East Member-Led Forum hosts an informal roundtable discussion on a topic frequently suggested by recent headlines. After a brief introduction, the floor will be open for discussion. All interested members are encouraged to attend. There will also be a brief planning session.

Image - The Commonwealth Club of California

A Conversation About Atul Gawande's Being Mortal

Date: Mon, March 28, 2016
Time: 6:00 PM

Patrick Arbore, M.A., Ed.D, Director, CESP
Karyn Skultety, Ph.D., Vice-President of Health Services, Institute on Aging

Being Mortal, Atul Gawande's book and "Frontline" documentary, tells the story of a physician learning how to think about death and dying in the context of being a healer and a doctor. Join Dr. Arbore and Dr. Skultety in a community discussion of Dr. Gawande's "Being Mortal". Explore concerns about life, death, loss, grief and the context and meaning of the recently passed California legislation legalizing physician assisted suicide in California. 

Socrates Café

Date: Mon, March 28, 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.

Tue 3/29

Image - Thomas Frank

Thomas Frank: What's the Matter with the Democrats?

Date: Tue, March 29, 2016
Time: 12:00 PM

Thomas Frank, Author, What’s the Matter with Kansas? and Listen, Liberal: Or, What Ever Happened to the Party of the People?

Come hear the best-selling author of What’s the Matter with Kansas? echo that question as it relates to the Democratic Party. Frank says liberals like to believe that if only Democrats can continue to dominate national elections, if only those awful Republicans are beaten into submission, then the country will be on the right course. But he says this view fundamentally misunderstands the modern Democratic Party. Frank says that the Democrats have in fact done little to advance traditional liberal goals: expanding opportunity, fighting for social justice, and ensuring that workers get a fair deal. Indeed, he argues that Democrats have occupied the White House for 16 of the last 24 years, and yet the decline of the middle class has only accelerated, Wall Street gets its bailouts, wages keep falling, and the free-trade deals keep coming.

In this critical election year, Frank recalls the Democrats back to their historic goals—what he says is the only way to reverse the ever-deepening rift between the rich and the poor in America. A former columnist for The Wall Street Journal and Harper’s, Frank is the founding editor of The Baffler and writes regularly for Salon. 

Wed 3/30

Image - Ambassador Robert Holleyman

Robert Holleyman, Deputy U.S. Trade Representative: The Trans Pacific Partnership and Beyond

Date: Wed, March 30, 2016
Time: 12:00 PM

Robert Holleyman, Deputy U.S. Trade Representative

Enhancing The Digital Economy Through Trade

Ambassador Holleyman will speak to the urgency around efforts to preserve a single, global digital marketplace. He will describe these new rules in detail and explain how he believes the Trans Pacific Partnership underpins policy efforts to drive the growth of the technology sector.

Robert W. Holleyman II was confirmed by the U.S. Senate for this position on September 18, 2014. His responsibilities include U.S. trade and investment relations with Asia, as well as trade negotiations and policy coordination in the areas of services, investment, intellectual property, and innovation. In the private sector, Holleyman worked in technology and worked internationally for more than two decades. He founded Cloud4Growth, a cloud technology development venture in 2013. Before that, Holleyman served as president and CEO of BSA | The Software Alliance from 1990 to 2013, where he had considerable experience opening new markets in Asia and globally. He is widely known for his engagement in the areas of innovation, intellectual property, cybersecurity, e-commerce and emerging technologies.

Image - Charles Koppelman

Fidel Castro Didn't Show up for Rehearsal: How I Produced the First New Cuban Opera in 50 Years ... and Survived

Date: Wed, March 30, 2016
Time: 6:00 PM

Charles Koppelman, Producer, Writer, Librettist

Cubanacan, the first new Cuban opera since that country’s revolution, is the story of Fidel Castro commissioning architect Ricardo Porro to design and build art schools on the site of the Havana Country Club in 1961. Koppelman will present video excerpts from the opera’s performance at the Havana Bienal last May, reveal the 13-year journey of this project, and explain what it's like to work in Cuba at the dawn of U.S.-Cuban rapprochement. 

Image - National Security, Privacy, and Freedom of Expression Online

National Security, Privacy, and Freedom of Expression Online

Date: Wed, March 30, 2016
Time: 6:00 PM

David Kaye, U.N. Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression; Author, HRC 2015—Report on Encryption and Anonymity in Digital Communications
In conversation with Jacob Foster, Attorney, Kasowitz, Benson, Torres & Friedman LLP; Served in the Office of the Chief Prosecutor, International Criminal Court

A vibrant debate has arisen over whether encryption and anonymity online are essential to free expression or a threat to national security. While law enforcement contends that technological backdoors to encryption are necessary to prevent terrorists from "going dark," the Report by Special Rapporteur Kaye concludes that the right to free expression depends on freedom from electronic surveillance. Join us for a discussion of the future of online privacy in light of the Snowden disclosures, the rise of ISIS, and the encryption debate.

Image - Joe Lurie

Joe Lurie: Perceptions and Misperceptions in a Globalized Polarized World

Date: Wed, March 30, 2016
Time: 7:00 PM

Joe Lurie, Executive Director Emeritus, International House, UC Berkeley; Author

The Commonwealth Club is offering an encore performance of Joe Lurie's recent sold-out program in San Francisco. Inspired by a West African proverb that says “The stranger sees only what he knows,” Joe Lurie shares a feast of cross-cultural stories and misadventures, exploring the deeper cultural messages that escape people who hear largely what they’re used to hearing and see mostly what they’re used to seeing.

Gleaned from his years of research, travel and managing Berkeley’s International House, Lurie reveals how cultural filters distort perceptions of others in the worlds of immigration, diplomacy and business. One reviewer of Lurie’s book observed, “Already I can hear the reader calling out to a friend across the room, ‘Wait, you’ve got to hear this!’”