Upcoming Events

Wed 5/25

The Science of Open Spaces

Date: Wed, May 25, 2016
Time: 6:00 PM

Charles Curtin, Senior Fellow, The Center for Natural Resources Environmental Policy, University of Montana, Missoula

Drawing from years of work in East Africa, the western United States and with fishermen from the coast of Maine, ecologist and conservationist Charles Curtin shares his experiences and scientific research to preserve the ecologies of large earth and water environments. His diverse and pragmatic scientific work has resulted in the development of important real-world approaches for the sustainability, renewal, restoration and health of large areas, including the United States' West Coast ocean coast line and habitats that are critical to the quality of life, economies and environments of California, Oregon and Washington.

Image - Dr James Madara

James Madara, M.D., CEO, American Medical Association: The Future of Health Care

Date: Wed, May 25, 2016
Time: 6:30 PM

James Madara, M.D., CEO, American Medical Association; Former Dean, University of Chicago School of Medicine
Hilary Seligman, MD, Associate Professor of Medicine and of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, University of California, San Francisco—Moderator

The AMA, founded in 1847, is the largest association of physicans in the United States, with the stated goal of enhancing the delivery of care and enabling physicians and health teams to partner effectively with patients to achieve better health for all. Join AMA CEO Dr. James Madara for a candid conversation about bringing down the costs of medicine while still treating patients with the highest standards.

Dr. Madara will particularly address what he says is America’s biggest health threat: costly, chronic diseases and their toll on public health and the economy. He says the future of health care is combating these diseases before they become life-altering ailments, and harnessing the power of technological innovation to empower today’s physicians and better train those of tomorrow. Bring your questions. 

Mark Kurlansky: The History of Paper

Date: Wed, May 25, 2016
Time: 7:00 PM

Mark Kurlansky, Author, Cod, Salt, and Paper: Paging Through History

For the past two millennia, paper has been one of the simplest pieces of human technology. It has formed the foundation of civilizations and promoted revolutions. It has also been essential to the development of education, commerce, arts, religion, and language. But what will we start to lose as we continue to move toward a paperless society?

Kurlansky traces the evolution of paper and explains why paper will never go out of style.

Thu 5/26

Image - Francine Brevetti

How to Write Your Own (or Someone Else's) Obituary

Date: Thu, May 26, 2016
Time: 5:15 PM

Francine Brevetti, Biographer; Author; Workshop Leader; Journalist

Brevetti will take a step-by-step approach to explaining one of the most difficult tasks that most people face—and typically under difficult circumstances. Writing one's own obituary can save a loved one from that responsibility, provided the relative is able to complete it on their own. Step by step, Ms. Brevetti will lead the audience through the process of where to find resources that might be available to help, the proper format and contents, and publishing the obituary.

Why take chances? Learn from a professional how to write your own obituary, or that of someone else.

Image - Jessica Herrin

Cultivate Your Entrepreneurial Spirit with Jessica Herrin, CEO of Stella and Dot

Date: Thu, May 26, 2016
Time: 6:30 PM

Jessica Herrin, Founder and CEO, Stella & Dot Family Brands; Author, Find Your Extraordinary: Dream Bigger, Live Happier and Achieve Success on Your Own Terms
Jory Des Jardins, Author, Media Strategist and Co-founder, BlogHer—Moderator

Serial entrepreneur Jessica Herrin, founder and CEO of the Stella & Dot Family Brands and author of the new book Find Your Extraordinary: Dream Bigger, Live Happier and Achieve Success on Your Own Terms, will explain how you can turn your passion into your career and live the life that you've always dreamed of by cultivating your entrepreneurial spirit.

Fri 5/27

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Nob Hill Walking Tour

Date: Fri, May 27, 2016
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 6/1

Image - Jay Inslee

Can the Pacific Coast Lead the Transition to a Clean Economy?

Date: Wed, June 01, 2016
Time: 12:00 PM

Jay Inslee, Governor, Washington

Can California and other West Coast economies accelerate the global transition to clean energy technologies? The chief executives of Pacific Coast states and provinces say policies pushing clean power have boosted their economies and created jobs. Companies involved in solar power and electric vehicles agree. But some business groups say going green can hit consumers in the pocket book and hamper the economy.

