Upcoming Events

Wed 4/29

Image - Reimagining America's Infrastructure

Reimagining America's Infrastructure

Date: Wed, April 29, 2015
Time: 6:00 PM

Ginger Strand, Environmental Journalist; Historian; Author, Inventing Niagara: Beauty, Power and Lies
Benjamin Grant, Urban Design Policy Director, SPUR
H. Emerson Black, Editor-in-Chief, Orion Magazine; Executive Director, The Orion Society

Once a point of national pride, America's infrastructure is showing its age. Yet even in their heyday, the big infrastructure projects of the past were not always mindful of the communities in which they were built, nor did their designs appropriately reflect the varying regional needs of our broad nation. Over the past two years, Orion, an influential environmentalist magazine with stewardship at its core, has run a revealing series about responses to America’s looming infrastructure crisis. Its journalists have documented how communities are responding to new and old challenges, from protecting cities against super-powered hurricanes to renovating antiquated transportation systems. Take part as our panelists discuss how regions such as the San Francisco Bay Area can advance innovative, creative infrastructure solutions with a global reach.

Image - What’s the Value of a College Education?

What’s the Value of a College Education?

Date: Wed, April 29, 2015
Time: 6:30 PM

Nicholas Dirks, Chancellor, University of California Berkeley
Mohammad Qayoumi, President, California State University San Jose
Mary Marcy, President, Dominican University of California
Alecia DeCoudreaux, President, Mills College
Richard Ekman, President, Council of Independent Colleges

For the United States to remain competitive in the global economy, our citizens need to be innovative, versatile and well-educated. To provide for these qualifications, does our model of higher education need a wholesale renovation? What would an education that is tailored to the needs of the 21st century – and affordable to all – even look like?

Join this distinguished panel of public and private college educators to tackle the difficult challenges ahead: What is the value of a liberal arts college education versus a pre-professional vocational skill-building model? Why does college cost so much? How can we close the gap between attendance and graduation rates? Can we design blended in-person and online courses that are both instructive and cost-efficient? And finally, how can we get our state and federal governments to continue to support higher education and to take the financial burden off of students?

Image - Jospeh Stiglitz: The Great Divide

Joseph Stiglitz: The Great Divide

Date: Wed, April 29, 2015
Time: 7:00 PM
Former Senior Vice President of the World Bank

Joseph Stiglitz, Professor, Columbia University; Author, The Great Divide: Unequal Societies and What We Can Do About Them; Twitter @JosephEStiglitz
Michael Moritz, Managing Member, Sequoia Capital — Moderator

We are living in an era defined by economic uncertainty and bitter politics: The gap between the rich and the poor continues to grow, an emboldened Wall Street has shrugged off attempts at regulation, and important political policies have become the playthings of financial interests. Still, economist Joseph Stiglitz believes that a healthy economy and a fair democracy are within our grasp. By taking what he sees as practical political steps, such as making those at the top pay their fair share, spending more in areas that we all value – education, health, and infrastructure – and eliminating the corrosive advantages built into our markets, Stiglitz argues that we can once again create the opportunities that have for so long defined America, and get the country back on track.

Stiglitz is a former senior vice president and chief economist of the World Bank and is a recipient of the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences.

Thu 4/30

Image - Waterfront Walk

Waterfront Walk

Date: Thu, April 30, 2015
Time: 1:45 PM
Join Rick Evans on a waterfront tour

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 two-hour tour will give you a lively overview of the historic significance of this neighborhood and a close look at the ongoing development.

Fri 5/1

Image - Out of Sight: LA Art in the '60s

Out of Sight: LA Art in the '60s

Date: Fri, May 01, 2015
Time: 12:00 PM
With William Hackman and Patricia Albers

William Hackman, Journalist; Former Managing Editor, J. Paul Getty Trust; Author, Out of Sight: The Los Angeles Art Scene of the Sixties
In conversation with Patricia Albers, Journalist, Author, Joan Mitchell: Lady Painter and Shadows, Fire, Snow: The Life of Tina Modotti

Art, perhaps more than any other medium, has a way of serving as a roadmap for a society’s political, social and aesthetic shifts. In the 1950s and ’60s, it was the Los Angeles art scene – more than that of New York City – that revealed the sort of country America was, and the sort of place it was rapidly becoming. Vital to LA’s vibrant arts’ landscape was curator Walter Hopps and the artists who surrounded him, such as Marcel Duchamp, Judy Chicago, John Baldessari, Bruce Nauman and Ed Kienholz. Hackman, a longtime arts journalist, reveals how their works interact with the city’s geography, burgeoning right-wing activism and the conflict between bohemia, masculinity and sexuality, presenting a vivid picture of mid-century Los Angeles.

