Upcoming Events

Mon 9/26

Image - Ayesha Curry

Ayesha Curry: The Seasoned Life

Date: Mon, September 26, 2016
Time: 12:00 PM
Recipes for the whole family

Ayesha Curry, Food Network Host, "Ayesha’s Homemade"; Author, The Seasoned Life: Food, Family, Faith, and the Joy of Eating Well

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

In The Seasoned Life, Ayesha Curry will share 100 of her favorite recipes and invite readers into the home she has made with her two daughters and her husband Stephen Curry. Ayesha knows first-hand what it is like to be a busy mom and wife, and she knows that for her family, time in the kitchen and around the table is where that balance begins.

She has something for everybody. The simple, delicious recipes include Cast Iron Biscuits, Smoked Salmon Scramble, Homemade Granola, Mom's Chicken Soup, Stephen's 5 Ingredient Pasta, and plenty of recipes that get the whole family involved—even the little ones!

Middle East Forum Discussion

Date: Mon, September 26, 2016
Time: 5:00 PM
Discussion group

The Middle East Forum discussion group—which primarily covers the Middle East, North Africa and Afghanistan—has been meeting monthly for more than eight years. We are not a debate group; we are a discussion group.

Humanities West Book Discussion: A Nervous Splendor, by Frederic Morton

Date: Mon, September 26, 2016
Time: 5:00 PM

Join us to discuss A Nervous Splendor. Frederic Morton deftly tells the haunting story of the Crown Prince Rudolf and his city, where, in the span of only 10 months, "the Western dream started to go wrong." Morton's story studies other young men just as frustrated as the prince, including young Sigmund Freud, Gustav Mahler, Theodor Herzl, Gustav Klimt, and the playwright Arthur Schnitzler, whose La Ronde was the great erotic drama of the fin de siecle. Morton interweaves their fates with that of the doomed prince and the entire city. Discussion led by Lynn Harris.

Image - Socrates Café

Socrates Café

Date: Mon, September 26, 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. 

Image - Elizabeth Lesser and Isabel Allende

Elizabeth Lesser in Conversation with Isabel Allende

Date: Mon, September 26, 2016
Time: 6:30 PM

Elizabeth Lesser, Co Founder, Omega Institute; Author, Marrow: A Love Story
In Conversation with Isabel Allende, Novelist and Human Rights Activist

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

The author of The New York Times bestseller Broken Open returns with a visceral and profound memoir of two sisters who, in the face of a bone marrow transplant—one the donor and one the recipient—begin a quest for acceptance, authenticity, and most of all, love.

Throughout her life, Elizabeth Lesser has sought understanding about what it means to be true to oneself and, at the same time, truly connected to the ones we love. But when her sister Maggie needs a bone marrow transplant to save her life, and Lesser learns that she is the perfect match, she faces a far more immediate and complex question about what it really means to love—honestly, generously, and authentically. They leave the bone marrow transplant up to the doctors, but take on what Lesser calls a "soul marrow transplant," examining their family history, having difficult conversations, examining old assumptions, and offering forgiveness until all that is left is love for each other’s true selves. Their process—before, during, and after the transplant—encourages them to take risks of authenticity in other aspects their lives.

Tue 9/27

Image - Scott Allan Morrison

The Dark Side of Social Media: Privacy, Manipulation and Terms of Use

Date: Tue, September 27, 2016
Time: 6:00 PM

Scott Allan Morrison, Former Silicon Valley Journalist; Author, Terms of Use
In conversation with Lisen Stromberg, Independent Journalist, CEO and Founder, AcceleratingWomen

Facebook has vowed that it will not attempt to influence the outcome of an election. But as veteran Silicon Valley journalist Scott Allan Morrison shows us in his debut thriller Terms of Use, social media companies can manipulate voters, and there are no laws to prevent them from doing so. Join Scott as he discusses his novel, Internet privacy and social media’s growing influence over our personal lives and our political system.

