John O'Brien

Producer, Speakers Forum

Year started with KUOW: 2006

John O’Brien produces Speakers Forum at KUOW. He learned to love radio as a child waking up one summer morning to the harmonies of Simon and Garfunkel.

As a teenager, he would drive the back roads of Indiana and Michigan late at night listening to vintage radio theater. The question of whether or not he had the legal right to drive then remains a mystery. Only The Shadow knows.

Inspired by a chance meeting with Noah Adams, he learned to make radio as an intern on KUOW’s The Conversation with Ross Reynolds.

John has been recording talks for Speakers Forum since 2007. Early on he learned Seattle is a Mecca for any touring speaker because Seattleites read so much, support a wide variety of venues and ask smart questions. He says that makes his job easy and always interesting.

John is a graduate of St. Johns College in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Ways to Connect

Colosseum, Rome, Italy
Flickr Photo/Jean-Marc (CC BY NC ND 2.0)/https://flic.kr/p/ggWBMX

From Romulus and Remus to its infamous fall, the once “small, ordinary” town of Rome came to define empire and change the world forever. British scholar, television host and author Mary Beard has made mining the history of that empire her central work.

Beard is a classics professor at Cambridge and the author of “SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome.” 

Alaina Caldwell, Gerald Elliott, Jodi White, Alissa Wehrman, Eula Scott Bynoe, Matthew Brasco and Jasmine Jackson.
KUOW Photo/Brie Ripley

It’s all over the news and social media: A person of color is shot and killed by police, there’s a protest, and an investigation, then another shooting. What does this seemingly endless cycle say about racism in America? 

This summer, Speakers Forum recorded an event called “Black Lives in America: Healing and Moving Forward.” It was hosted by the crew at HellaBlackHellaSeattle, a podcast focused on creating community for people of color in Seattle. 

Courtesy of Seattle University/Yosef Chaim Kalinko

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is known for his record-setting feats in the NBA and as a best-selling author and cultural critic. His new book is “Writings on the Wall: Searching for a New Equality beyond Black and White.”

He spoke with journalist Art Thiel on September 8 at Seattle University. Jennie Cecil Moore recorded their talk.

Labor journalist Sarah Jaffe
Courtesy of Julieta Salgado

When it comes to the future of good jobs and a contented workforce in the United States, the outlook is tenuous at best. Workers left in the wake of off-shoring, financial crises and game-changing robotic technology developments know that all too well.

Journalist Sarah Jaffe says community movements are a key to better outcomes. “For the people taking part in them it is not a question of left or right, but of the powerless against the powerful.”

Writer Charles Mudede at Smoke Farm.
Courtesy of Jason Evans

The 8th Smoke Farm Symposium featured talks by professor Tanya Erzen, writer and filmmaker Charles Mudede, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory scientist Ken Williford and historian and MacArthur Fellow Mott Greene.

Topics included prison reform by Erzen, global migration and citizenship by Mudede, the search for microscopic life on Mars by Williford and science history by Greene.

Zaki Barak Hamid, Sam Reed, Matthew Manweller, Ross Reynolds, Diane Tebelius and Slade Gordon.
KUOW Photo/Lisa Wang

He came. He saw. He won the nomination. What does Donald Trump’s unique form of Republicanism mean for the party faithful in our state?

KUOW and Humanities Washington invited a panel of GOP standard bearers to discuss that and other long-range questions as this election cycle draws to a close. Is Trumpism a blip on the radar for the party of Lincoln, or the way of the future?

Listen to the panel discussion below.

Grizzly sow and cubs near Fishing Bridge, Yellowstone National Park.
Flickr Photo/Yellowstone National Park (CC BY 2.0)/https://flic.kr/p/sTZsC2

In 1972 a young man named Harry Walker was killed by a grizzly bear in Yellowstone National Park. The subsequent wrongful death trial focused on whether the National Park Service had done enough to prevent human interaction with bears.

