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Riki Rafner

The Commonwealth Club Presents Member Led Forums Summer Sessions, 2018: Crisis in Our Country: Moving from Civic Conflict to Civil Conversation

SAN FRANCISCO (June 12, 2018)—You have undoubtedly noticed that social, political, and civic strains are increasingly evident in our lives. We are urged to listen to each other respectfully, and seek out common ground, to monitor our knee-jerk reactions. So, how’s that working out for you? Do you find that you are in an echo chamber, that you converse with like-minded friends, and seek social peace by avoiding awkward topics? I’ll bet you do. But, you know in your heart that respectful listening is the beginning of genuine conversation.

Dr. Carol Fleming, director of the Commonwealth Club Member-Led Forums, who spearheads and founded our popular August program series, and now summer events, observes, “But listen we must. Listening is the first step in learning how to examine your own opinions and find your own words. This summer, through its Member Led Forums, the Commonwealth Club is inviting you to participate in the 20 programs that are examining these difficult issues. We will encourage your questions and comments. First you listen, then you talk. Something good can come out of this.”

The Commonwealth Club will hold this series through September in its new headquarters at 110 The Embarcadero in San Francisco.

Programs include:

Monday, June 11 - 6:00 p.m. Montaigne on the Art of Conversation (Humanities Forum) Timothy Hampton , Aldo Scaglione and Marie M. Burns Distinguished Professor of Comparative Literature and French, and Director, Doreen B. Townsend Center for the Humanities, UC Berkeley. Hampton's talk will focus on one of Montaigne's greatest essays, "On the Art of Conversation." It will place the essay in Montaigne's thought in the tradition of "philosophical conversation" that underpins the humanist tradition in the European West.

Thursday, June 28 - 6:00 pm Elections Matter: What’s at Stake for California in November (Middle East Forum) Panel: Laurel Rosenhall, Ben Christopher and Dan Walters, moderator Dave Lesher from CALmatters . Four seasoned California political journalists will share their insights on the upcoming all-important November 6 general election. They will explain the state's major issues, take audience members inside the politics of the campaign, and discuss what's at stake as voters decide who will occupy California's highest office.

Monday, July 2 - 5:15 p.m. Teen Suicide- A Brighter Day Elliot Kallen, Financial Accountant; Wealth Manager; Founder, A Brighter Day Teen Suicide (Psychology Forum) Kallen, who founded A Brighter Day in honor of his late son, Jake, will discuss the organization's efforts in fighting depression and teen suicide. Suicide is one of the leading causes of death among teens in the U.S.

Monday, July 9 - 6:00 p.m. The Lives of the Constitution: Ten Exceptional Minds that Shaped America’s Supreme Law (Humanities Forum) Joseph Tartakovsky, James Wilson Fellow in Constitutional Law at the

Claremont Institute for the Study of Statesmanship and Political Philosophy; Author, The Lives of the Constitution. Tartakovsky will explore the epic and unexpected story of our Constitution through the eyes of ten extraordinary individuals ― some renowned, like Alexander Hamilton and Woodrow Wilson, and some forgotten, like James Wilson and Ida B. Wells-Barnett

Tuesday, July 10 - 6:00 p.m. We Can’t Talk Anymore? Understanding the Structural Roots of Partisan Polarization and the Decline of Democratic Discourse in 21st Century America (Health and Medicine Forum) David Peritz, Professor of Politics, Sarah Lawrence College. Peritz will examine some of the deeper forces in the American economy, the public sphere and media, political institutions, and even moral psychology that best seem to account for the recent rise in popular polarization

Thursday, July 12 - 5:15 We Have Met the Enemy and He is US! What caused our country's crisis? (Grown-ips) Dennis Brod, lawyer, philosopher, author and former elected official. Brod will examine the root causes leading to the current failure of civil discourse in our nation. He will also look at possible solutions through the use of common sense and critical thinking by applying the principles of Ethical Pragmatism, which he will briefly explain. As specific examples, he will choose a limited number of areas in our society to examine for causes and for possible solutions, including parenting, education and dishonesty in our culture.

Monday, July 16 - 5:15 p.m. Medication Assisted Therapy: A Local Community Clinic Response to the Opioid Epidemic (Psychology Forum) Tam Nguyen, Ph.D., Behavioral Health Director, Tri-City Health Center (TCHC). Dr. Ngyuyen will look at the extent of the opioid epidemic nationally as well as the current data in Alameda County; drug trends; the intersection of chronic pain and opioid use disorder; the promises and potential pitfalls of medication-assisted treatment (MAT) and its application at Tri-City Health Center.

