Upcoming Events

Thu 2/23

Image - Linda Rugg
This event is Sold Out

The End of the Vikings

Date: Thu, February 23, 2017
Time: 6:00 PM
The journey from paganism to Christianity to secularism

Linda Rugg, Professor of Swedish Studies, Department of Scandinavian Studies, University of California Berkeley

In the year 1000 AD, at the annual Althing (national assembly) in Iceland, a decision was made to make Christianity the official religion of the island. The road from paganism to Christianity was not, however, completely smooth, nor did the conversion process happen as abruptly as the political decision implied. A key text describing the declaration at the Althing appears in Njal’s Saga, and it will form the basis for this lecture, along with two medieval Icelandic short stories that illustrate how Christianization began to take shape in the North. The continued presence of the pagan past in modern Scandinavia can be traced in literature, artifacts and enduring cultural practices, indicating that while the Scandinavians eventually embraced Christianity and then secularism, they did not leave their Viking identity behind.

image - President Donald Trump

Why Facts Don’t Trump the President

Date: Thu, February 23, 2017
Time: 6:30 PM
Language and your political outlook

George Lakoff, Professor of Linguistics, University of California, Berkeley
Robert Rosenthal, Executive Director, The Center for Investigative Reporting
Greg Dalton, Founder and Host, Climate One

Facts are overrated. Sure, they are the concrete foundation of narratives and they should be defended when the national conversation is filled with bald-faced lies. But the obsession with facts can be taken too far at the expense of other deeper means of communication.

George Lakoff says if progressives want to learn from the election of Donald Trump, they need to change what they study in college, how they think about facts as adults, understand framing and learn to repeat, repeat, repeat.

Jon Krosnick has been studying public opinion around energy and climate change longer than just about anyone else. That gives him deep understanding about what Americans think about fossil fuels and clean energy and how that diverges from what politicians say and do about those issues.

Join a conversation to learn how your Bay Area brain helped elect Donald Trump and how you can revise the way you think and talk in this new political world.

Image - statue of justice

SV Reads 2017: And Justice for All

Date: Thu, February 23, 2017
Time: 7:30 PM
Silicon Valley Reads 2017

Adam Benforado, Associate Professor of Law, Drexel University; Author, Unfair: The New Science of Criminal Injustice
Sal Pizzaro, Columnist, San Jose Mercury News—Moderator

How can we reduce bias in our legal system? Benforado examines this critical issue from both a legal perspective and from someone who has been incarcerated.

Benforado says, “The failure of our legal system has been a defining issue in the U.S. over the last year…. To make progress in our fight against abuse, unequal treatment and wrongful convictions, we must come together as a community to consider the psychological biases that share the behavior of judges, jurors, witnesses, lawyers, police officers—and all of the rest of us.”

Mon 2/27

Middle East Forum Discussion

Date: Mon, February 27, 2017
Time: 5:30 PM
Discussion group

The Middle East Forum discussion group, which primarily covers the Middle East, North Africa and Afghanistan, has been meeting monthly for about nine years. We are not a debate group.

Image - Stanford University Sustainability Vision: Now and for the Future

Stanford University Sustainability Vision: Now and for the Future

Date: Mon, February 27, 2017
Time: 6:00 PM
A living laboratory for sustainability

Pamela Matson, Chester A. Naramore Dean, Stanford School of Earth Energy & Environmental Sciences
Fahmida Ahmed, Director, Office of Sustainability, Stanford Department of Sustainability and Energy Management
Joseph Stagner, Executive Director, Stanford Department of Sustainability and Energy Management
Chris Field, Perry L. McCarty Director, Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment

Stanford is actively pursuing a wide range of sustainability goals. The university's efforts range from a unique new campus energy system to rethinking dining services. Stanford has an inclusive participatory approach that makes faculty, students and employees all partners in its efforts to create a living laboratory for sustainable solutions.

Socrates Café

Date: Mon, February 27, 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.