Image - Robert Reich

Robert Reich: The Oddest Presidential Election in Living Memory

Date: Tue, September 27, 2016
Time: 6:30 PM

Robert Reich, Chancellor's Professor of Public Policy, University of California, Berkeley; Former Secretary of Labor; Author, Saving Capitalism

In the midst of an unpredictable presidential election, get insight from a veteran political figure who knows Washington inside and out. Time magazine named Reich one of the 10 most effective cabinet secretaries of the 20th century. He is a founding editor of the American Prospect magazine and chairman of Common Cause. Come hear his provocative thoughts on the presidential election and the future of America.

Wed 9/28

Image - Adam Browning

Solar for All: Energy for All the Planet and All the People

Date: Wed, September 28, 2016
Time: 6:00 PM

Adam Browning, Executive Director, Vote Solar
Vien Truong, Director, Green for All
Erica Mackie, Co-Founder and CEO, Grid Alternatives

The clean energy revolution has the power to transform our planet and our communities. Current massive solar cost reductions mean that solar energy will be able to deliver health and economic benefits to everyone, including low-income and impoverished areas. Solar has the power to lower utility bills for every American, including 22 million low-income families, enabling them to invest dollars in their living and in their futures rather than in ever-rising energy bills. Advocates say that harnessing local sunshine will create good jobs and a pathway for everyone, including poor communities and families. Join our distinguished panel in a discussion of promise, progress and challenges to build a new solar economy available for all our planet and all our people.

Thu 9/29

Image - Bay Bridge

Waterfront Walking Tour

Date: Thu, September 29, 2016
Time: 1:45 PM
Another neighborhood adventure

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.

Image - Tracy Kidder

Author Tracy Kidder: Profiling the Pied Piper of Geeks

Date: Thu, September 29, 2016
Time: 6:30 PM
"Money is meant to be moved"

Tracy Kidder, Pulitzer Prize Winner; Author, A Truck Full of Money

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

Tracy Kidder has been called the “master of the nonfiction narrative.” His previous work, Soul of a New Machine, celebrated for its insight into the world of high-tech corporate America, earned a Pulitzer Prize and a National Book Award. His enormously influential book Mountains Beyond Mountains captured two global health crises—tuberculosis and AIDS—through the eyes of a single-minded physician bent on improving the health of some of the poorest people on the planet. In his latest work, A Truck Full of Money, he profiles Paul English, an unconventional entrepreneur and founder of Kayak.com, known as “the Pied Piper of Geeks”, who seeks to give away his fortune. Come hear a mesmorizing portrait of a man whose iconoclastic behavior could well influence the way we all think about materialism.

Tue 10/4

Image - Roger Penrose

Sir Roger Penrose: What We All Need to Know About Physics

Date: Tue, October 04, 2016
Time: 6:30 PM
Separating fact from fiction in the world of physics

Roger Penrose, Theoretical Physicist; Author, Fashion, Faith, and Fantasy in the New Physics of the Universe 
In conversation with Dr. David Eisenbud, director, Mathematical Sciences Research Institute and Professor of Mathematics, University of California, Berkeley

Here’s a chance to meet one of the world’s most renowned scientific thinkers. Sir Roger Penrose, colleague of Stephen Hawking and acclaimed theoretical physicist, will separate fiction from reality when it comes to physics and discuss the fact-based truths of the universe.

In his provocative new book, Penrose argues that fashion, faith, and fantasy, while sometimes productive and even essential in physics, may be leading today's researchers astray in three of the field's most important areas—string theory, quantum mechanics and cosmology. Arguing that string theory has veered away from physical reality by positing six extra hidden dimensions, Penrose cautions that the fashionable nature of a theory can cloud our judgment of its plausibility. In the case of quantum mechanics, its stunning success in explaining the atomic universe has led to an uncritical faith that it must also apply to reasonably massive objects, and Penrose responds with suggestions for possible changes in quantum theory. Turning to cosmology, he argues that most of the current fantastical ideas about the origins of the universe cannot be true, but that an even wilder reality may lie behind them. Penrose even describes how fashion, faith, and fantasy have ironically also shaped his own work.