Mon 5/4

Image - Capturing Grace: Documentary Screening and Q&A with Filmmaker Dave Ivers

Capturing Grace: Documentary Screening and Q&A with Filmmaker Dave Iverson

Date: Mon, May 04, 2015
Time: 6:30 PM
A story about a unique dance performance with Parkinson's patients.

Dave Iverson, Filmmaker

Capturing Grace is an award-winning documentary that tells the unlikely story of what happens when New York's legendary Mark Morris Dance Group joins forces with people with Parkinson's disease to stage a unique performance. Filmed over the course of a year, it's a story about the power of art and the enduring strength of the human spirit. Capturing Grace has screened to sold-out audiences at film festivals around the country and is the winner of Mill Valley Film Festival's Audience Favorite Award and the Starz Denver Film Festival's People's Choice Award.

Filmmaker Dave Iverson is an independent film producer and broadcast journalist. He was also the writer, correspondent and co-producer/director of the 2009 PBS “Frontline” documentary, “My Father, My Brother and Me,” which explored his family’s battle with Parkinson’s as well as the scientific, ethical and political issues raised by this condition. Iverson now serves as contributing editor for the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research, where he produces reports on Parkinson’s research and moderates panel discussions with researchers and Parkinson’s patients around the country.

Join us for an inspirational one-hour documentary and a chance to hear from the filmmaker.

Tue 5/5

Image - Psychological Pseudoscience

Psychological Pseudoscience

Date: Tue, May 05, 2015
Time: 5:15 PM
With Sheldon W. Helms, Associate Professor of Psychology

Sheldon W. Helms, Associate Professor of Psychology, Ohlone College; Board of Directors Member, Bay Area Skeptics; Founder, Ohlone Psychology Club Speaker Series

As medical doctors battle homeopathy and anti-vaccine myths, anthropologists counter creationist claims, and dietitians deal with the battle against gluten and GMOs, much of the skeptical community is oddly silent on dubious claims from fringe psychology. In this talk, psychology professor Sheldon W. Helms will discuss unsupported and sometimes dangerously pseudo-scientific claims from the field of psychology, giving a brief history and explanation of each practice or theory, and demonstrating how a simple application of the scientific method reveals its flaws.

Wed 5/6

Image - Humanities West Book Discussion: All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque

Humanities West Book Discussion: All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque

Date: Wed, May 06, 2015
Time: 5:30 PM
The classic novel about World War I.

Join us to discuss the classic novel about World War I, All Quiet on the Western Front, by Erich Maria Remarque. The discussion will be led by Lynn Harris.

Image - Lights, Camera, Take Action; Storytelling for Change

Lights, Camera, Take Action; Storytelling for Change: The San Francisco Green Film Festival

Date: Wed, May 06, 2015
Time: 6:00 PM
Hear from tenacious, award-winning activist filmmakers.

Mark Decena, Founder, Kontent Films; Writer and Director, Watershed: Exploring a New Water Ethic for the New West
Leah Mahan, Producer and Director, Come Hell or High Water: The Battle for Turkey Creek
Kevin White, Co-Founder and Executive Director, Filmmaker's Collaborative San Francisco
Rachel Caplan, Founder and CEO, San Francisco Green Film Festival – Moderator

Environmental action stories often struggle for coverage on major broadcast networks dominated by larger corporate interests. But if not on television, where are we supposed to find the stories that will inspire a new generation of activists? Documentary films are increasingly a powerful way to cut through the noise, connect with people, and build momentum for action on environmental causes.

The evocative documentary film has a purpose that compels its director to grapple with the essence of the art form. What is the magic of its storytelling? How do we reach a wide audience through the medium? Most critically, how can we use this kind of storytelling to change opinions and to effect new policies?

Hear from tenacious, award-winning activist filmmakers who are using this impactful medium to bring us the stories that motivate environmental progress. Panelists will share clips from their films, uncovering their approaches and successes in bringing their difference-making stories to the screen. Plus, get a sneak peek of the upcoming San Francisco Green Film Festival, running from May 28 through June 4.

Image - Willie Brown: Annual Commonwealth Club Lecture

Willie Brown: Annual Commonwealth Club Lecture

Date: Wed, May 06, 2015
Time: 6:00 PM
Former San Francisco Mayor

Willie Brown, Former Mayor, San Francisco; Former Speaker, California State Assembly

Former San Francisco Mayor Brown will give his annual lecture on national and regional political trends. A two-term mayor of San Francisco, legendary speaker of the California State Assembly and widely regarded as one of the most influential African-American politicians of the late 20th century, Brown has been at the center of California politics, government and civic life for an astonishing four decades.

Image - Is the Sky Falling? Asteroids and the Earth

Is the Sky Falling? Asteroids and the Earth

Date: Wed, May 06, 2015
Time: 7:45 PM
With Ed Lu, Astronaut

Ed Lu, Astronaut; Chairman, B612 Foundation
Brian Hackney, Meteorologist and Reporter, KPIX Television, San Francisco - Moderator

Dangerous collisions between asteroids and our planet, which occur at least twice every year, are the only natural disaster that we have means of stopping. However, despite our advanced solutions to preventing catastrophic impacts, we face a more basic problem: We don’t know where in our solar system most asteroids are, or, more important, when they will hit Earth. Lucky for us, Astronaut Ed Lu and the B612 Foundation are committed to meeting this challenge. The foundation’s Sentinel Mission, the first privately funded interplanetary venture, will map and catalogue near-Earth asteroids, helping to ensure that we are aware of potential asteroid strikes. Join Lu to hear more about why the mission matters and what technological innovations will make it possible. 

Thu 5/7

Image - Unretirement: Changing the Way We Think About Work,

Unretirement: Changing the Way We Think About Work, Community and the Good Life

Date: Thu, May 07, 2015
Time: 5:15 PM
With author Chris Farrell.

Chris Farrell, Author; Senior Economics Contributor, Marketplace; Economics Commentator, Minnesota Public Radio; Columnist, Bloomberg Businessweek, Next Avenue and Star Tribune

The United States is on the verge of a broad, positive transformation of its economy and society. The old idea of “retirement” – not working – is going away. The boomer generation is increasing embracing “unretirement,” continuing to do some kind of work during the traditional retirement years. Many aging boomers are looking for part-time and contract work or flexible jobs, and starting new entrepreneurial ventures. When done right, their experience, wisdom and continued earnings will benefit the American workplace, dramatically ease financial worries, and enrich our communities and society. Farrell will offer key insights into the economic and social forces behind the unretirement trend, and offer practical advice for navigating this exciting, but unsettled, frontier.

Image - Explore the World from The Commonwealth Club Planning Meeting

Explore the World from The Commonwealth Club Planning Meeting

Date: Thu, May 07, 2015
Time: 5:30 PM
Discuss current international issues.

All interested Club members are welcome to attend our bimonthly, one-hour planning meetings of the International Relations Member-Led Forum. We focus on Europe, Latin America, Africa and worldwide topics. Join us to discuss current international issues and plan programs for the remainder of 2015.

Image - Jane Smiley

Jane Smiley

Date: Thu, May 07, 2015
Time: 6:00 PM
A journey through mid-century America.

Jane Smiley, Novelist; Author, Early Warning

Pulitzer Prize winner Smiley has written about a journey through mid-century America, as lived by the extraordinary Langdon family. Early Warning opens in 1953 with the Langdons at a crossroads. Their stalwart patriarch Walter, who with his wife had sustained their Iowa farm for three decades, has suddenly died, leaving their five children looking to the future. Only one will remain to work the land, while the others scatter to Washington, DC, California, and everywhere in between. As the country moves out of postwar optimism through the Cold War, the social and sexual revolutions of the 1960s and '70s, and then into the unprecedented wealth – for some – of the early '80s, the Langdon children will have children of their own: twin boys who are best friends and vicious rivals; a girl whose rebellious spirit takes her to the notorious Peoples Temple in San Francisco; and a golden boy who drops out of college to fight in Vietnam – leaving behind a secret legacy that will send shockwaves through the Langdon family into the next generation. Capturing an indelible period in America through the lens of richly drawn characters, Early Warning is an engrossing story of the challenges – and rich rewards – of family and home, even in the most turbulent of times.

Fri 5/8

Image - Hacking the Climate

Hacking the Climate

Date: Fri, May 08, 2015
Time: 12:00 PM
With Ken Caldeira, Atmospheric Scientist

Ken Caldeira, Atmospheric Scientist, Carnegie Institution for Science, Stanford
Additional Panelists TBA

Could the world get so hot that humanity is tempted to break the glass and spray heat-deflecting gases into the sky? The National Academy of Sciences recently issued a report cautiously endorsing research into such techniques known as geo-engineering. Join us for a discussion of hacking the climate to cool the Earth.

Mon 5/11

Image - The Power of Ideals: The Real Story of Moral Choice

The Power of Ideals: The Real Story of Moral Choice

Date: Mon, May 11, 2015
Time: 6:00 PM
With author William Damon

William Damon, Professor, Stanford Graduate School of Education; Co-author, The Power of Ideals: The Real Story of Moral Choice

The Power of Ideals thoroughly examines the full range of available research on moral choice and presents a compelling new theory. It takes into account current scientific claims and explores our undeniable capacity to act on noble ideals, to make principled moral choices, and to live lives of generosity, integrity and genuine human connection.

Tue 5/12

Image - Nob Hill Walking Tour

Nob Hill Walking Tour

Date: Tue, May 12, 2015
Time: 1:45 PM

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.

Wed 5/13

Image - The State of California's Water: Now and In The Future

The State of California's Water: Now and In the Future

Date: Wed, May 13, 2015
Time: 6:00 PM
With Felicia Marcus, Chair, State Water Resources Control Board

Felicia Marcus, Chair, State Water Resources Control Board

California is in the midst of a historic drought, with agriculture, communities, and fish and wildlife struggling with water shortages. At the same time, the state is looking at a future where these conflicts will be exacerbated by climate change, increased population, and other factors. Learn what California is doing at this point in the drought and the plans to prepare for an even more challenging future.

Image - Leonard Mlodinow: The Evolution of Science

Leonard Mlodinow: The Evolution of Science

Date: Wed, May 13, 2015
Time: 7:00 PM
Theoretical physicist and author

Leonard Mlodinow, Theoretical Physicist; Author, The Upright Thinkers: The Human Journey from Living in Trees to Understanding the Cosmos; Twitter: @lmlodinow

As humans, we have a natural inclination to question how the world around us works. Whether it’s wondering how we stay firmly planted on the ground, or how we came to develop our own intellectual capabilities, this thirst for understanding has been the driving force behind scientific breakthroughs from antiquity through modernity. Mlodinow, himself a ground-breaking physicist, celebrates the curious nature that forms the cornerstone of scientific inquiry, and offers an in-depth look at the history of science from the birth of reasoning to the formation of the defined fields of physics, chemistry and biology. Hear about the great philosophers, scientists and thinkers who have shaped human thought and played integral roles in the evolution of science.

Fri 5/15

Image - The Rise of Islamic Radicalism

The Rise of Islamic Radicalism

Date: Fri, May 15, 2015
Time: 12:00 PM
With a panel of consuls general

Stefan Schlueter, German Consul General in San Francisco
Andy David, Consul General of Israel to the Pacific Northwest
Paulina Carmona, Consul General of France for San Francisco
Robert Rosenthal, Director, Center for Investigative Reporting - Moderator

The rise of the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, beyond throwing an already destabilized region into deeper chaos, has also served to extend a dark shadow across the rest of the world. From North Africa to Western Europe and on to the United States, reactions to the terror militia’s advances have taken many forms, from a surge in violent attacks on Jews and Jewish sites by emboldened Islamic radicals, to a vicious countermovement of Islamophobic violence and rhetoric. Is there any way to reconcile deep-rooted religious, societal and political differences to stop the cycle of violence from spinning further out of control? A distinguished panel of consuls general will confront the polemical issue of growing Islamic radicalization and the increase of anti-Semitism and Islamophobia in its wake.