Image - The White House
This event is Sold Out

Trump's First 100 Days: Part One

Date: Mon, February 27, 2017
Time: 6:30 PM
Evaluating the crucial first few months of the new administration

Zahra Billoo, Executive Director, Council on American-Islamic Relations, San Francisco Bay Area
Judge LaDoris Hazzard Cordell (Ret.), Chair, Santa Clara County Jail Commission
Steven Fish, Professor of Political Science, UC Berkeley
Sean Walsh, GOP Political Strategist
Scott Shafer, Senior Editor, California Politics & Government, KQED—Moderator; Twitter 

How will President Trump’s 100-day action plan impact our domestic and foreign affairs, health care, education, environment, immigration, economic and trade policies? Who are the Trump nominees for cabinet positions and how will they impact their respective departments and the country? What role will and should all forms of media play as they cover the new administration? Join The Commonwealth Club and KQED for a series of programs that address the first 100 days of the Trump administration and how this period will shape America over the next four years and beyond. 

Tue 2/28

Image - Mohammad Qayoumi

Afghanistan: Current Challenges and Future Prospects

Date: Tue, February 28, 2017
Time: 6:00 PM
Inside Afghanistan today

Mohammad Qayoumi, Ph.D., President Emeritus, San Jose State University; Advisor, President of Afghanistan
Jonathan Curiel, Journalist—Moderator

Dr. Qayoumi, former member of The Commonwealth Club’s Board of Governors, is presently advisor to President Ghani of Afghanistan on infrastructure, human capital and technology. He will give a brief overview of current conditions in Afghanistan, the plans of the government in achieving self-reliance and promoting democracy and economic development. The discussion will center around the role of Afghanistan in integrating the economies of Central Asia with South Asia while serving as a regional roundabout. The presentation will also focus on current challenges regarding the struggle with ISIS, Al-Qaeda and other regional and global terrorist organizations.

Wed 3/1

Ben Franklin Circles

Date: Wed, March 01, 2017
Time: 6:30 PM
Discussion group

Join us monthly, every first Wednesday, for a 21st-century version of Ben Franklin’s mutual improvement club. One evening a week, for more than 40 years, the founding father discussed and debated with his friends the 13 virtues that he felt formed the basis for personal and civic improvement, a list he created when he was 20 years old. The virtues to which he aspired included justice, resolution and humility (but don't misunderstand Ben on that one—his explanation of humility was "imitate Jesus and Socrates").

Ben Franklin Circles bring people together to discuss the most pressing philosophical and ethical issues of our time with the goal of improving ourselves and our world. 

Image - Dr. Edward Blonz and Dr. John Swartzberg

Dietary Supplements: Making the Best Choices

Date: Wed, March 01, 2017
Time: 7:00 PM
What's worthwhile? What's safe? What's a waste of money?

Edward R. Blonz, M.S., Ph.D., Assistant Clinical Professor, Clinical Pharmacy, University of California San Francisco
John Edward Swartzberg, M.D., FACP, Chair, Editorial Board, University of California Berkeley Wellness Letter; Clinical Professor Emeritus, Health and Medical Sciences, School of Public Health, University of California Berkeley
Catherine Heenan, News Anchor and Reporter, KRON4-TV, San Francisco—Moderator

This program is sponsored by Relevant Wealth Advisors and an Anonymous Donor

Americans, hoping to improve their health, spend more than $30 billion annually on vitamins and dietary supplements. This market is carefully protected by the industry, but only lightly regulated by the government.

Join Drs. Blonz and Swartzberg as they tell us what researchers have been learning about popular dietary supplements—what’s worthwhile, what’s potentially harmful, what’s a waste of money and what’s still unknown.

The program includes complimentary light hors d'oeuvres and a cash bar from 7:00-7:40. Conversation begins promptly at 7:45 p.m. and ends at 9 p.m.

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.

Assassination of a Saint: Reflections on the U.S. Trial for the Killing of Archbishop Óscar Romero

Date: Thu, March 02, 2017
Time: 6:00 PM
Explore the investigation and trial

Almudena Bernabeu, Co-Founder, Guernica 37 International Justice Chambers (Member of the Legal Team)
Russell Cohen, Partner, Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP (Member of the Legal Team)
Terry Lynn Karl, Gildred Professor of Latin American Studies and Professor of Political Science, Stanford University (Expert Witness at the Trial)
Matt Eisenbrandt, Author, Assassination of a Saint (Member of the Legal Team)
Nico van Aelstyn, Principal, Beveridge & Diamond PC (Member of the Legal Team)

In 2004, a U.S. court found a California resident responsible for the 1980 death squad killing of El Salvador’s Archbishop Óscar Romero, who will soon be made a saint in the Catholic Church. Matt Eisenbrandt, a member of the legal team and author of a recently published book about the Romero case, joins his colleagues to discuss the investigation and trial as well as the historical background that led to the assassination.