Come for a discussion that will illuminate physics and its significance to all of us.

Wed 10/5

Image - Tara Smith

Can Courts Get the Law Right? Judicial Review’s Problem with Objectivity

Date: Wed, October 05, 2016
Time: 6:00 PM
Judicial review and the rule of law

Tara Smith, Professor of Philosophy, University of Texas at Austin; Author, Judicial Review in an Objective Legal System

The best laws in the world are useless if they are misunderstood by the courts. Yet the debate over judicial review—proper interpretation of laws—tends to be a minefield of loaded concepts, straw men and false alternatives. Tara Smith explains the pillars of objective law and the essentials needed to restore objective judicial review. Hear Smith's unique perspective on the originalism vs. living constitution vs. minimalism debate.

Image - Michael Krasny

KQED’s Michael Krasny: Oy, Does He Have Jokes for You

Date: Wed, October 05, 2016
Time: 6:30 PM
Come ready to laugh a lot

Michael Krasny, Host, "Forum"; Author, Let There Be Laughter: A Treasury of Great Jewish Humor and What It Means
In conversation with Peter Coyote

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

Michael Krasny has been telling Jewish jokes since his bar mitvah, and it’s been said that he knows more of them than anyone on the planet. He has now put together a compendium of Jewish jokes that packs the punches with hilarious riff after riff and also offers a window into Jewish culture. Let There Be Laughter borrows from traditional humor and such Jewish comedy legends and new voices as Jackie Mason, Mel Brooks, Joan Rivers, Larry David, Sarah Silverman, Jerry Seinfeld and Amy Schumer. With his background as a scholar and public radio host, Krasny also delves deeply into the themes, topics and form of Jewish humor: chauvinism undercut by irony and self-mockery, the fear of losing cultural identity through assimilation, the importance of vocal inflection in joke-telling, and calls to communal memory, including the use of Yiddish. Above all, come ready to laugh a lot.

Thu 10/6

Image - China Economic Slowdown

China’s Economic Slowdown: Will It Hurt the U.S. and the World?

Date: Thu, October 06, 2016
Time: 6:30 PM
What is happening in China, and how does it affect the rest of us?

Yingyi Qian, Dean and Professor, School of Economics and Management, Tsinghua University, China
Nicholas Lardy, Senior Fellow, Peterson Institute for International Economics; Board Member, Asia Policy and The China Review
George Lewinski, Former Foreign Editor, "Marketplace"—Moderator

With China's growth slower than it has been in 25 years, it is undoubtable that China is experiencing an economic slowdown. The government has made changes to stabilize the situation and move the economy toward "a new normal." Our panelists will discuss the different kinds of reforms China is working on now, and how likely these reforms are to succeed.

What does it mean for Americans if these reforms succeed—or if these reforms fail? Do we need to fear a stronger China, or moreso, a weaker one?

Mon 10/10

Image - The Creative Architect

The Creative Architect

Date: Mon, October 10, 2016
Time: 6:00 PM
A look inside an amazing episode of modern architecture and psychology

Pierluigi Serraino, Architect; Author, The Creative Architect: Inside the Great Midcentury Personality Study
In conversation with John King, Architecture Critic, San Francisco Chronicle

Monday Night Philosophy unearths a late 1950s "source of creativity" study whose data has finally been analyzed and published. Forty eminent architects—including Eero Saarinen, Louis Kahn, Philip Johnson, George Nelson, Richard Neutra, Eliot Noyes, Pietro Belluschi, Serge Chermayeff and A. Quincy Jones—descended on UC Berkeley for three days of intensive testing in an attempt to discover the sources of their creativity. Pierluigi Serraino charts the development and implementation of this historic study, producing the first look at an amazing and matchless episode in the annals of modern architecture and psychology.

Fri 10/14

Image - Nancy Cohen

Nancy Cohen: Is the U.S. Ready to Elect a Woman President?

