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Commonwealth Club of California Podcast


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.


San Francisco, CA




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.






The Commonwealth Club of California 595 Market Street 2nd Floor San Francisco, CA 94105 415-597-6700


Stephen Vladeck: Behind the Closed Doors of the U.S. Supreme Court

Lawyer, author, professor and Supreme Court expert Stephen Vladeck—author of the new book The Shadow Docket—exposes the Court’s increasing reliance on secretive judicial processes that permit typically public hearings and discussions to occur behind closed doors. Having argued multiple cases before the Supreme Court himself, Vladeck explains how the Court’s expanded use of the “shadow docket” has enabled cryptic late-night rulings that leave the public without explanation for decisions affecting everything from immigration to COVID vaccine mandates. A University of Texas law professor and CNN’s lead Supreme Court analyst, Vladeck joins us to talk about the important issues raised in his book as well as the biggest cases facing the Court this term. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit


CLIMATE ONE: Bringing Biodiversity Back from the Breaking Point

Land use, pollution and the climate crisis are driving what may be the largest mass extinction event since the dinosaurs. The World Wildlife Fund estimates that the planet has seen an average 68% drop in mammal, bird, fish, reptile and amphibian populations since 1970. In order to help address species collapse, over 190 countries – signatories to the United Nations Framework Convention on Biodiversity – recently agreed to an ambitious new plan, called 30x30, which aims to conserve 30% of the world’s land and waters by 2030. Will the framework be enough to bring biodiversity back from the breaking point? This episode is supported in part by Resources Legacy Fund. Guests: Tanya Sanerib, International Legal Director, Center for Biological Diversity Ian Urbina, Director and Founder, The Outlaw Ocean Project Jennifer Tauli Corpuz, Managing Director of Policy, Nia Tero For show notes and related links, visit Learn more about your ad choices. Visit


How to Boost U.S. Productivity in the AI Era

Recent advances in artificial intelligence are raising hopes of a U.S. productivity boom by automating mundane tasks, improving decision-making, and opening up new business models and opportunities. At the same time, many workers are skeptical, fearing that the new tools may make them obsolete. What impact will AI have on businesses and employees in the long and short term? And how can we be more productive while also ensuring that the benefits will be distributed equally? A new report by the McKinsey Global Institute, "Rekindling Productivity for a New Era," sheds light on these questions. The study examines which sectors and geographic regions, such as California, have been the most innovative and productive, and what it took to achieve that success. "To unlock value from truly new technology, firms must reconfigure how they work, often over sustained periods, as they tinker with processes and workers adapt their skills," the report finds. The study also argues that maintaining the status quo is not an option. U.S. productivity has been lagging since 2005, averaging 1.4 percent a year, compared to the post-World War II average of 2.2 percent. Bringing productivity up to its historical average could add an additional $10 trillion to the U.S. GDP over the next 10 years, amounting to an extra $15,200 per U.S. household. We'll talk with McKinsey's Olivia White about how to fix the U.S. productivity engine in a way that benefits everyone. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit


Simon Johnson: The History of Technology and Prosperity

In the 21st century, technology dominates all aspects of our lives. With the advent of artificial intelligence, some believe we are at a critical moment with our ability to control the very technology that humans built. And the decisions we make now will likely shape our society's progress on a range of variables in the future. According to economist and global thinker Simon Johnson, a thousand years of historical and contemporary evidence makes one thing clear: societal progress for all depends on the choices we make about technology. In his new book Power and Progress: Our 1000-Year Struggle Over Technology and Prosperity, Johnson explores the history and economics of major technological transformations up to and including the latest developments in artificial Intelligence. He finds that new ways of organizing production and communication can either serve the narrow interests of the elite or become the foundation for widespread prosperity for society. Johnson demonstrates that the path of technology was once—and may again be—brought under control if we make the right choices. The tremendous computing advances of the last half century can become empowering and democratizing tools, but not if all major decisions remain in the hands of a few tech leaders, which characterizes much of the world of technology today. Will this change, and what is our role? Hear more as Johnson addresses these critical questions about the power of technology and its influence on societal progress. NOTES This program is generously supported by the Jackson Square Partners Foundation. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit


CLIMATE ONE: Naomi Oreskes, David Gelles and The Myth of Free Markets

Many on the left say that the growing climate crisis is the inevitable result of unbridled capitalism – industries seeking profits above all else. In “The Big Myth,” Naomi Oreskes (who brought us “Merchants of Doubt”) points to a concerted effort from American business groups to propagate the myth that only markets free of government regulation can generate prosperity and protect political freedom. “If we actually had appropriate regulations, appropriate rules of the road, we wouldn't be in this position of having to beg corporate leaders not to destroy the planet,” Oreskes says. This myth has grown so pervasive that American citizens now put more faith in CEOs than in religious leaders, according to David Gelles, author of “The Man Who Broke Capitalism.” What should be done to change the narrative? Guests: Naomi Oreskes, Professor of the History of Science, Harvard David Gelles, Reporter, The New York Times Kate Khatib, Co-Director, Seed Commons For show notes and related links, visit Learn more about your ad choices. Visit


What Would You Do with an Extra 10 Years of Healthy Life?

