Commonwealth Club of California Podcast
Summary: The Commonwealth Club of California is the nation's largest public affairs forum. The nonpartisan and nonprofit Club produces and distributes programs featuring diverse viewpoints from thought leaders on important topics. The Club's weekly radio broadcast — the oldest in the U.S., since 1924 — is carried on hundreds of stations. Our website features audio and video of our programs. This podcast feed is usually updated multiple times each week.
Over the past few decades, U.S. corporations have increased their economic and political power. Yet critics say Americans are only now awakening to the grave domestic threat this concentrated private sector power presents to our country. Open Market Institute Executive Director Barry Lynn says that monopolies today control almost every corner of the American economy with a concentration of wealth and power in the hands of the few. The result, says Lynn, is also a stripping away of our liberty and freedoms to work, live and communicate how people want, instead of how companies want. Nowhere is this more clear than in the rise of online monopolists such as Google, Facebook and Amazon―designed to gather our most intimate secrets and use them to manipulate our personal and group actions. Not only have these giant corporations captured the ability to manage how we share news and ideas with one another, Lynn says they increasingly enjoy the power to shape how we move and play, and speak and think. Please join us for an important discussion of monopoly power with two people at the cutting edge of fighting back against it. Barry Lynn, head of the Open Markets Institute and longtime critic of unbounded capitalism, is the author of the new book Liberty from All Masters: The New American Autocracy vs. the Will of the People, a treatise against America’s new monopolies. Roger McNamee has emerged as one of the most articulate critics of social media companies and how their design and business models pose serious dangers to people, our economy and our society. In 2019, McNamee spoke at the Club about these issues.
Vote by Design is an award-winning voter literacy project incubated at Stanford University’s Hasso Plattner Institute of Design (d.school) that reimagines civic education and voter literacy through the lens of design. Vote by Design’s free workshop is nonpartisan, issue-agnostic and designed to provide first-time voters with what one teacher called “the driver’s test of voting” and another said it offered "lifelong skills every student should learn.” To date, Vote by Design has been offered to more than 1,000 students across the United States, from the deep red state of Montana to the deep South of Georgia and across California. One student shared, “I thought it was hopeless, but now I feel like I have a way to productively engage.” Another said, “I used to think what my parents thought, and now I think for myself." Vote by Design partnered with Citizen Film, the celebrated Bay Area documentary studio, to capture the student experience as they develop their capacity to be deliberative, informed, lifelong participants in the democratic process. Join Lisa Kay Solomon of Vote by Design and Sam Ball of Citizen Film as they premiere film clips and share insights from young voters’ dialogues with one another about what they want for their shared future. You can’t help but leave inspired and hopeful from what you learn! MLF ORGANIZER Gerald Harris NOTES MLF: Technology & Society
This October, Monday Night Philosophy travels back six decades to two different October crises: the "Checkpoint Charlie" tank confrontation in Berlin in October 1961 and the Cuban Missile Crisis in October 1962. Join us for a virtual conversation with Theodore Voorhees, Jr., who used new as well as previously under-appreciated documentary evidence to link the Cuban Missile Crisis back to the Checkpoint Charlie tank standoff a year earlier, crafting an original analysis of these two Kennedy-Khrushchev political showdowns. Voorhees concludes that much of the Cold War rhetoric both leaders employed was mere posturing. In reality, neither had any intention of starting a nuclear war. Voorhees also reexamines Khrushchev’s and Kennedy’s leadership, decisions and rhetoric in light of the under-appreciated role that domestic politics played in President Kennedy’s decision-making, initially exacerbating the risks the country faced, but ultimately producing a quick, peaceful resolution to the Cuban Missile Crisis. MLF ORGANIZER George Hammond NOTES MLF: Humanities
As the Latino population grows in every region of the United States, Latinos are increasingly playing an influential role not only in presidential politics, but throughout American culture. Yet the unique racial identity of Latinos is not a new story for the country. Latinos have long influenced everything from electoral politics to popular culture‚ yet many people instinctively regard them as recent immigrants rather than a longstanding racial group. Why is this, and what does it have to do with how Americans view and identify different racial groups in the country? In her new book, Inventing Latinos‚ Laura Gómez, a leading expert on race law‚ and society at UCLA‚ illuminates the making and re-making of Latino identity that has spanned centuries‚ leaving a permanent imprint on how race operates in the United States today. Throughout her career, Professor Gómez has explored how Latinos have become recognizable as a racial group in the United States. She traces the roots of Latino identity to Spanish colonization of the New World, as well as the legacy of American imperialism in Mexico, Central America and the Spanish Caribbean in the 19th and 20th centuries. This complicated history, combined with discrimination, has always positioned Latinos as “perpetual foreigners” in the United States. Latinos, however, are pushing back more than ever on this identification and having their voices heard on these and other issues. Please join us for an important discussion on race and history, just weeks before Latinos are expected to play an influential role in the presidential election.