Date: Fri, October 14, 2016
Time: 12:00 PM
Gender politics in the nation's highest office

Nancy L. Cohen, Historian; Author, Breakthrough: The Making of America’s First Woman President
In conversation with Dan Ashley, ABC 7 News Anchor; Member, Commonwealth Club Board of Governors

With election day just a few weeks away, Nancy Cohen, a frequent writer and commentator on women's political leadership, will draw on some 125 interviews with elected officials and strategists of both parties to assess the history of women's experience in politics, the changing political climate, and the current prospects for Hillary Clinton to win the country's highest elective office.

Dr. Cohen is author of four books, including the widely acclaimed Delirium: The Politics of Sex in America and The Reconstruction of American Liberalism. Her writing on American politics has appeared in the Guardian, the Los Angeles Times, The New Republic, and Rolling Stone. She has taught politics and history at Occidental College, UCLA and Cal State Long Beach, and holds a Ph.D. from Columbia University.

Image - Nob Hill Walking Tour

Nob Hill Walking Tour

Date: Fri, October 14, 2016
Time: 1:45 PM
Explore one of San Francisco's original "Seven Hills"

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.

Tue 10/18

Image - Elaine Kamarck

Why Presidents Fail and How They Can Succeed Again

Date: Tue, October 18, 2016
Time: 6:00 PM
Success and failure in the White House

Elaine Kamarck, Professor, Harvard Kennedy School; Senior Fellow, Brookings Institution; Author, Why Presidents Fail and How They Can Succeed Again

Elaine Kamarck argues that for most of their lives, Americans have experienced government failure. The idea that government can and will produce results, implement policy, and efficiently govern the nation is met with rolled eyes. Kamarck explores the failings of presidents Carter, Bush and Obama with a bipartisan analysis of how and why each fiasco occurred.

Her insider’s perspective provides accessible explanations into the inner-workings and political bureaucracy that can cause a governmental meltdown. One big problem she sees is that we reward communicators over managers, rhetoric over governing skills. But persuasive speeches and tweets need to be balanced with a grasp of policy and how to implement it.

Image - Wine

Bread, Wine and Chocolate in a Warming World

Date: Tue, October 18, 2016
Time: 6:30 PM
A matter of good taste

Simran Sethi, Author, Bread, Wine, Chocolate: The Slow Loss of Foods We Love
Anna Lappe, Author, Diet for a Hot Planet: The Climate Crisis at the End of Your Fork and What You Can Do About It

The industrialization of food has caused much of the food we eat to taste the same, whether you are nibbling at a farmer’s market in San Francisco, a Midwestern barbecue or a fast food joint in China. Ninety-five percent of the world’s calories now come from only 30 species, and Simran Sethi says a closer look at America’s cornucopia of grocery store options shows that our foods are primarily made up of only corn, wheat, rice, palm oil and soybeans. Sethi traveled to six continents in search of delicious and endangered tastes and how we can save the foods we love.

Anna Lappe is a prominent leader in the sustainable food movement. She is founder of the Small Planet Institute and head of the Real Food Media Project, which spreads the story of the power of sustainable food using creative movies and grassroots events. She and her mother, Frances Moore Lappe, co-founded the Small Planet Fund, which has raised nearly $1 million for democratic social movements worldwide, two of which have won the Nobel Peace Prize.

Mon 10/24

Humanities West Book Discussion: The World of Yesterday, by Stefan Zweig

Date: Mon, October 24, 2016
Time: 5:00 PM
Portrait of an era

Join us to discuss Stefan Zweig's The World of Yesterday. Written as both a recollection of the past and a warning for future generations, it recalls the golden age of literary Vienna—its seeming permanence, its promise and its devastating fall. Surrounded by the leading literary lights of the epoch, Zweig draws a vivid and intimate account of his life and travels through Vienna, Paris, Berlin and London, touching on the very heart of European culture. His passionate, evocative prose paints a stunning portrait of an era that danced brilliantly on the edge of extinction. Discussion led by Lynn Harris.