Please join The Commonwealth Club for an evening with the leaders of the Buck Institute, one of the country's leading research organizations on aging. We'll hear from the leader of the Buck Institute on "Healthspan," then enjoy an in-person wine and cheese reception. "Healthspan" is the period of life in which an individual is healthy and free from chronic disease. Interventions that promote healthy aging, such as diet and exercise, can help increase healthspan and reduce the burden of age-related diseases. Dr. Eric Verdin will discuss his efforts and those of his colleagues at the Buck Institute in helping to advance our understanding of aging and develop new strategies for promoting healthy aging and extending healthspan. Eric Verdin, MD, is the president and CEO of the Buck Institute for Research on Aging, a pioneering biomedical research institute dedicated to aging and age-related disease. A native of Belgium, Dr. Verdin received his Doctorate of Medicine from the University of Liege and completed additional clinical and research training at Harvard Medical School. He has held faculty positions at the University of Brussels, the National Institutes of Health, and the Picower Institute for Learning and Memory. Dr. Verdin is also currently a professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco. In 2016 Dr. Verdin established his laboratory at the Buck Institute for Research on Aging to study the relationship between aging and the immune system. He is an elected member of several scientific organizations, including the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Society for Clinical Investigation, and the Association of American Physicians. He also serves on the advisory council of the National Institute on Drug Abuse at the National Institutes of Health. There will be a post-program reception for all attendees. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit


(Not) Crazy Rich Asians: Asian Philanthropy for the Greater Good

Forbes magazine now reports there are more billionaires in China than in any other country in the world. Many of them, joined by grassroots donors as well, are interested in making a positive difference in their own countries, the Asia-Pacific region, and elsewhere in the world. Many of them partner with, and benefit from, the Centre for Asian Philanthropy and Society (CAPS), headquartered in Hong Kong and helmed by Dr. Ruth A. Shapiro. The Centre conducts policy research, applied research, commissioned research and convening. In collaboration with its extensive network of local partners and support from Asian philanthropists across 18 Asian economies, CAPS generates evidence-based insights into how individuals, companies and governments can best address social challenges. What are those insights, and what progress is being made to best address the social challenges? Join Dr. Shapiro and fundraising consultant Ruyi Lu for an inspired conversation about recent trends in Asian philanthropy, the differences and similarities between Asian and American philanthropy, and how they converge to produce a greater good for all. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit


The Uncertain Future of Nuclear Deterrence

Nuclear deterrence has been a cornerstone of U.S. defense since the end of World War II, seeking to protect the country’s security and that of its allies by threatening unacceptable damage to any country that might attack with nuclear weapons or by other means. Since the end of the Cold War, the United States has been able to focus on reducing the role and number of nuclear weapons and strengthening nonproliferation. But now big changes are again afoot in the global context . . . will Russia’s current modernization of its nuclear arsenal and China’s buildup of strategic nuclear forces threaten the viability of the U.S. nuclear deterrent, including the extended deterrence the United States provides to its allies? Is arms control still possible? China has historically maintained a “minimum” strategic nuclear deterrent but is now engaged in an unprecedented build up and diversification of its nuclear arsenal; a decade from now, it will match if not surpass the United States in deployed weapons. Russia is also upgrading its nuclear weapons, and in February “suspended” its adherence to the New START arms control treaty, which limits U.S. and Russian strategic nuclear weapons to 1,550 deployed warheads each. What are China’s and Russia’s objectives in accelerating their nuclear weapons programs? How do their nuclear policies relate to their grand strategies and other military activities, such as the war in Ukraine for Russia, and the Chinese buildup of naval forces in the Pacific, and to their perceptions or misperceptions of United States activities? What are the implications for U.S. and world security? To maintain deterrence, will the United States be compelled to match the nuclear arsenals of both Russia and China? What do U.S. allies want and need from the United States and what can they contribute to deterrence? What are the prospects for arms control, or other strategies to place limits on this potential new nuclear arms race? Do new technologies, such as those for homeland missile defense, offer some escape from the dilemmas of nuclear deterrence? About the Speakers Brad Roberts is the director of the Center for Global Security Research at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, where he recently chaired a study group on China’s emergence as a second nuclear peer of the United States. Prior to this position, he was deputy assistant secretary of defense for nuclear and missile defense policy. Dr. Roberts was also a consulting professor at Stanford University and William Perry Fellow at the Center for International Security and Cooperation. Thomas Fingar is a Shorenstein APARC Fellow in the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies at Stanford University. From 2005 through 2008, he served as the first deputy director of national intelligence for analysis and, concurrently, as chairman of the National Intelligence Council. Dr. Fingar served previously as assistant secretary of the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research. SPEAKERS Thomas Fingar Shorenstein APARC Fellow, Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies, Stanford University. Brad Roberts Director, Center for Global Security Research, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory Dr. Gloria Duffy Ph.D., President and CEO, The Commonwealth Club of California—Moderator In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, we are currently hosting all of our live programming via YouTube live stream. This program was recorded via video conference on May 15th, 2023 by the Commonwealth Club of California. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit


CLIMATE ONE: Two Heroes Challenging the Powerful

Making the necessary changes to address climate disruption will take massive collective action. But sometimes, a single individual can make an extraordinary difference. At age nine, Nalleli Cobo, suffering headaches, heart palpitations, nosebleeds, and body spasms, became an activist, driven to fighting to shut down the local oil well responsible for her ailments. Separately, Marjan Minnesma brought a historic lawsuit holding the Dutch government accountable for its failure to protect its citizens from climate change. For these activists, addressing climate disruption isn’t just about preventing future harm, it’s about instigating change now. Guests: Nalleli Cobo, Cofounder, People Not Pozos Marjan Minnesma, Founder, Urgenda Foundation For show notes and related links, visit Learn more about your ad choices. Visit


Chasten Buttigieg: I Have Something to Tell You

"Told with candor and grace, this is a joyous reminder to be kind to yourself." —Actor and author Kai Penn on I Have Something to Tell You Today, Chasten Buttigieg is readily known by his unusual last name as the husband of former presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg. But as a child, growing up in a rural, conservative Michigan town, he knew he was unusual for another reason: He was gay. He kept that part of himself hidden for a long, painful time, but with the support of his loved ones, he eventually came out and learned the rewards of being true to himself. Finding acceptance and self-love can seem like a tremendous challenge, but it's never impossible. With honesty, courage and warmth, Chasten uses the young adult adaptation of his memoir to relay his experience about growing up in America and embracing his identity, while inspiring young people across the country to do the same. Join us live and in-person in San Francisco as Chasten Buttigieg discusses his life and the issues raised in his book I Have Something to Tell You—For Young Adults. Chasten Gleeman Buttigieg grew up in Traverse City, Michigan. He is a teacher and advocate, and lives with his husband Pete, their two children, and their two rescue dogs. This is his second book. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit


Tennessee Representative Justin Jones

Justin Jones is an activist and community organizer in Nashville representing Tennessee's 52nd district. This April, Jones made national headlines and sparked debate on race, representation and activism after he was expelled from the Tennessee House of Representatives for leading a gun control protest on the House floor. Just four days after his expulsion, the Metropolitan Nashville Council unanimously voted to reinstate Jones to his seat. Please join us on the UC Berkeley campus for a conversation between Representative Jones and Angela Glover Blackwell, founder of PolicyLink and Professor of Practice at the Goldman School of Public Policy. Presented in partnership with the Associated Students of the University of California Vote Coalition, the Goldman School, and the Fisk University Alumni Association, this promises to be a powerful and wide-ranging discussion about activism, gun violence, race and democracy. This event is part of the Creating Citizens Speaker Series at UC Berkeley, a partnership between The Commonwealth Club, the ASUC Vote Coalition, and the University of California National Center for Free Speech and Civic Engagement. The series gives UC Berkeley students and community members opportunities to listen to and ask questions of leading minds in politics, media and education as they learn how to become better, more involved citizens. SPEAKERS Justin Jones Tennessee State Representative (D-Nashville) Angela Glover Blackwell Founder, PolicyLink—Moderator This program was recorded via video conference on May 12th, 2023 at The University of California Berkeley by the Commonwealth Club of California. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit


CLIMATE ONE: Amy Westervelt on Drilling, Denial and Disinformation

Amy Westervelt has made a career out of exploring the underbelly of the oil industry through complex and compelling storytelling. Through her investigative series Drilled, including her latest season Light Sweet Crude, focused on the new wave of oil colonialism, Westervelt dives deep into the true crimes of the fossil fuel industry’s biggest players, including their misinformation and PR campaigns about the climate emergency, their unfair dealing and record of environmental disasters. Her narrative podcasts shine a light on stories oil companies would rather keep in the dark, and on those individuals who try to hold them accountable. Guest: Amy Westervelt, Investigative Journalist; Executive Producer, Critical Frequency Podcast Network For show notes and related links, visit Learn more about your ad choices. Visit


Kevin Kelly: The Wisdom I Wish I'd Known Earlier

Kevin Kelly co-founded Wired magazine in 1993 and served as its executive editor for its first seven years. Prior to that, he helped launch The Well, a pioneering online service in 1985, and was publisher and editor of an offshoot of The Whole Earth Catalog. He co-chairs the board of the Long Now Foundation, a membership organization that champions long-term thinking and responsibility to future generations. In these endeavors and more, Kelly has become an icon to early generations of technology workers. But, as a futurist, he is also interested in sharing his wisdom with younger generations just entering the workforce. On his 68th birthday, Kelly wrote down for his young adult children some things he had learned about relationships, business, and life that he wished he had known earlier. To his surprise, he had more to say than he thought, so he continued composing these short passages of guidance until he had more than 400 of them. He has now compiled these inspirational concepts into a book, Excellent Advice for Living. Kelly’s bits of advice cover a broad range of subject matter, and each statement is meant to be a memorable prompt for an action one could take. Many of them are about right living, good conduct, and civility. There is advice on setting ambitious goals, forgiveness and gratitude, taking responsibility for mistakes, optimizing generosity, and cultivating awareness, compassion and creativity. While his book is aimed primarily at young people, and in particular at young professionals, it's message could speak to anyone at any stage of life. Please join as a Bay Area trendsetter shares wise, practical and optimistic life advice—something all of us could us right now. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit


We Players: Adventures With Alice

Ava Roy and We Players return to The Commonwealth Club to show highlights from their new adaptation of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, which is being performed in Golden Gate Park from April 27 to the end of May. Roy will share clips and shots of their late April performances, and will also share how fond she is of both creatively adapting Alice and the interplay of logic and illogic in the looking-glass world we find ourselves in. She will also explain how We Players survived to tell the tale of being shut down in 2020 in the midst of rehearsals for an earlier adaptation of Alice—when the COVID pandemic struck. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit


Dr. Carol Ward: The Future of the Past with New Technology and Ancient Fossils

Cutting-edge technology is revolutionizing human origins research and changing the way we understand our uniquely human traits. In this lecture, Gordon P. Getty Award laureate Dr. Carol Ward will guide us through the process of finding fossils and using modern approaches to unlock their secrets. Dr. Ward specializes in studying the evolution of apes and early hominins, with a focus on the fossil record from East and South Africa, primarily Kenya. She co-leads the West Turkana Paleo Project, a paleontological fieldwork project in Kenya that aims to find fossil evidence of early hominins and their environments. Dr. Ward will be receiving The Leakey Foundation's Gordon P. Getty Award for her multidisciplinary research that significantly advances science related to human origins, evolution, behavior and survival. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit


Seizing Opportunities to Ascend: An AAPI Heritage Month Special Event

"Seizing Opportunities to Ascend" is an event designed to celebrate and empower individuals of Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) heritage. This event features keynote speakers Michelle MiJung Kim and Kathy Fang, who have both achieved great success in their respective fields; prominent AAPI journalist and media personality Michelle Meow will moderate the event. They will share their experiences and insights on how to seize opportunities and rise to the top. They will provide practical strategies for personal and professional advancement, kicking off AAPI Heritage Month by focusing on learning, empowerment, celebrating diversity, and allyship. Join us for this inspiring conversation and then join us for food, wine and community. About the Speakers Kathy Fang was born and raised in San Francisco, where she grew up in the kitchen of her family's popular restaurant, House of Nanking, before she opened Fang Restaurant with her father in 2009, where she is co-owner and chef. She stars in the Food Network series "Chef Dynasty: House of Fang." She has also appeared on "Beat Bobby Flay," "Cutthroat Kitchen," "Guy's Grocery Games" and is a two-time "Chopped" champion. In 2020, she published the Easy Asian cookbook. She is a graduate of the University of Southern California and studied at Le Cordon Bleu Culinary School Los Angeles. Michelle MiJung Kim is a queer Korean American immigrant woman writer, speaker and activist. She is the award-winning author of The Wake Up: Closing the Gap Between Good Intentions and Real Change and co-founder of Awaken. She has been a lifelong social justice activist and currently serves on the board of Asian Americans for Civil Rights and Equality. Her work has appeared on world-renowned platforms such as Harvard Business Review and The New York Times, and she was named LinkedIn’s Top Voice in Racial Equity and Medium’s Top Writer in Diversity. She lives in Oakland, California. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit


Saving the City: Remaking the American Metropolis

Join us for a preview of Saving the City, an upcoming documentary series that highlights successful and unsuccessful examples of urban development throughout the United States and Canada in an effort to create better places. The opening two episodes, which look at how we have gone about remaking cities from the City Beautiful movement at the turn of the 19th century until today to provide context for the rest of the series, are expected to be released this Fall. The focus is on downtowns and nearby neighborhoods, the most visible and visited parts of our cities. After watching Saving the City, you will never look at cities the same way again. MLF ORGANIZER George Hammond SPEAKERS Ron Blatman Executive Producer, Saving the City In Conversation with George Hammond Author, Conversations With Socrates In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, we are currently hosting all of our live programming via YouTube live stream. This program was recorded via video conference on April 25th, 2023 by the Commonwealth Club of California. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit


CLIMATE ONE: Get Up, Stand Up: What Actions Move the Needle?

From the Boston Tea Party to the Civil Rights Movement to Black Lives Matter, activists have long sought to bring pressing issues into the public consciousness. Climate activism is no different. This past Earth Day spawned a new ripple of climate activism. Activists protested at the headquarters of BlackRock in New York City, smeared paint on the casing around an Edgar Degas statue and even tried to block the entrance of the White House Correspondents dinner in DC. But that’s not the only style of activism that’s happening. Some are working from within big institutions to effect change. So what actions really move the needle? Guests: Dana Fisher, Professor of Sociology, University of Maryland Rose Abramoff, Earth Scientist and Climate Activist Ilana Cohen, Lead Organizer, Fossil Fuel Divest Harvard For show notes and related links, visit Learn more about your ad choices. Visit


Week to Week Political Roundtable: April 24, 2023

At Week to Week, we're dedicated to the lively and informed discussion of politics—with a good sense of humor—as a platform for healthy involvement in the issues that drive our society. The Commonwealth Club's Week to Week Political Roundtable and social hour, now in its 12th year, will take a look at the politics of the day—the issues, the people, the trends affecting our political world. SPEAKERS Joe Garofoli Senior Political Writer, San Francisco Chronicle; Host, “It’s All Political on Fifth and Mission” Podcast; Twitter: @joegarofoli Marisa Lagos Politics Correspondent, KQED News John Zipperer Producer and Host, Week to Week Political Roundtable; Vice President of Media & Editorial, The Commonwealth Club of California—Host In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, we are currently hosting all of our live programming via YouTube live stream. This program was recorded via video conference on May 24th, 2023 by the Commonwealth Club of California. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit


Lessons from the Covid War

As the formal COVID-19 emergency comes to an end nationally and locally, a growing number of reports and investigative bodies are beginning to explore what went wrong and right with the country’s response to the COVID crisis. One of the most important is the COVID Crisis Group (CCG), a team of 34 experts and scholars that has tried to lay the groundwork for a National Commission on the Covid Pandemic. It is led by Phillip Zelikow, who was the executive director of the 9/11 Commission. With no national commission in sight, in late April, the CCG will release its first major investigative report, "Lessons from the Covid War," a nonpartisan and plainspoken look at the key choices made during the pandemic, what worked, what didn’t and what we could do better next time. The comprehensive investigative report tells the story of how America’s scientific knowledge has far outpaced the country’s ability to apply it in a crisis. The report shows how Americans can come together, learn hard truths, build on what worked, and prepare for global emergencies to come. Several high-profile local contributors to the report will speak on their new report and what else needs to be done to understand one of the greatest domestic crises the United States has faced in decades. These include Dr. Charity Dean, CEO, founder, and chairman of The Public Health Company; Dr. Robert Rodriguez, professor of clinical emergency medicine at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital; Dr. David A. Relman, Thomas C. and Joan M. Merigan Professor in Medicine, and professor of microbiology & immunology, and senior fellow of the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies at Stanford University; and our moderator, Dr. Emily Silverman, internal medicine physician and assistant volunteer professor of medicine, UCSF, and creator of The Nocturnists. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit