Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Dr. Gloria Duffy to Discuss Nuclear Iran tomorrow on KCBS Radio (Bay Area)

Commonwealth Club President and CEO Dr. Gloria Duffy will discuss the situation with Iran's nuclear actions and policies tomorrow, October 1, on KCBS Radio, at 2:20 pm (Pacific Time). You can tune into 740 AM at that time or listen live on the KCBS news site.

Video of Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's Big Speech at The Commonwealth Club


Last week, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger spoke to Climate One at The Commonwealth Club. The occasion was the third anniversary of the signing of AB32, California's historic climate law.

The governor covered a great deal of ground in his discussions about green public policy in his speech and in his Q&A with Climate One director Greg Dalton. True, his comments about making sure his children didn't waste hot water in the shower got a lot of attention -- but even that served to illustrate his views that environmental policy touches all parts of our lives. Might not make his kids happy, but that's for him to worry about.

Watch the video to see it all.

China at the Crossroads

A panel of experts convened at The Commonwealth Club last night for a look at the pivotal role China will play in the development of a post-downturn, 21st century global economy.

Recent studies from economic and environmental agencies alike point to the heavy influence China exerts on our daily lives, driving up fossil fuel prices and contributing to the quality (or lack thereof) of the very air we breathe.

According to a two-year study by U.S.-based Energy Foundation and the World Wildlife Fund, if China continues to grow at its current pace, its annual greenhouse gas emissions would reach 17 billion tons by 2050 - accounting for 60 percent of all emissions worldwide and easily supplanting the U.S. as the world's biggest "greenhouse gas gorilla." The fast-approaching U.N. Climate Conference in Copenhagen has identified discourse between China and the U.S. as a turning point in the fight against global warming.

Addressing these and other issues were Felicia Marcus, Barbara Finamore and Gao Jie of the National Resources Defense Council, which works in the U.S. and Beijing to preserve and protect the environment. Joining them were Peter Liu, founder and vice chairman of New Resource Bank, an FDIC-member community bank with expertise in funding green and sustainable businesses.

For more information on upcoming events, check us out at A China-related event of note is Lynne Joiner speaking about "Honorable Survivor: Mao's China, McCarthy's America and the Persecution of John S. Service" on October 7. For a list of upcoming climate and environmental programs, see our Climate One series of events and our Environment & Natural Resources Member-Led Forum events.

--By Andrew Harrison

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Commonwealth Club Names Pioneering Businesswoman Dr. Ruth Shapiro First "Social Entrepreneur in Residence"

SAN FRANCISCO (September 28, 2009) --- Following the momentum generated by The Commonwealth Club’s annual dinner earlier this year honoring three Bay Area social entrepreneurs, the Club has officially named Dr. Ruth Shapiro its first Social Entrepreneur in Residence. After having successfully launched several socially responsible businesses herself, including the Hong Kong-based Asia Business Council, Dr. Shapiro will now contribute to the Club’s ongoing mission of creating and developing positive social change at home and abroad.

“Venture capital firms often have entrepreneurs in residence, who work on their own ideas and help foster entrepreneurship within the firm. We believe that model also applies to the non-profit world and social entrepreneurship. We are delighted that Dr. Ruth Shapiro, herself a seasoned social entrepreneur who has started several programs and organizations, will take on this role,” said Club President and CEO Dr. Gloria Duffy.

“The term social entrepreneurship is used widely today but few would define it in the same way," added Shapiro. "The Commonwealth Club applauds social innovation. This year, the annual dinner celebrated the work of three funders -- Bill Draper, the Skoll Foundation and -- for their landmark efforts to promote social entrepreneurship and innovation. The Club realizes, however, that more public awareness of social innovation models and approaches would go far to increase public support and, ideally, increase funding and activity in this area.”

