The Commonwealth Club of California is the nation's oldest and largest public affairs forum, bringing together its more than 18,000 members for over 400 annual events on topics ranging across politics, culture, society and the economy.
Founded in 1903, The Commonwealth Club has played host to a diverse and distinctive array of speakers, from Teddy Roosevelt in 1911 to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, actor Alec Baldwin and author Christopher Hitchens in recent years. Martin Luther King, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton and Bill Gates have all given landmark speeches at The Club.
As a nonprofit, nonpartisan educational organization, The Commonwealth Club relies on the support of its membership, the Business Council and foundation grants to continue its role in fostering open public discussion in the San Francisco Bay Area and throughout the nation via radio, Internet and television.
The Club has offices in San Francisco and San Jose, with regular events in both cities, as well as programs in the East and North Bay.
For members outside the Bay Area, The Club's weekly radio broadcast - the oldest in the U.S., dating back to 1924 - is carried across the nation on public radio stations. Our web site archive features audio of our recent programs, as well as selected speeches from our long and distinguished history.
The Commonwealth Club has many exciting ventures planned for the future. You can help!
Learn more about our recent accomplishments in our annual report.
The mission of The Commonwealth Club of California is to be the leading national forum open to all for the impartial discussion of public issues important to the membership, community and nation.
The Commonwealth Club of California was founded in 1903 by San Francisco Chronicle editorial writer Edward F. Adams (right), then in his late 60s. He remained active in The Club until his death some 26 years later.
Other founders included John P. Young, managing editor of the Chronicle; Benjamin Ide Wheeler, president of the University of California; Frederick Burk, president of what became San Francisco State University; and William P. Lawlor, an attorney who later became a justice of the California Supreme Court.
Adams' concept of a public service club, where intelligent men (and since 1971, women) could debate issues of public concern, was shared by a small group of educators, government officials and community leaders.
The Club soon became established as an integral part of San Francisco and a major influence throughout California.
The hallmark of the early Commonwealth Club was studies on a variety of topics, some reflecting a social concern (child labor-1906; Indian rights-1909; air pollution-1913) and others that led to social change and state legislation (civil service processes-1904; California banking laws-1908; selection of jurors-1920; the public defender's office-1932).
Throughout its history, The Club has benefited from a steady stream of national and international political and social celebrities who have appeared before the organization, beginning with Theodore Roosevelt in 1911.
In 1924, the advent of radio presented new opportunities to take The Commonwealth Club outside of the Bay Area with a statewide radio broadcast. In the 1950s, the radio show broadened beyond California, and now is carried on more than 225 radio stations across the country.
The program is transmitted via the Public Radio Satellite System for pick-up by public radio stations and sent to commercial radio stations on tape. Selected Club programs are also broadcast on television by C-Span.
The California Book Awards were established by The Club in 1931 to provide recognition and encouragement to California authors. Over the years, such literary luminaries as John Steinbeck, William Saroyan, Wallace Stegner and Amy Tan have received California Book Awards.
As early as 1979, The Club offered programs in the South Bay, but these program offerings expanded significantly in 1997 when the World Forum of Silicon Valley merged with The Commonwealth Club. The Commonwealth Club/Silicon Valley is now actively engaged in developing programs that address issues pertinent to the vibrant, maturing Silicon Valley community.
Beginning in 1990, The Commonwealth Club began offering regular programs in other regions of the Bay Area as well, and these regional programs-in Marin and Sonoma Counties and a recently expanded effort in the East Bay-are now an important part of The Club's programming effort.