Fri 3/3

Image - 29th Annual Distinguished Citizen Gala

29th Annual Distinguished Citizen Gala

Date: Fri, March 03, 2017
Time: 5:00 PM
Celebrate and show your support for the Club's vital work

The Commonwealth Club’s 114th Annual Dinner and 29th Annual Distinguished Citizen Gala is a dual celebration, reflecting on the last year of the Club’s events and accomplishments, as well as honoring outstanding members of the community who exemplify the Club’s values by presenting them with the Distinguished Citizen Award, an award reserved for those whose professional and humanitarian endeavors and accomplishments are worthy of recognition and celebration.

Recipients of this award have included local and global leaders whose contributions to society have had a positive and enduring impact, and who embody the qualities that make an individual’s life worthy of admiration: their generosity, their ability to inspire and their desire to make a difference in our world today and in our future tomorrow.

The recipients of the 2017 Distinguished Citizen Award are:
John R. Farmer, Former Chairman of The Commonwealth Club Board of Governors, and Former Goldman Sachs General Partner
Lata Krishnan, Chief Financial Officer of Shah Capital Partners
Alex Macgillivray, Deputy United States Chief Technology Officer in the Obama Administration
Megan Smith, United States Chief Technology Officer in the Obama Administration
Bernard J. Tyson., Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of Kaiser Permanente

The Distinguished Citizen Gala will include a live auction, entertainment, and dinner catered by the Fairmont Hotel. The gala is The Commonwealth Club’s largest annual fundraiser, which raises funds to support the Club’s dynamic programming year-round.

Mon 3/6

Image - Sarah van Gelder

The Revolution Where You Live: Stories from a 12,000-mile Journey through a New America

Date: Mon, March 06, 2017
Time: 6:00 PM
A journey to other Americas

Sarah van Gelder, Co-founder, Yes! Magazine; Author

During the past 2016 election year, Sarah spent months on a road trip traveling in a pick-up truck and tiny camper to listen to people's concerns and hopes of a better life. In her book, The Revolution Where You Live, she takes you from inner-city neighborhoods in Detroit, Chicago and Ohio to Greensboro, North Carolina's new food co-op; she explores the Appalachian radio network that reaches coal miners, small farmers, poverty, polluted environments and water resources that permeate mountains, hollows and towns.

Sarah met with local leaders who are committed to building hometown sustainable economies; encouraging local community diversity collaboration and resisting mining, fracking and environmental degradation. Their local stories offer hope for all of us for a better world for healthy and safe environments, opportunities, jobs and collaboration of diverse communities and people working together. Sarah herself lives on the traditional lands of the Suquamish Tribe, near Seattle.

Image - Dr Jessica Zitter

A New Kind of Heroism: Extreme Measures at the End of Life

Date: Mon, March 06, 2017
Time: 6:00 PM
Partnerships instead of lone heroics

Jessica Zitter, MD, MPH, ICU and Palliative Care, Highland Hospital; Author, Extreme Measures; Contributor, The New York TimesThe Atlantic, Huffington Post, the Journal of the American Medical Association

Dr. Zitter entered the field of critical care medicine to be a hero. She wanted to rescue people from the brink of death like a fireman rescues fire victims—calmly, swiftly and without stopping to ask questions. But one day, as she was aggressively treating a dying patient in the ICU, a nurse challenged her on why she was putting the patient through the pointless ordeal. The remark smarted, and Dr. Zitter began asking herself the same question about many of her patients. She came to realize that while the standard no-holds-barred medical approach achieves some dramatic victories, it often causes more suffering than benefit for patients with life-limiting illness.

In this program, Dr. Zitter will describe a new kind of heroism. Her current practice is influenced by the Palliative Care movement, which has the potential to transform medicine in the ICU and beyond. This new model is patient-centered and participatory. Doctors pursue direct and honest communication, however difficult, over false hope and avoidance. And the central actor is no longer a lone warrior-doctor in the trenches of medical warfare, but rather a diverse team of health-care providers acting in partnership with patients and family members.