As the social entrepreneur in residence, Dr. Shapiro will focus on three tasks. First, she will orchestrate a year-long series of programs, including talks by social entrepreneurs, funders, academics, and corporations, focusing on social entrepreneurship. As in the venture capital model, Dr. Shapiro will also work on the business plan for her own non-profit start-up, which will focus on the relationship between business and society. She will also help The Club find new and entrepreneurial ways to promote its goal of educating the public on a wide-ranging set of issues and subjects.

Dr. Ruth Shapiro has built several successful businesses around social missions. Her latest and largest achievement was to create and run the Asia Business Council, a Hong Kong-based membership organization of top CEOs in Asia, committed to sustainable economic development. As its founder, Dr. Shapiro raised the startup capital from private foundations and individuals, recruited key chief executives to develop the initiative, and built the council into the organization it is today. On a day to day basis, Dr. Shapiro oversaw the council’s strategy, management, membership, program and finances. Through this work, Dr. Shapiro gained expertise on issues such as corporate social responsibility, scenario planning, education, training and innovation, corporate governance, energy efficiency, trade policy and regional economic growth.

Before creating the Asia Business Council, Dr. Shapiro worked in the field of international development. In this capacity, she held various management positions and established new program areas at the Academy for Educational Development, and the Harvard Institute of International Development and Global Outlook.

Dr. Shapiro, a Palo Alto resident, recently relocated back to the United States after living in Hong Kong and London for the last six years. She holds a doctorate from Stanford University and Masters degrees from Harvard University and George Washington University. She completed her undergraduate work at the University of Michigan.

For more information or to schedule an interview with Dr. Shapiro, contact Riki Rafner, director of media and public relations, at 415-597-6712.

Dr. Gloria Duffy: A Moment of Weakness for Ahmadinejad


Dr. Gloria Duffy, the Commonwealth Club's president and CEO, appeared on a television news report last night about experts' reactions to the Iranian nuclear and missile activity.

Duffy noted that the Obama administration might be sensing a period of weakness on the part of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad following the tumultuous post-election protests in that country. Others disagreed; former CIA agent (and former Commonwealth Club speaker) Robert Baer argued that the U.S., UK and France took a bad pre-negotiation step by embarrassing Iran when they revealed the country's previously little-known nuclear facility near the religious city of Qom.

View the KGO TV video for these and other views on the situation.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Dr. Gloria Duffy Discusses Iran's Nuclear Situation on KGO TV tonight at 6 p.m.

Commonwealth Club President and CEO Dr. Gloria Duffy will appear on KGO TV, Channel 7 in San Francisco, tonight at 6:00 p.m. (Pacific time). She will be discussing the nuclear situation in Iran.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Schwarzenegger Tells Commonwealth Club California Must Lead on Energy, Never Follow


In his third appearance at The Commonwealth Club of California in 13 months, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger told a room of nearly 500 attendees that the state must always be a leader on fighting climate change and on generating economic growth from environmentally friendly activity.

Though his appearance focused on the third anniversary of AB32 -- legislation that set California on a path of being a national and global leader in green economics -- Schwarzenegger also touched on a wide array of topics, particularly during his question-and-answer session with Greg Dalton, director of The Commonwealth Club's Climate One program. When he was asked by a member of a fourth-grade class that was in attendance what advice he gives to his own children regarding the environment, the governor related his own upbringing in postwar Europe, where his family lived in a home without running water. As a result, he closely monitors the length of his children's showers and threatens to cut off the hot water after five minutes. He also makes his children make their own beds and do their own laundry.

From Republican gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman's recent comments about rescinding some of his green policies, to discussing his desire to do anything possible to make the Obama administration (and future administrations of either party) successful, the governor shied away from no topic. He gave an impassioned explanation about the necessity of painful across-the-board budget cuts when an audience member questioned reductions in higher education funding.

To end the program, he was asked if, after he leaves the governor's office, he would consider holding a post in the Obama administration, being an international ambassador for green issues, or starring in a TV series about a California governor (" West Wing, only better..."). Schwarzenegger said he was open to all three.