What can the West Coast of Canada and the United States do to advance the goals that countries and corporations outlined at the Paris climate summit last year?

Image - Jan Ellison

A Small Indiscretion

Date: Wed, June 01, 2016
Time: 6:00 PM

Jan Ellison, Author, A Small Indiscretion

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

Jan Ellison's debut novel, A Small Indiscretion, was a San Francisco Chronicle Best Book of 2015. A graduate of Stanford, Jan left college for a year at 19 to study French in Paris, work in an office in London, and try her hand at writing. Twenty years later, her notes from that year became the germ of her acclaimed debut. She will discuss that journey, along with the long and winding road — paved with rejection and revision — to publishing her first short story, which went on to win an O. Henry Prize.

Image - How to Change the World: A User's Guide

Larry Brilliant and Wavy Gravy: How to Change the World

Date: Wed, June 01, 2016
Time: 7:00 PM

Larry Brilliant, M.D., Chairman, Skoll Global Threats; Former Executive Director, Google.org
Wavy Gravy, Entertainer, 60's Icon, Activist, Philanthropist
Zoë Elton, Director of Programming, Mill Valley Film Festival—Moderator

Long-time friends, humanitarians and cultural heroes Larry Brilliant and Wavy Gravy share stories about what it takes to live your dreams, to live “ambitiously without ambition”—and to change the world. Their accomplishments, both individually and together, are extraordinary, manifesting the best of sixties idealism.

Best remembered for his role at Woodstock and as a Ben & Jerry’s ice cream flavor, clown, entertainer and peace activist Wavy Gravy’s love for humanity transcends his hippie stereotype. He founded Camp Winnarainbow—a circus and performing arts camp for children—and co-founded the Seva Foundation with Larry Brilliant.

Dr. Larry Brilliant has spent his life finding solutions for humanity’s greatest ills, notably overseeing the eradication of the last cases of smallpox, saving millions from blindness, and building technologies for the future. Today, he is chairman of the Skoll Global Threats Fund, addressing global threats such as climate change, pandemics and nuclear proliferation, and is a recent TED Prize winner.

Thu 6/2

Image - Sherry Turkle

Managing the Impact of Technology on Our Lives

Date: Thu, June 02, 2016
Time: 12:00 PM

Sherry Turkle, Ph.D, Abby Rockefeller Mauzé Professor of the Social Studies of Science and Technology, Program in Science, Technology and Society; MIT; Founder and Director, MIT Initiative on Technology and Self; Harvard Centennial Medalist; Ms. Magazine Woman of the Year; Member, American Academy of Arts and Sciences; Licensed Clinical Psychologist

Sherry Turkle, M.I.T. professor, researcher, consultant and author, will discuss the timely topic of digital influences on our personal lives, from how we relate to our family, friends, and lovers, plus how technology affects how we think, conduct our business, our productivity, creativity and innovation. The emphasis will be on the strategies to reintroduce conversation and put technology in a supporting, not default, mode of communication.

Referred to by many as the "Margaret Mead of digital culture," Professor Turkle has 30 years of experience researching the psychology of people’s relationship with technology. She is the author of Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age and Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other. She has a long list of awards and honors, has delighted audiences on all the major networks, and has been featured in The New York Times, Scientific American, and many other publications.

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A Perfect Brew: Blue Bottle Coffee and Japan's Culture

Date: Thu, June 02, 2016
Time: 6:00 PM

James Freeman, Founder and CEO, Blue Bottle Coffee; Author, The Blue Bottle Craft of Coffee

The Bay Area’s own Blue Bottle Coffee is known for its delicious coffee, clean, modern spaces and rapid expansion. Entering the Japanese market had been a longtime dream for Blue Bottle Coffee founder James Freeman, an enthusiastic fan of Japanese culture. Blue Bottle uses Japanese equipment and embraces the Japanese tradition of kodawari, or pursuit of perfection in one’s craft. Freeman has made numerous visits to Japan, and recently celebrated the opening of a Blue Bottle outlet in Tokyo.