The story puzzled and fascinated former park ranger Jordan Fisher Smith. In it he found myriad questions of what it means to manage nature.

Sharon Ballantine at University Book Store
Photo Courtesy of Monica Valenzuela

Sharon Ballantine is a life and parenting coach and the author of “The Art of Blissful Parenting.” In it she writes about the ways parents can build rich, lasting, meaningful relationships with their children.

But it’s not all about the bliss. One of her suggestions: give yourself, not just your child, a time-out when things get stressful. Her reading and talk offers helpful tools and suggestions for any parent.

Author and illustrator Elisha Cooper
Courtesy of Elisha Cooper/Christopher Smith

In his new memoir, “Falling: A Daughter, A Father, and a Journey Back,"  author Elisha Cooper recalls how he and his family faced and survived his daughter Zoe’s cancer.

The act of reflection, some years after the events, is cathartic for Cooper. The result is the chronicle of a life-changing period, marked by terrifying uncertainty and resilience. He tells the story with humor and a palpable sense of awe. 

kids at play
Flickr Photo/guilherme jofili (CC BY 2.0)/https://flic.kr/p/8Gw7aW

Dr. Peter Gray is an evolutionary research psychologist. He focuses on our education system and how children learn naturally. And that’s the rub: Gray points to the many ways our schools impede natural learning, with disturbing consequences.

His research and writing shed light on how the creativity and skills we establish in free play influence learning.

Bust of Chief Si'ahl in Seattle's Pioneer Square.
Flickr Photo/Brian Glanz (CC BY 2.0)/https://flic.kr/p/DwkeT

The first thing to know about Chief Seattle is how he pronounced his name.

Skagit elder Vi Hilbert pronounced it for HistoryLink (18 seconds):

Chief Seattle, our city’s namesake, is a bit of an enigma.

He was born in 1786, after native populations were decimated by small pox and other diseases brought in by white settlers.

Donald Davis at PowellsWood
Courtesy of Larry Krackle

Did you love listening to stories when you were a kid? Of course you did. The art of a good tale, well told, has the power to draw us in, transport, transfix and enchant us. It’s a wonder we don’t listen more than we do. Here’s a chance to dive back in.

Mohamed Bakr talks with Glenda Johnson (left) at KUOW's Ask a Muslim event on July 24, 2016 at the New Holly Gathering Hall.
KUOW Photo/Lisa Wang

Islam is the fastest growing religion in the world today. In 2010, researchers counted 1.6 billion Muslims around the globe; approximately 23 percent of the world population. 

There are 3.3 million Muslims in the United States; approximately 1 percent of our population. In the wake of 9/11, President George Bush said this about Muslim Americans:

Sandbox Radio's 'The Bridal Issue' at ACT Theatre.
Courtesy of Joe Iano

It’s Sandbox Radio time again on Speakers Forum. Our presentation of their latest work, "The Bridal Issue,” includes the following performances: 

  • “The Big Stuff,” by Lisa Halpern
  • “The Mouse That Went To The Country,” by James Thurber (adapted by Leslie Law)
  • “Buckets of Rain,” written and performed by Tina Rowley
  • “The Very Proper Gander,” by James Thurber (adapted by Leslie Law)
  • “Plattitudes: Spinster,” written and performed by Peggy Platt
  • “The Pirate Don Durk of Dowdee,” by Mildred Plew Meigs (adapted by Richard Ziman)
  • “Beyond the Box: Unbridled,” by Elizabeth Heffron
Susan Stamberg and Marcie Sillman at KUOW.
Photo courtesy of Lisa Wang

Susan Stamberg was the first woman to anchor a national nightly news broadcast in the U.S. She has been on staff at NPR since the network began in 1971. She currently serves as a special correspondent.

This talk with KUOW’s Marcie Sillman covers the early days of NPR; Stamberg’s creation of Weekend Edition, which included her promotion of Click and Clack and Will Shortz; and her passion for arts and culture reporting.

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