We'll post the full video of the program here when it's available.
(Photos by John Zipperer)

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Video of Michael Moore at The Commonwealth Club


We always love it when a program here at The Commonwealth Club of California sells out and has a standing-room-only audience. But we also know that means that many people who wanted to attend the event were unable to.

Thank goodness for radio, podcasts, and internet video, then, right? Courtesy of our online video partners,, we have the above video of controversial political documentarian Michael Moore's appearance at The Club on September 17. For an overview of his conversation at The Club, see yesterday's blog post.

David Letterman and the Commonwealth Club

(Image from CBS TV online video.)

Last night, President Barack Obama became the first sitting president to appear as a guest on The Late Show with David Letterman. (Obama had previously appeared numerous times while a senator and presidential candidate.) The appearance was part of the president's campaign to make his argument for his policies, chiefly health-care reform.

The appearance is getting a great deal of press attention, as you'd expect. But one throw-away line from the night was of particular interest to us here at The Commonwealth Club, and it made us wonder if Letterman and his staff are Club aficionados.

During the Top Ten List, the host read out the top 10 "reasons President Obama agreed to appear on The Late Show." The reasons ranged from the odd ("Heard the lady with the heart-shaped potato was going to be here" -- long story) to the political. But one of them resonated with us: Reason Number Seven: "Every president since Teddy Roosevelt has been here."

Well, we all know that the place that has hosted every president since Teddy Roosevelt is The Commonwealth Club of California, don't we? Roosevelt kicked it off by making the case in his Club speech for federal involvement in protection of common lands. Republican and Democrat, they've made their appearance here before our Bay Area audiences and -- through our national radio and internet arms -- before the whole country. So naturally we're looking forward to hosting a speech by President Barack Obama, and he's welcome to bring the jokes.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Director Michael Moore Discusses His "Love Story" at The Commonwealth Club

Michael Moore addresses a Commonwealth Club InForum crowd Thursday, September 17, 2009. (Photo by Camille Koue.)

In a surprise event that nevertheless managed to draw standing-room-only crowds, media attention and a flurry of Flickr activity, film director Michael Moore appeared at the Commonwealth Club for an InForum interview with Live from the Left Coast's Angie Coiro on Thursday evening.

The interview followed an advance screening of Moore's new documentary, Capitalism: A Love Story, at San Francisco's Metreon cineplex. Without divulging too much here (find out more on Moore's web site), the film is every inch the provocative, fractious and ofttimes humorous work that audiences have come to expect from the filmmaker-- or are we reading too much into this? As Moore shared with a full house at the Commonwealth Club following the screening, "It is a love story. It's about the wealthy who love their money. Except, the movie has a twist -- they not only love their money, they love our money, too. And they want all of it."

Over the next hour, Moore and Corio's discussion ranged over his more bloodthirsty critics, why he's calling on Barack Obama to fill FDR's shoes, what it really means to be called "liberal-minded," and how we're putting our own newspapers out of business.

The full discussion will soon be available on The Commonwealth Club's YouTube page, where you can find all of The Club's past speakers and future events online. Meanwhile, Capitalism: A Love Story hits theaters on October 2.

--By Andrew Harrison

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Late-Breaking Event: Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger at Commonwealth Club This Week

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger will be appearing at The Commonwealth Club of California in San Francisco this Thursday. He will be talking about what California is doing to bring together states and countries together to cooperate on addressing climate change.

For additional details and to reserve tickets, click here.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Admiral Blair Makes Waves with Commonwealth Club Speech

The Huffington Post offers a brief rundown of the news made by last night's Commonwealth Club of California speaker, Admiral Dennis Blair, who is President Obama's director of national security. Blair spoke to The Club on the day of the release of an unclassified national security strategy report. Chief among the headlines made by Blair yesterday were numbers-related: The U.S> spends $75 billion on its intelligence services, and employs 200,000 people in the effort.