Tuesday, July 17 - 6:00 p.m. Can American Democracy Be De-polarized? Some Thoughts on Restoring Democratic Discourse and Accountability (Health and Medicine Forum) David Peritz, Professor of Politics, Sarah Lawrence College. Peritz will examine how political polarization stems from deeper structural forces like rising economic inequality, declining social mobility, rapid cultural change, and the reorganization of the public sphere with the rise of digital and social media.

Tuesday, July 24 - 6:00 p.m. Universal Basic Assets: Can This Idea Help Build A Better Society For All? (Science and Technology Forum) Marina Gorbis Executive Director, Institute for the Future, and David Thigpen, Director of Undergraduate Programs, UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism; 2013 IFTF Fellow; Member, IFTF Board of Directors; Former Reporter, Time. Gorbis and Thigpen will discuss the concept of universal basic assets (UBA), a framework developed at IFTF in response to the technology-driven reshaping of jobs and work and rising levels of economic inequality.

Monday, July 30 - 5:15 p.m. Transgender Health-Mental Health in the Age of Trump: On the Front Lines at a Local Community Clinic (Psychology Forum) Tiffany Woods, Program Coordinator and Co-creator, TransVision, Tri-City Health Center, Alameda County. Woods will look at how recent assaults on transgender civil rights affect the mental health and well-being of trans individuals. She will also share how Tri-City Health Center, a community clinic on the front lines of transgender care in the age of Trump, addresses these and other issues in Alameda County.

Tuesday, August 7 - 6:00 p.m. North Korea and the Dynamics of U.S.-South Korea-Japan Cooperation (Humanities Forum) Glen S. Fukushima, Senior Fellow, Center for American Progress; Former President, American Chamber of Commerce in Japan; Former Deputy Assistant United States Trade Representative for Japan and China. Fukushima will explain how North Korea has become the most urgent national security issue facing the United States today, in part due to decades of inadequate expertise, attention and action by the United States. He will also elaborate on America’s inability to engage seriously with Asia, the fastest-growing economic region in the world.

Wednesday, August 8 - 6:00 p.m. Title: TBD (Grownups Forum) Pat Obuchowski, a leadership coach for large corporations, will discuss the importance of leaders committing to civility.

Monday, August 20 - 6:00 p.m. Successful Rehabilitation: The Delancey Street Foundation (Humanities

Forum) Mimi Silbert, CEO and President, Delancey Street Foundation. Silbert will describe her approach to rehabilitation by developing individuals’ strengths, rather than focusing on their problems. With no staff and no government funding, her graduates and current residents at Delancey Street have not only turned their own lives around, but have built the entire organization.

Tuesday, August 21 - 5:15 p.m. Empathy Rising (Psychology Forum) Shannon Weber,

Serial Social Entrepreneur; Founder,; Director,, Founder, and; Coordinator, Weber will share her empathy rising framework for showing up in challenging situations and offer tips for sustaining oneself while on empathy adventures.

Wednesday, August 22 - 6:00 p.m. Title TBD maybe Victory Every Day (Grownups Forum) Rick Paulson (national speaker on having victory in your life; civility in everyday life)

Monday, September 10 - 6:00 p.m. America: The Farewell Tour (Humanities Forum) Chris Hedges, Pulitzer Prize–winning Journalist; Author, America: The Farewell Tour. Hedges will examine America in crisis, that he sees is convulsed by an array of pathologies that have arisen out of profound hopelessness, a bitter despair and a civil society that has ceased to function. He believes that the opioid crisis, the retreat into gambling to cope with economic distress, the pornification of culture, the rise of magical thinking, the celebration of sadism and hate, and a plague of suicides are the manifestations of a society that is being ravaged by corporate pillage and a failed democracy. His goal: to jolt us out of complacency before it is too late.

Tuesday, September 25 - 12 noon What Diplomats Do and Why It Matters (International Relations Forum) Ambassador Barbara Stephenson, Former Ambassador to Panama; President, American Foreign Service Association; Former Dean of the Leadership and Management School, Foreign Service Institute; Deputy Chief of Mission and Chargé D’affaires, U.S. Embassy in London. Stephenson will discuss the importance of fully deploying the Foreign Service so they can do their work on behalf of the United States—at our 273 embassies and consulates around the world. She will discuss concrete examples of the important work carried out by American diplomats overseas and lay out the argument that maintaining global leadership through effective diplomacy is the most cost-effective way to keep America secure and prosperous.

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