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

Gretchen Rubin at the World Domination Summit 2013 in Portland, Oregon.
Flickr Photo/Chris Guillebeau (CC BY NC 2.0)/https://flic.kr/p/f4Zory

Gretchen Rubin is a student of human nature. And she’s built a cottage industry around helping people improve their habits and happiness.

“Habits are the invisible architecture of a happy life, and when we change our habits, we change our lives,” she said.

Carrie Brownstein at The Neptune Theatre.
Courtesy of Jason Tang Photography

Musician, actor and writer Carrie Brownstein co-founded the band Sleater-Kinney and currently stars in the television series Portlandia and Transparent. She spoke with novelist Maria Semple about her new memoir, “Hunger Makes Me A Modern Girl.”

Anna Tatistcheff recorded their conversation at STG’s Neptune Theatre on Nov. 6, 2015.

Please note, this talk contains unedited language of an adult nature.

Web Exclusive: Listen to the full, unedited event below

Courtesy of Forterra/Photo by Robert Wade

Ampersand magazine recently hosted an evening of storytelling, poetry and entertainment inspired by our sense of place here in the Northwest.  The magazine is an offshoot of Forterra, an organization dedicated to creating sustainable connections between human society and nature. This event took place at Town Hall Seattle on Nov. 12, 2015. Thanks to Florangela Davila for our recording.

Marcus Green at Seattle's Mount Zion Baptist Church on Jan. 15, 2016.
Courtesy of Seattle Colleges

An excerpt from a speech by Marcus Green, founder of South Seattle Emerald. Green spoke on Jan. 15 at Mount Zion Baptist Church in Seattle.

Dr. Anne-Marie Slaughter.
Wikimedia Commons

In 2012, Anne-Marie Slaughter worked long hours for the U.S. Department of State. After leaving Washington, she wrote an essay for The Atlantic titled, "Why Women Still Can’t Have It All."

Travel expert Rick Steves speaks at Seattle Central College.
Courtesy of AARP/Bruce Carlson

Rick Steves is known for his guidebooks and radio and television shows, but travel is more than a business to him. He calls it “a political act.”

As an example, Steves tells about the time he changed vacation plans to go to El Salvador on the 25th anniversary of the assassination of Archbishop Oscar Romero. "No more expensive, no more risky than going down to Mazatlan, but a life-changing experience," he said.

Steves spoke Dec. 10 at the Seattle Central College Broadway Performance Hall as part of AARP’s Life Reimagined Speaker Series. Jennie Cecil Moore recorded the event.

Paul Dorpat and Jean Sherrard tell stories of Christmas at Seattle's Town Hall.
Courtesy of Jean Sherrard

For the last 10 years, a troop of Seattle actors have gathered to tell holiday stories. Although sometimes Grinchy, these stories have always been festive and delightful.

Seattle Police Sgt. Sean Whitcomb, left, UW Professor Megan Ming Francis and Seattle Police Assistant Chief Robert Merner at Humanities Washington's Think & Drink.
Courtesy of Mike Hippel

There’s been a spotlight on race and policing – but that isn’t because the situation gotten worse.

“Why a lot of black people have a deep suspicion, distrust, of police is not something that just happens because we see Michael Brown or we see Freddie Gray,” said Megan Ming Francis, a political science professor at the University of Washington.

“It’s a really, really long history that has placed us where we are right now.” 

Clay Jenkinson as John Wesley Powell
Photo Courtesy of Katrina Shelby Photography

Scholar and author Clay Jenkinson is known to many listeners as the co-host of The Thomas Jefferson Hour. You may also know that every year he visits Seattle to perform one of his historical interpretations. He calls it the highlight of his year.

This was the second Storywallahs event; the theme was Coming Home.
KUOW Photos/Bond Huberman

The 24-year-old man didn’t have a home.

So he came up with a bold plan: Go to the nicest neighborhood in Grand Rapids, Michigan, knock on the doors of 10 mansions and ask if he could move in.

Pacific Ocean from across the straights.
KUOW Photo/Kara McDermott

In 1520, explorer Ferdinand Magellan called it “peaceful.” At more than 60 million square miles, the Pacific Ocean covers 30 percent of the earth’s surface -- an area larger than the landmass of all the continents combined. It is our planet’s largest and deepest ocean basin, and it has stories to tell. So, where to begin?

Author Simon Winchester sees many good starting points. His new book is “Pacific: Silicon Chips and Surfboards, Coral Reefs and Atom Bombs, Brutal Dictators, Fading Empires, and the Coming Collision of the World's Superpowers.”

Professor Robert Reich at Town Hall Seattle on Oct. 19, 2015.
Flickr Photo/Al Garman (CC BY NC ND 2.0)/http://bit.ly/1TeSMCu

Robert Reich says he’s often stopped by strangers at airports. People walk right up to him, forego any niceties, and get straight to the question: “What are we going to do?”

Reich says that makes him optimistic, because it’s not just liberals asking.

Gloria Steinem and Cheryl Strayed at Benaroya Hall on Nov. 8.
Courtesy of Bre LeBeuf

Gloria Steinem doesn’t like being called an icon. She sees herself as one in a tide of women who made and make change, so she doesn’t want to be put up on a pedestal.

But she is called an icon, and has come to represent the modern struggle for women’s rights and equality.

Washington and Lafayette at Mount Vernon, 1784, by Thomas Prichard Rossiter and Louis Rémy Mignot.
Public Domain

In 1777 Marie-Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert du Motier de Lafayette was a French aristocrat looking for military glory. Since the French weren’t at war, the 19-year-old crossed the Atlantic to join George Washington and other American revolutionaries in their fight with the British.

That’s where Sarah Vowell comes in.

Courtesy of Dean Forbes, Seattle University

Legendary science fiction writer Ursula K. Le Guin visited Seattle University recently to meet with students and read from her novel "The Lathe of Heaven." The work was chosen as the common text reading for SU freshman and transfer students this year.

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