Join us as Freeman shares the story of Blue Bottle’s Japan market entry, from adjustments the company made to Japanese culture (and what they didn’t change), to its most interesting and surprising Japan experiences, as well as the inspiration he draws from Japan’s traditions.

Image - Tom Steyer and Andy Karsner

Tom Steyer and Andy Karsner: Making Good on the Promise of Paris

Date: Thu, June 02, 2016
Time: 6:30 PM

Andy Karsner, Managing Partner, Sustainability, Emerson Collective
Tom Steyer, Member, Breakthrough Energy Coalition

This program is underwritten by ClimateWorks and the Energy Foundation.

Countries and corporations united in Paris to forge a global climate deal to reduce carbon pollution while continuing to expand the economy. Now comes the hard part.

California is pushing ahead with green policies and technologies that are creating jobs and markets. But in today’s highly stratified society, many people don’t have access to the benefits of cleaner jobs and products. How can average people engage with the clean economy? Is climate about more than pretty faraway places and exotic species? Can the United States transition to clean energy by using existing technology or does it need some big breakthroughs to break the death grip of fossil fuels?

This will be a broad-ranging discussion with a veteran of the George W. Bush administration now working for Laurene Powell Jobs and a business leader focused on making climate a ballot-box issue. They will share their vision for transforming the world by driving innovation and unleashing the power of clean energy.

Fri 6/3

Image - Robert Heller

Inside the Fed: A former Governor Speaks Out on Current Policy Issues

Date: Fri, June 03, 2016
Time: 12:00 PM

Robert Heller, Former Governor of the Federal Reserve Board; Former President, VISA U.S.A.; Author, The Unlikely Governor

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

Robert Heller discusses policy issues facing the Federal Reserve: Should the Fed "normalize" monetary policy now? Was "quantitative easing" a success? Is the Fed’s chosen two-percent inflation target appropriate? What happens to the Fed as it pays ever more interest on bank reserves? These and many other important policy issues will be discussed by the author of The Unlikely Governor.

Mon 6/6

Image - Annastacia Palaszczuk

Queensland, Australia Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk

Date: Mon, June 06, 2016
Time: 12:00 PM
Queensland as the gateway to Asia-Pacific investment.

Hon. Annastacia Palaszczuk, MP, Premier of Queensland, Australia
Jeffrey Bleich, Former U.S. Ambassador to Australia—Moderator
Introduction by Dr. Jaleh Daie, Member, Commonwealth Club Board of Governors

Queensland is Australia’s second largest state and the third most populous, with more than 4.5 million inhabitants. The Hon. Annastacia Palaszczuk MP, premier of Queensland, is one of her country’s leading political figures.

She will outline how her state is diversifying its economy from a traditional reliance on natural resources to innovation and ideas, and the potential that Queensland has as a launchpad for investment in the Asia-Pacific. She will also discuss the strategic importance of Australia to the world economy and international security. Ms Palaszczuk holds a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Queensland, Master of Arts (Hons) from the University of London, Bachelor of Laws from the University of Queensland, and a Graduate Diploma of Legal Practice from the Australian National University.

Image - Adrianna Quintero

Environment and Climate Action: Priority for Latinos

Date: Mon, June 06, 2016
Time: 6:00 PM

Adrianna Quintero, Director and Founder, Voces Verdes; Director, Partner Engagement, Natural Resources Defense Council

The Hispanic Public Policy Agenda, of the National Hispanic Leadership Agenda (NHLA), has designated environment and climate action as a priority for Latinos. The NHLA emphasizes the importance of Hispanic leadership on critical environmental and sustainable issues to their communities and neighborhoods.

Latinos face some of the most serious environmental problems. They disproportionately suffer the effects of environmental harm and climate change. Latinos are among the most concerned about climate impacts and some of the most committed to calling for action to address and move toward a clean energy future. For Latino families and communities, environmental issues are real and personal not just for now but for earth's future.

Join us for this important discussion about the bold policy agreements among Hispanic leaders to create and maintain healthy, safe and sustainable environments locally and worldwide.