No one ever could have predicted the global impact of COVID-19. The pandemic is speeding up history, but how? CNN host Fareed Zakaria will help us understand what our post-pandemic world will look like. Beyond the immediate effects, we must be prepared for political, social, technological and economic consequences that might take years to unfold. Hear more as Zakaria offers his insights on how to make sense of our changing world.
Going into a pivotal national election, voter suppression threatens to tilt election results in states across the country and drown out the rising influence of both minority and young voters in America. After the U.S. Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act in 2013, voting restrictions, predominantly engineered by Republicans, have proliferated in size and scale. Using tactics such as voter ID laws, voting precinct consolidation, gerrymandering and voter purging, the people in charge of voting at the state and federal levels have made it harder for non-white, poor and young voters to cast their ballots. We’re excited to host a discussion with individuals who have dedicated their careers to making sure everyone who wants to vote in America has the right to do so. They’ll discuss the consequences of voter suppression, what everyone can do to advocate, and the fight ahead. Ari Berman is a senior reporter for Mother Jones, covering voting rights. In addition to voting rights, his writing covers American politics and the impact of money on our electoral system. His critically acclaimed book Give Us the Ballot covers the time since the dramatic passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965, the turbulent forces it unleashed, and the continuing battles over race, representation and political power. As president and executive director of the National Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law (Lawyers’ Committee), Kristen Clarke leads one of the country’s most important national civil rights organizations in the pursuit of equal justice for all. In addition to voting rights, the Lawyers’ Committee seeks to promote fair housing and community development, economic justice, equal educational opportunity, criminal justice, judicial diversity and more. Prior to the Lawyers’ Committee, Clarke led the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc.’s work in the areas of voting rights and election law across the country. Alex Padilla has served as California’s secretary of state since 2015, and he’s prioritized increasing voter registration and participation and strengthening voting rights. While California has the highest number of registered voters in America at more than 15 million people, the state’s population of almost 40 million means it has the second-lowest percentage of registered voters when compared to population. With initiatives like the Motor Voter Act, Padilla and his office are working to raise that number. As president of the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law, Michael Waldman leads the center’s initiatives on voting rights, money in politics, criminal justice reform and constitutional law. The Brennan Center is widely regarded as a leading organization on voter rights and election security, and Waldman and his team are on the forefront of the fight to vote. NOTES In partnership with the Brennan Center for Justice
Growth in the economic prosperity of the average family in America has slowed to a crawl, especially since the deep economic pain of the COVID-19 pandemic. As corporations wake up to the urgent need for change—as evidenced by the Business Roundtable’s updated purpose of the corporation last year—business executives need tools for contributing positively to society rather than operating in a way that delivers value to some but not all. Join us as Roger Martin shares his thinking and his new book, When More is Not Better. He will discuss how America’s obsessive pursuit of economic efficiency is driving inequality, making our economy more fragile, both socially and environmentally, and damaging American’s faith in capitalism. He will discuss why we must stop viewing our economy as a machine that can be perfected with increasing levels of efficiency and instead understand it as a natural system—complex, adaptive and systemic. It is more like a rainforest than an oil refinery, he says, and it requires a fundamental balance of efficiency with resilience. Martin will explore specific actions business leaders can take to restore balance, changes to how they run their businesses, all of which have been tried and tested in other contexts. He will discuss how meaningful change actually happens in the world and provide concrete lessons and a practical model for businesses, policymakers, academics, civil society organizations and individuals who seek to transform our world for good. MLF ORGANIZER Elizabeth Carney
Time and time again we have created artificial intelligence (AI) systems to help solve our problems, but what happens when the AI systems become the problem? Artificial Intelligence systems have been created to help humans work faster, respond more justly, manage more and make fewer mistakes, but now the solution has become the issue. As these systems progress and become more prevalent, ethical and existential risks have emerged. Brian Christian argues that it turns out there is only so much AI can do before it becomes painfully clear that humans need humans. We need empathy and connection when determining bail amounts. We need doctors who know our names in order to feel cared for, not just machines that have downloaded our health data. Not everything can be outsourced, but so much already is and it now becomes a dilemma how to rein it in. What happens when our machines outsmart us, or an enemy outsmarts our systems? How do we realign? Christian investigates these questions and more in his new book, The Alignment Problem: Machine Learning and Human Values. Join us for our conversation about what must change culturally and in the world of tech to ensure that humanity remains our north star.
How are the leaders of some of the nation's biggest environmental organizations responding to a year of race and health crises? Groups such as the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), 350.org and Greenpeace helped move climate onto the presidential agenda last year, pushing Joe Biden and other Democrats’ stances on bold action. Now, organizers and advocates are backing recovery plans that bolster clean energy jobs, help strengthen communities and dismantle systems that exploit people and the planet. How enthusiastic are they about Joe Biden’s $2 trillion climate plan? Can activism finally bring America’s political ambitions in line with climate science? Join us for a conversation on the state of our climate with Annie Leonard, executive director of Greenpeace, Gina McCarthy, CEO of the NRDC, and Tamara Toles O'Laughlin, North America director of 350.org.
