Upcoming Events

Tue 7/26

Image - William D. Eggers

Transforming Government with a Digital Mindset

Date: Tue, July 26, 2016
Time: 6:00 PM
How can government "think digital" about everything and everyone?

William D. Eggers, Executive Director, Deloitte Center for Government Innovation; Author, Delivering on Digital: The Innovators and Technologies that Are Transforming Government

How can government transform its capabilities by capitalizing on today’s new digital tools? Best-selling author William D. Eggers coined the term “government 2.0” more than a decade ago and now envisions an even more revolutionary era in government, enabled by cloud computing, mobile devices and analytics.

Eggers chronicles the new generation of digital innovators who are “hacking bureaucracy” to reform and modernize long-standing bureaucratic processes and reimagine virtually every facet of what government does using digital tools—inspiring us to “think digital” when it comes to citizens, products and process.

Thu 7/28

Image - Dr Denise Davis

Race and Relationships in Health Care: Basic Psychology I Didn't Learn in Med School (But Wish I Had)

Date: Thu, July 28, 2016
Time: 5:15 PM

Denise L. Davis, M.D., Clinical Professor of Medicine, University of California San Francisco; Fellow, American Academy on Communication in Healthcare

In 2014, health professions students around the country staged White Coats for Black Lives protests, which focused the attention of UCSF and other medical schools on issues of race, power and health. Dr. Davis will discuss the art and science of improving doctor-patient communication that could change the culture of medicine, helping doctors to move beyond "White Coat Silence" on race and power.

Mon 8/1

Image - Policing the Police: Reforming American Law Enforcement

Policing the Police: Reforming American Law Enforcement

Date: Mon, August 01, 2016
Time: 6:30 PM

W. Kamau Bell, Socio-Political Comedian; Host, CNN’s "United Shades of America" 
Judge LaDoris Cordell (ret.), Member, Blue Ribbon Panel on Transparency, Accountability, and Fairness in Law Enforcement
George Gascón, San Francisco District Attorney; Former Chief, SFPD
Van Jones, CNN Commentator
Scott Glover, CNN Justice Reporter—Moderator

From Minnesota to Baton Rouge, Ferguson, New York and even here in San Francisco, the nation is struggling with an increasing number of incidents where images are captured depicting controversial uses of force by police on predominantly black and brown members of the community. The culture within law enforcement departments from coast to coast is under fire, with seemingly no end in sight.

In San Francisco, the Blue Ribbon Panel on Transparency, Accountability, and Fairness in Law Enforcement was established by San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón as an advisory body in May 2015 following revelations that 14 San Francisco Police Department (SFPD) officers had exchanged numerous racist and homophobic text messages. Since then, the fatal officer-involved shootings of Mario Woods, Almicar Lopez, Luis Gongora and Jessica Williams have prompted outrage from the community.

The Blue Ribbon Panel is comprised of three distinguished jurists, eight top-tier law firms and five law schools that investigated the SFPD’s use of force, stops, searches and arrests, personnel practices, culture, internal discipline, crime clearance and data, and external oversight. They recently released an extensive report detailing their findings and corresponding recommendations.

The Commonwealth Club and GLIDE Center for Social Justice invite you to this important and timely discussion about the recommendations made by the Blue Ribbon Panel, as well as what it will take to achieve true justice and reform in police department culture both here and across the country.

Tue 8/2

Image - Paulette Brown

Paulette Brown, President, American Bar Association: Making the Justice System Just

Date: Tue, August 02, 2016
Time: 6:30 PM
Making the legal system work better for the under-represented

Paulette Brown, President, American Bar Association; Partner/co-chair, Diversity and Inclusion Committee, Locke Lord LLP
James Taylor, Ph.D., Director of African American Studies and Professor of Political Science, University of San Francisco; Lecturer, African American and African Diaspora Studies Department, University of California Berkeley—Moderator

Paulette Brown is the first woman of color to become president of the ABA and has been recognized by the National Law Journal as one of the “50 most influential minority lawyers in America.” She has been a municipal court judge, in addition to focusing on all facets of labor and employment litigation. Brown has devoted her presidency to “rebuilding the nation’s confidence in our justice system” by “working to eliminate bias and enhance diversity and inclusion” and offer “tangible, sustainable solutions that will have a positive impact on the perception of our justice system.”

Join an important discussion of what’s being done to ensure that the legal system can better represent the under-represented across the United States.

Wed 8/3

Image - Lawrence Schonbrun

Why Are Class Action Attorneys' Fees so High and Judicial Oversight so Low?

Date: Wed, August 03, 2016
Time: 6:00 PM
Part of our special series Big Solutions for Big Problems

Lawrence Schonbrun, Attorney Representing the Petitioning Class Member in Laffitte vs. Robert Half International

Big Solutions to Big Problems, the 2016 August Forum series at the Club, investigates whether excessive legal fees in class action lawsuits can be reined in without eliminating the incentives needed to prosecute such actions. Schonbrun’s talk will discuss the recent California Supreme Court case, Laffitte v. Robert Half Int'l., Inc., which establishes the rules that courts must follow in awarding reasonable attorneys' fees from class action settlements.

Thu 8/4

Image - Waterfront Walking Tour

Waterfront Walking Tour

Date: Thu, August 04, 2016
Time: 1:45 PM

Join Rick Evans for his new walking tour exploring the historic sites of the waterfront neighborhood that surrounds the location of the future Commonwealth Club headquarters. Hear the dynamic stories of the entrepreneurs, controversial artists and labor organizers who created this recently revitalized neighborhood. This tour will give you a lively overview of the historic significance of this neighborhood and a close look at the ongoing development.

Fri 8/5

Image - Talmage Boston

Noted Trial Attorney Talmage Boston: What Makes a Great President

Date: Fri, August 05, 2016
Time: 12:00 PM
What are the most important questions about our presidents?

Talmage Boston, Attorney; Author, Cross-Examining History: A Lawyer Gets Answers from the Experts About Our Presidents

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

For more than 38 years, Talmage Boston’s vocation has been getting to the heart of his cases by asking the right questions—and not stopping until he gets them answered. He has been voted among the best lawyers in America since 2013 and is a seven-time recipient of presidential citations.

Three years ago, he had an epiphany: What if he used his examination skills to go deeper into his lifelong avocation—the study of presidential history?

He interviewed some of America’s leading presidential historians and presidential insiders, including former Secretary of State James A. Baker III, Pulitzer Prize-winners David McCullough and Jon Meacham, and New York Times best-selling historian Douglas Brinkley. In this historic election year, hear from this seasoned trial lawyer on the most important questions Americans should have about our commanders-in-chief.

Mon 8/8

Image - George Hammond

Ending Slavery

Date: Mon, August 08, 2016
Time: 6:00 PM
Part of our special series Big Solutions for Big Problems

George Hammond, Author, Rational Idealism and Conversations with Socrates

Monday Night Philosophy contributes to our special August series with a close look at the resilience of slavery in the 21st century. Ending slavery was a 19th century obsession that appeared quite successful, as did the attempt to end intemperance. But was slavery, like drunkenness, just pushed underground when it was criminalized? The intense psychological desire for hierarchical status, and the economic desires that reinforce that, explain why slavery is as hard to eliminate as other social ills, as is evidenced by the continuing mass incarceration of African-Americans and the endurance of various forms of female slavery.

The big solution to this big problem is an easily understood and almost as easily adopted perspective that effectively undermines the psychological need for hierarchy. There are also legal incentives, and technical half-solutions, which could help minimize the demand for enslaving each other in the meantime.

Image - Week to Week Political Roundtable and Member Social

Week to Week Political Roundtable & Member Social 8/8/16

Date: Mon, August 08, 2016
Time: 6:30 PM
Get the inside scoop on the general election

Carson Bruno, Research Fellow, Hoover Institution; Twitter  
Melissa Caen, Political Analyst, CBS SF and SFGate.com; Twitter
C.W. Nevius, Columnist, San Francisco Chronicle; Twitter

It's general election time, and you don't want to take your eyes off of the presidential campaign now.

We'll 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 8/9

Image - George Hammond

Understanding Evil

Date: Tue, August 09, 2016
Time: 6:00 PM
Part of our special series Big Solutions to Big Problems

George Hammond, Author, Rational Idealism and Conversations with Socrates

The dichotomy between good and evil was popular long before Zoroaster was born, and it will probably continue to be long after Manichaeism's last influences subside. But is evil a useful concept? Or an obfuscating one? The big solution to this big problem in understanding reality comes from comparing the concepts of good and evil to the less emotionally fraught concepts of hot and cold. They appear to be opposites at first, but are actually relative labels we apply to our experiences that depend both on an objective reality and on the relative perspective of the perceiver.

Understanding evil this way vastly reduces the fears that have scared us silly for centuries, and provides a tremendous boost to the effectiveness of our pursuit of happiness—a big solution indeed.

Image - Diablo Canyon

Will Closing Diablo Canyon Increase Carbon Pollution?