See also reports from the Associated Press, the Washington Independent, Fox News, the Federal News Service, and the San Francisco Chronicle.

CIA Director Leon Panetta and FBI Director Robert Mueller will be making separate appearances at The Commonwealth Club this fall. For dates, details, and to register, go to The Commonwealth Club's web site.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Late-Breaking Event: Michael Moore to Address Commonwealth Club in San Francisco on Thursday

Here's an event you'll want to sign up for quickly; the tickets are sure to go fast.

The Commonwealth Club's InForum division has just scheduled filmmaker Michael Moore for a discussion at The Club's downtown San Francisco headquarters immediately following a free screening of Moore's new film, Capitalism: A Love Story.

To get more information and to make your reservation, visit the event page.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Rajendra Pachauri on Hopenhagen


Rajendra Pachauri, chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, sent this video message because he was was unable to attend tomorrow's Climate One discussion of the Hopenhagen campaign. Greenhouse gas emissions, he says citing the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report, need to peak by 2015 in order to stabilize the atmosphere and keep warming below 2.4 C degrees.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Traffic Patterns: Attitudes Toward Cars

Everything is bigger in America. From waistlines to portion sizes, the country has a knack for cultivating and embracing all things large. But lately, it seems to many as if family-sized everything is beginning to lose its appeal, especially in the form of cars.

During August’s Cash for Clunkers program, more than 400,000 cars were traded in, 84 percent of which were trucks. While some users opted to purchase newer large cars, 59 percent of vehicles purchased were compact cars like Honda Civics and Toyota Corollas. It served as only a temporary boon to the auto industry, but it could translate to long-term changes in air quality, financial responsibility and, simply, space.

As transportation secretary Ray LaHood told The New York Times, “This is a win for the economy, a win for the environment and a win for consumers.”

Though the benefits and repercussions of the program are still up for debate, on a basic level, the extra space on the roads and in the lots might be a welcome change, especially in California. For a long time, cars in America just kept getting bigger. The SUV craze of the '90s meant the Chevy Suburban continued to expand and gain popularity, the Ford Excursion rolled out with what some people probably thought was more room than anyone had any business occupying, and the oversize obsession reached its pinnacle when the Hummer became, literally, widely available. Grappling with an increasing number of cars – which California will have to do as its population continues to grow – might be done more easily if they come in a neat, compact package.

As the climate bill winds its way through Congress, favoring smaller, cleaner cars could be a natural move. Essentially, this month-long cash-for-clunkers program could end up initiating a shift in the way Americans regard vehicles. Even in San Francisco, the country’s second most densely populated city and one with little room for cars, driving accounts for 60 percent of trips taken. City planning officials have just unveiled their transportation vision for 2030, and ambitious is an understatement. The city hopes to cut car use in half, up transit use to 30 percent and bring bike and foot trips up to 40 percent. If California can set the bar for fuel efficiency, San Francisco could hope to set it for general travel efficiency.

California, which has long pushed for strict fuel efficiency standards and is now setting the nation’s standard, is the veritable ground zero for car chaos. The state is expected to double in population by 2050, so many observers believe that its transportation infrastructure is in dire need of updating and funding to accommodate more vehicles. An October panel at The Club will meet to discuss the challenges, while the Environmental Protection Agency’s Lisa Jackson will visit on September 29 to identify key strategies to cleaning up our act.

9/11 Anniversaries

This morning, President Obama observed the anniversary of the tragic terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and elsewhere. That day, September 11, 2001, of course lives on as a date that has memories for everyone in this country, because of what it meant to be attacked by a well-financed and -organized terrorist organization and because of how it changed all of our lives since then.

During the ceremonies today, there have been many moving tributes to the heroes of that day, and memories of those lost. So we'll just take this space to provide some resources for people looking for more background on the events and context for what they meant.