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Book Discussion Group: A Manual for Cleaning Women

Date: Mon, June 06, 2016
Time: 6:00 PM

The Commonwealth Club's newest book discussion series kicks off with A Manual for Cleaning Women, by Lucia Berlin, this year’s California Book Awards Gold medal winner. The discussion group will be devoted to the best of California literature, as determined by our CBA jury.

A Manual for Cleaning Women compiles the best work of the legendary short-story writer Lucia Berlin. With the grit of Raymond Carver, the humor of Grace Paley, and a blend of wit and melancholy all her own, Berlin crafts miracles from the everyday, uncovering moments of grace in the laundromats and halfway houses of the American Southwest, in the homes of the Bay Area upper class, among switchboard operators and struggling mothers, hitchhikers and bad Christians. Readers will revel in this remarkable collection from a master of the form and wonder how they'd ever overlooked her in the first place.

Please reserve your space; enrollment is limited. It is expected that you will have read the book so you can actively participate in the discussion.

Image - Antonio Villaraigosa

Former L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa

Date: Mon, June 06, 2016
Time: 6:30 PM

Antonio Villaraigosa, Former Mayor of Los Angeles (2005-2013); Fellow at Harvard University; Twitter

In 2013, Antonio Villaraigosa finished his two terms as mayor of Los Angeles, a city of nearly 4 million residents, after eight years of major strides in transportation, crime reduction, infrastructure, energy and resource sustainability, "right-sizing" government, business development and education reform. Before his time in the mayor's office, he served as an L.A. city council member and speaker of the California Assembly. He has more than 20 years of leadership experience at the highest levels of state and municipal government, as well as in business, political, educational and nonprofit organizations.

What’s next for one of California’s biggest political stars? He passed on making a Senate run this year, saying his heart and his family belongs in California. Will he be one of the candidates running for governor in 2018? Come and bring your questions!

Wed 6/8

Image - Joshua Kendall

Joshua Kendall: Parenting and Politics from George Washington to Barack Obama

Date: Wed, June 08, 2016
Time: 7:00 PM
What do the First Dads have to tell us?

Joshua Kendall, Associate Fellow, Trumbull College, Yale; Author, First Dads: Parenting and Politics from George Washington to Barack Obama

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

Work-life balance is a constant struggle for parents, but how does it change when you are the president of the United States?

Of the 43 men who have served as U.S. president, 38 have biological children and 5 have adopted children. Kendall offers a fascinating look at these First Dads and what their individual parenting style reveals about their personal beliefs and leadership qualities.

Thu 6/9

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San Francisco Architecture Walking Tour

Date: Thu, June 09, 2016
Time: 1:45 PM

Explore San Francisco’s Financial District with historian Rick Evans and learn the history and stories behind some of our city’s remarkable structures, streets, and public squares. Hear about the famous architects that influenced the building of San Francisco after the 1906 Earthquake. Discover hard-to-find rooftop gardens, Art Deco lobbies, unique open spaces, and historic landmarks. This is a tour for locals, with hidden gems you can only find on foot!

Image - Anja Manuel

Anja Manuel: India and China, the New Superpowers

Date: Thu, June 09, 2016
Time: 6:30 PM
Can the United States be partners and not opponents of China and India?

Anja Manuel, Co-founder and Partner, RiceHadleyGates LLC; Author, This Brave New World: India, China, and the United States; Twitter

In the next decade and a half, China and India will become two of the world’s indispensable powers—whether they rise peacefully or not. During that time, Asia will surpass the combined strength of North America and Europe in economic might, population size, and military spending. India and China will have vetoes over many international decisions, from climate change to global trade, human rights, and business standards.

From her front row view of this colossal shift, first at the State Department and now as an advisor to American business leaders, Anja Manuel will take us on an intimate tour of the corridors of power in Delhi and Beijing. We wring our hands about China, Manuel writes, while we underestimate India, which will be the most important country outside the West to shape China’s rise. Manuel shows us that a different path is possible: We can bring China and India along as partners rather than alienating one or both, and thus extend our own leadership in the world.