Date: Tue, August 09, 2016
Time: 6:30 PM
The future of the nuclear power plant at Diablo Canyon

David Baker, Energy Reporter, San Francisco Chronicle 
John Geesman, Attorney, Dickson Geesman LLP
Dian Greenwich, Former Commissioner, California Public Utilities Commission
Michael Shellenberger, President, Environmental Progress

Will closing the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant raise or lower California’s carbon pollution? Is it a deal with the devil or bold leadership?

Wed 8/10

Image - Lorraine Bannai

Enduring Conviction: Fred Korematsu and His Quest for Justice

Date: Wed, August 10, 2016
Time: 6:00 PM
Part of our special series Big Solutions for Big Problems

Lorraine Bannai, Professor of Lawyering Skills and Director, Fred T. Korematsu Center for Law and Equality, Seattle University School of Law; Author, Enduring Conviction: Fred Korematsu and His Quest for Justice

The vulnerability of minority communities has always been a big problem, but it is particularly so when fear exacerbates ignorance. Not long ago, it was Japanese Americans; now it is Muslims. Professor Bannai illuminates this theme through the story of Fred Korematsu, a 22-year-old Oakland welder who refused to comply with orders that led to the incarceration of more than 110,000 people of Japanese ancestry during World War II. In Korematsu v. United States­, the wartime Supreme Court rejected his challenge to the government in one of its most infamous cases. More than 40 years later, Professor Bannai was part of the legal team that successfully challenged Korematsu's conviction based on proof that the government had falsified the record.

For Korematsu’s courage and for his work warning of the dangers of prejudice, President Clinton awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1998.

Image - MacArthur Foundation

Meet the Geniuses: Inside the MacArthur Foundation’s Creative Thinking Awards

Date: Wed, August 10, 2016
Time: 6:30 PM
Inspiration from exceptionally creative people

Maneesh Agrawala, Computer Vision Technologist; MacArthur Foundation “Genius” Grantee
Camille Utterback, Digital Artist; MacArthur Foundation “Genius” Grantee
Cecilia Conrad, Managing Director, John D. and Catherine T MacArthur Foundation; Former Vice President for Academic Affairs, Pomona College

It’s the 35th anniversary of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Fellows Program, the so-called “genius grants” that recognize exceptionally creative people who inspire us all. Past MacArthur Grantees include “Hamilton” creator Lin-Manuel Miranda, Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates, choreographer Twyla Tharp and world wide web inventor Tim Berners-Lee. Join us for a fascinating conversation with MacArthur Fellows from the Bay Area about creative problem solving.

Cecilia Conrad, managing director of the MacArthur Foundation, will talk with computer vision technologist Maneesh Agrawala and digital artist Camille Utterback. Mr. Agrawala is a computer scientist designing visual interfaces that enhance our ability to understand large quantities of complex information. Ms.Utterback is an artist who uses digital technologies to create visually arresting works that redefine how viewers experience and interact with art. Ms. Conrad will also discuss 100&Change, MacArthur’s new competition for a single $100 million grant to solve a critical problem of our time.

Thu 8/11

Is There a Safe Way to Use Geo-Engineering to Address Climate Change?

Date: Thu, August 11, 2016
Time: 6:00 PM
Part of our special series Big Solutions for Big Problems

Leslie Field, Ph.D., Founder and President, Ice911 Research; Founder, SmallTech Consulting
Armand Neukermans, Ph.D., Founder, Xros; Author; Inventor

Can geo-engineering help us stave off even more dramatic climate disruption? Dr. Field and Dr. Neudermans will be interviewed by Gerald Harris, chair of The Commonwealth Club's Science & Technology member-led forum. He will inquire about the latest approaches to geo-engineering to address climate change, the need for such work, the risks involved and the potential benefits. Mr. Harris has been consulting to the electric power industry on long-term planning for more 25 years and has been an executive at both Bechtel Engineers and Pacific Gas & Electric Company.

Fri 8/12

Israeli Innovations in Solving Big Problems

Date: Fri, August 12, 2016
Time: 12:00 PM
This program is part of our special series Big Solutions for Big Problems

Ravit Baer, Deputy Consul General for Israel for the Pacific Northwest
Nathan Miller, President, Miller Ink; Consultant, Israel 21c
Riva Gambert, Director, East Bay International Jewish Film Festival—Moderator

A distinguished panel will discuss the impressive contributions the tiny state of Israel (known as the Start Up Nation) has made in finding and sharing solutions to big problems threatening the environment, health and economies throughout the world. In particular, DCG Baer will speak to how the government supports Israeli technology, research and development, as well as assisting other societies, such as California with our drought.