Tue 3/7

image - President Donald Trump

President Trump and the Future of U.S.-Asia Relations: A View from the West Coast

Date: Tue, March 07, 2017
Time: 6:30 PM
International developments

David D. Arnold, President, The Asia Foundation
Dr. Gloria C. Duffy, President and CEO, The Commonwealth Club of California
N. Bruce Pickering, Vice President of Global Programs, Asia Society, and Executive Director, Asia Society Northern California
Jane Wales, CEO, World Affairs Council of Northern California and Global Philanthropy Forum; Vice President, The Aspen Institute
Mina Kim, News Anchor, KQED—Moderator

Join Asia Society, The Asia Foundation, The Commonwealth Club, and the World Affairs Council for a unique dialogue featuring the leaders of four of the Bay Area’s most prestigious public affairs and non-profit organizations, who will look at the presidency of Donald J. Trump and what it will mean for America’s relationship with Asia and the world. Held within the first 100 days of the Trump Administration, the dialogue will examine more closely a persistent divide between California and the Bay Area, and the rest of the country, on the future direction of this nation.

The dialogue will examine how the Bay Area and the state more broadly view America’s relationship with Asia, as well as its place in the world on global issues such as trade, security and climate change. What are some of the primary issues of importance to the Bay Area—politically, economically, culturally—as it relates to U.S.-Asia relations and are they similar or different from the rest of the country? Have the state and the region evolved differently from the rest of the country in how they perceive America’s relationship with Asia and the world, and why? Is it demographics, geography?

Wed 3/8

Images - Judges Lillian Sing and Julie Tang

Building a Memorial to the Comfort Women

Date: Wed, March 08, 2017
Time: 12:00 PM
The legacy of sexual slavery

Judge Lillian Sing, ret.
Judge Julie Tang, ret.

On International Women's Day, recently retired judges Lillian Sing and Julie Tang will present the history of the "comfort  women," a euphemism for the sexual slavery of hundreds of thousands of women and girls (whose death rate during enslavement was 87 percent) by the Japanese imperial government in 13 Asia-Pacific countries from 1931 to 1945. This history will be memorialized in the soon-to-be-installed “Comfort Women” Memorial in San Francisco. Judges Sing and Tang will review the 20th century history of war-time atrocities against women and also touch on current efforts to fight against modern-day sexual slavery.

Image - Photo of panelists

Impact Investing: Invest and Improve the World with Your Portfolio, Endowments and Foundations

Date: Wed, March 08, 2017
Time: 6:00 PM
How institutional investors seek to better the world

Robert E. Johnson, Ph.D., President, Becker College
Ardyth Neill, President, Heifer Foundation
Jase Wilson, CEO, Neighborly.com
R. Paul Herman, CEO, HIP Investor Ratings + Portfolios

Is your college investing its endowment to change the world? How about the recipients of your charitable giving, are their endowments aligned with their mission and making positive impact? How can you invest in your city's schools, hospitals and roads to build a better world? Learn how these leaders of colleges, foundations and investment platforms are enabling your money to improve society, the environment and our everyday lives.

Image - Priya Natarajan

Priya Natarajan: Mapping the Heavens—A Delightful Tour of the Cosmos

Date: Wed, March 08, 2017
Time: 7:00 PM
Understanding the universe

Priya Natarajan, Professor of Astronomy and Physics, Yale University; Author, Mapping the Heavens: The Radical Scientific Ideas that Reveal the Cosmos

The formation and growth of black holes, the accelerating expansion of the universe, the echo of the big bang, the discovery of exoplanets, and the possibility of other universes—these are some of the puzzling cosmological topics of the early 21st century. Natarajan is an astrophysicist who literally creates maps of this invisible matter in the universe.

She explores these discoveries that have reshaped our understanding of the universe over the past century, and takes us on a tour that will help make sense of our wondrous, mysterious cosmos.

Image - Albright
This event is Sold Out

An Evening with Madeleine Albright and Katie Albright

Date: Wed, March 08, 2017
Time: 7:00 PM
A discussion on American politics in 2017

Madeleine Albright, Former U.S. Secretary of State under President Clinton
Katie Albright, Executive Director, San Francisco Child Abuse Prevention Center
In conversation with Ellen Tauscher, Former Representative, California’s 10th Congressional District; Former Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security; Member, Commonwealth Club Board of Governors

A Generational Conversation on the Challenges Confronting America

Join us on International Women’s Day for a special conversation with former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and her daughter, Katie Albright, attorney and executive director of the San Francisco Child Abuse Prevention Center. In the divided America of 2017—with issues of immigration, civil rights, gender equality, the role of government domestically and the place of the U.S. in the world at stake—come hear a wide-ranging dialogue with two prominent Americans on the greatest challenges facing all of us and the possible solutions to these challenges.