In the aftermath the 2007–08 financial collapse, the increasing inequality seen in countries around the world, and the fallout from the global pandemic, there has been an increase in global citizen interest in exploring alternative economic systems.. In the United States, whether it is the presidential candidacy of Bernie Sanders, the popularity on the Left of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, or protesters flooding the streets in unprecedented numbers seeking racial and economic equality, you can find something in common among many of those disillusioned with the way things are—and an interest in socialism. How did this happen? Why now? In his new book, longtime political journalist John Judis—himself a veteran of socialist movements—explores how an ideology thought to be long dead has taken hold as a broad movement among younger people dissatisfied with mainstream politics both on the Right and the Left, in America and around the world. From Karl Marx to Eduard Bernstein, Eugene Debs to Victor Berger, Bernie Sanders to Jeremy Corbyn, The Socialist Awakening chronicles the rebirth of an idea driven by a rising anti-capitalist resentment among those looking to assert public power over the direction of private enterprise. Please join us for an important conversation just weeks before the presidential election.
If you're going through a transition (and who isn’t?)—whether it's an empty nest; a career shift; dealing with ageism, divorce, the loss of a spouse or parents; not to mention hot flashes in the conference room—this event will support you with many survival tips and tricks as well as the power that comes from information. Barbara Mark, Ph.D. has a deeply held passion for working with women in midlife and has enjoyed a decades-long career as an elite leadership, career and life strategies coach and advisor. She has been brought into the confidence of hundreds of professional women seeking to maintain inner balance while facing diverse external demands, personal ambition, and the desire to feel satisfied and fulfilled personally and professionally. As a recognized expert on the stages of adult development and how these stages impact career development and leadership in women, Dr. Mark is a sought-after coach by women who are looking to make appropriate and actionable personal and professional decisions at critical stages of their lives and careers. She is a recipient of the 2010 History Maker—Most Powerful Women of the Bay Award, the 2011 National Association of Women Business Owners Business Woman of the Year Award, The President’s Award for Outstanding Contributions to the Advancement of Coaching in 2017 (which has only been given to two recipients in the history of the organization), and the 2019 Bay Area Powerful Women Award. She is a frequent keynote speaker. MLF ORGANIZER Denise Michaud NOTES This program contains EXPLICIT language MLF: Grownups
Twenty years ago, eminent Harvard political scientist Robert Putnam wrote the nonfiction book Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community. In it, he lamented the decline of in-person social discourse, which Americans used to enrich the fabric of our lives. He further went on to say that this decline undermined the civic engagement required in a strong democracy. Professor Putnam's new book, The Upswing: How America Came Together a Century Ago and How We Can Do It Again, coauthored by social entrepreneur Shaylyn Romney Garrett, comes at a time of deep and accelerating inequality, unprecedented political polarization, vitriolic public discourse and a fraying social fabric. In a sweeping overview of more than a century of history, drawing on a combination of statistical analysis and storytelling, Putnam and Garrett analyze a remarkable confluence of trends that brought us from an “I” society to a “we” society and then back again. They draw inspiring lessons for our time from an earlier era, when a dedicated group of reformers righted the ship, putting us on a path to becoming a society once again based on community. Come for an important conversation that provides optimism in these challenging times.
Award-winning NPR journalist and author Aarti Shahani and America's First Chief Data Scientist DJ Patil point out that the immigrant has become an object of distrust, scorn and even hatred. Yet they also say that for many immigrants, including both of them, this identity is a source of profound pride. They further say that immigrants are proud to have crossed borders and built homes (even in places that didn’t want them). Join these prominent first-generation Americans as they celebrate and interrogate the migrant journey. Both have a strong sense of humor, and the evening will also include a few surprise cameos. NOTES Part of our Good Lit series, underwritten by the Bernard Osher Foundation
Donald Trump began his campaign for president by making immigration restrictions a centerpiece of his platform. He is ending his (first?) term with his administration dealing with the biggest public health crisis in decades. But there are a lot of connections between public health and our country's immigration policies and practices. Join us for a conversation with New Orleans-based Giuli Alvarenga, an award-winning writer and law student. Alvarenga will share personal accounts as a volunteer at the border, witnessing unsafe conditions, and the conviction that immigration is actually a public health concern. NOTE: This program contains EXPLICIT language
Pathways for reducing carbon emissions include electrifying transportation, replacing fossil fuels with wind and solar power. But in this time of national reckoning on racial and economic disparities there is growing support for a more holistic approach. This view holds that the climate crisis won’t be resolved until we first address the systemic imbalances that have fueled it - racism, capitalism, white supremacy and patriarchy. In their new book, All We Can Save:Truth, Courage and Solutions for the Climate Crisis, co-editors Katharine Wilkinson and Ayana Elizabeth Johnson bring together the voices of women artists, writers and changemakers who are at the forefront of climate action. “The work that we’re doing is instigating or nurturing a feminist climate renaissance,” says Johnson, “which is what we feel the climate movement so desperately needs right now.”