Mon 8/15

Image - Bobby Kennedy

Bobby Kennedy: The Making of a Liberal Icon

Date: Mon, August 15, 2016
Time: 12:00 PM
Part of our special series Big Solutions for Big Problems

Larry Tye, Author, Bobby Kennedy: The Making of a Liberal Icon

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

Nobody was better, half a century ago, at thinking about the biggest solutions for the problems of his age than Bobby, whether that be race riots roiling in cities across America, and especially in California; the war raging in Vietnam; or the general issue of inequality that was dividing people along lines of class, race, gender and generation.

Those issues, of course, are a mirror of those facing the country today, when RFK's message is more resonant than ever. He predicted we'd have a black president almost to the day, when no white politician dreamed of it. He talked about how our problems made us ripe for demagogues, though he'd never met Donald P. Trump but did know George Wallace better than anyone. And he offered ways out of all of that, in compelling enough terms to win the California primary and seem poised for the presidency.

Reading Californians Book Discussion Group

Date: Mon, August 15, 2016
Time: 6:00 PM
Viet Thanh Nguyen's The Sympathizer

The acclaimed novel The Sympathizer, by Pulitzer Prize-winner Viet Thanh Nguyen, will be discussed at the next meeting of our new book discussion group, Reading Californians. Nguyen was the gold medal winner for first fiction in The Commonwealth Club's recent California Book Awards, which recognized the best published writing in California in 2015. Nguyen’s novel has been described as “a cerebral thriller about Vietnam and its aftermath” (Ron Charles, The Washington Post) and “A dark funny—and Vietnamese—look at the Vietnam war” (NPR Books).

Find out for yourself what all of the excitement is about.

Image - Shakirah Simley

Women at the Table: Leaders in the Good Food Movement

Date: Mon, August 15, 2016
Time: 6:30 PM
Part of our special series Big Solutions for Big Problems

Joann Lo, Executive Director, Food Chain Workers Alliance; Vice President, Los Angeles Food Policy Council’s Leadership Board
Brittni Chicuata, Government Relations Director, American Heart Association | American Stroke Association
Kristyn Leach, Farmer, Namu Farm
Dominica Rice Cisneros, Chef and Owner, Cosecha Cafe (Oakland)
Shakirah Simley, Community Development Director, Bi-Rite Market—Moderator
Additional Panelists TBA

Critics argue that the industrial food system in the United States is beset with big problems: corporate consolidation of the food supply, huge inequities in pay and benefits for food workers, lack of rights for farm workers, and farming practices that prioritize profits over the health of the planet. But there is a growing movement demanding that these problems be addressed, and we have called together the women at the helm of the movement. Our women at the table will discuss the powerful work they are doing to create change and provide solutions to build a food system that is good, clean, and fair for all.

Image - Carla Power

Pulitzer Prize finalist Carla Power: Bridging Islam and the West

Date: Mon, August 15, 2016
Time: 6:30 PM
How a secular American and a madrasa-trained sheikh explore and explain the Quran

Carla Power, Pulitzer Prize Finalist; Author, If the Oceans Were Ink: An Unlikely Friendship and a Journey to the Heart of the Quran

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

Get inside of Carla Power's eye-opening story of how she and her longtime friend Sheikh Mohammad Akram Nadwi found a way to confront ugly stereotypes and persistent misperceptions that were cleaving their communities. Their friendship—between a secular American and a madrasa-trained sheikh—had always seemed unlikely, but now they were frustrated and bewildered by the battles being fought in their names. Both knew that a close look at the Quran would reveal a faith that preached peace and not mass murder; respect for women and not oppression. And so they embarked on a year-long journey through the controversial text.

A journalist who grew up in the Midwest and the Middle East, Power offers her unique vantage point on the Quran's most provocative verses as she debates with Akram at cafes, family gatherings, and packed lecture halls, conversations filled with both good humor and powerful insights. Their story takes them to madrasas in India and pilgrimage sites in Mecca, as they encounter politicians and jihadis, feminist activists and conservative scholars.

Armed with a new understanding of each other's worldviews, Power and Akram offer eye-opening perspectives, destroy long-held myths, and reveal startling connections between worlds that have seemed hopelessly divided for far too long.

Image - Richard Belluzzo

Building a Culture of Success

Date: Mon, August 15, 2016
Time: 7:00 PM
The importance of corporate culture

Richard Belluzzo, Entrepreneur; Venture Partner; Tech Executive

The culture of a company has never been more important than it is today.

Rarely does a company have a purposeful approach to building a culture. Yet it is what defines the natural reflexes of an organization, and it is the culture that impacts the performance of a team. This is true for large, more established companies, and start-ups. Belluzzo, former tech executive for HP and Microsoft, discusses how to build and change cultures, and why companies should make it a part of their vision and strategic plan.