Back in 2002, on the one-year anniversary of the attacks, The Commonwealth Club held a forum that was led by Ming Chin, an associate justice of the Supreme Court of California, Father Stephen A. Privett, president of the University of San Francisco, and Dr. Gloria Duffy, CEO of The Commonwealth Club. You can read the transcript of the program by clicking on the jpg images to the left; these are from the transcript printed in the October 15, 2002, issue of The Commonwealth, The Club's official magazine. Our web site also hosts a transcript of the event, which you can read here.

The Commonwealth Club held a series of 9/11-related forums and other programs after September 11, and it has continued to follow matters related to terrorism, public safety, and national security in the years since. For an introduction to some of those programs, visit our archives page.

On August 17, 2004, The Commonwealth Club held an event with two members of the 9/11 Commission, Slade Gorton and Richard Ben-Venistey. You can read the transcript of that event here, or you can listen to audio of the event.

New York Times reporter Jere Longman came to The Club on August 14, 2002, to speak about the "The Story of Flight 93 and Its Heroes." You can read that transcript here.

And, of course, there have been many others. From administration officials and their supporters defending the actions taken to ensure national security, to critics of the administration concerned about constitutional protection and human rights. Those discussions have all taken place at The Commonwealth Club, and they will continue to do so, including Admiral Dennis Blair, President Obama's director of national intelligence, who will be speaking on September 15.

There will be many more anniversaries of this date, and undoubtedly people from many walks of life will mark it in their own way. We'll continue to study it all at The Commonwealth Club.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Dr. Gloria Duffy to Discuss 9/11 Anniversary on KTVU TV "Mornings on 2"

Bay Area audiences might want to catch Dr. Gloria Duffy, president and CEO of The Commonwealth Club of California, who will appear on KTVU TV's live morning news show, "Mornings on 2," tomorrow morning, September 11, at 8:15 a.m. (Pacific time). She will share her thoughts on the anniversary of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States, as well as the international situation today.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Visit Our New Health Care Resources Web Page

The Commonwealth Club has launched a new web page dedicated to covering health care from many angles.

Underwritten by the California HealthCare Foundation, the new page features information on upcoming Commonwealth Club health-care programs, audio and video of previous programs, a health & medicine news feed, and other online resources.

We'll be adding new features and resources to the page, so bookmark it today if you're interested in this country's health-care dialogue.

Visit the page directly, or go to our home page and select "Club Events" and then "Special Events" to find the page.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Reza Aslan: No "Clash of Civilizations"

Reza Aslan at The Commonwealth Club, where he discussed Iranian-American identity and politics with journalist Jonathan Curiel on September 1. (Photo by Beth Byrne.)

Despite the high levels of religious identification by Americans, this country remains quite ignorant about -- and sometimes fearful of -- minority religions, especially Islam, scholar Reza Aslan told The Commonwealth Club last night. During a conversation with journalist Jonathan Curiel, Aslan said that someday, Americans will accept Muslims the same way they think of Catholics; but when John F. Kennedy was running for president in 1960, he had to face public skepticism about whether his Roman Catholicism would entail him being more loyal to the Vatican than to the United States. Today, that accusation sounds laughable.

That attitude (and the hope embedded in it) are a good summary of Aslan's attitude toward the world's conflicts and the various intersections of religion and politics around the globe. In short, he said there is no "clash of civilizations," to use the phrase popularized by historian Samuel Huntington; he argued instead that the chief source of mistrust and misunderstanding was religious.

For a thoughtful and extensive overview of Aslan's program, read The Majlis report by Evan Hill.

For more about the Iranian-American experience, you might want to attend the upcoming event with popular author Firoozeh Dumas, who returns to The Club September 10. There's more event information here.

And on October 28, Haleh Esfandiari, founder and director of the Woodrow Wilson Center's Middle East Program, will discuss her time as a prisoner in Iran (a story she wrote about in her book, My Prison, My Home: One Woman's Story of Captivity in Iran). More on her event information here.