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

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.

As the U.S. presidential election shifts into the major party convention phase the question arises, how politically polarized are we? As this discussion details, while our political discourse may not have reached historical depths of incivility, sometimes it sure feels that way.

And statistically, both politicians and voters are more polarized now than ever before.

John O'Brien

In this talk and reading, poet Matthew Dickman speaks eloquently about the often taboo subject of suicide. He says he can’t offer an answer to the question, why do people commit suicide?

Instead, he shares what he has learned from the suicides of his brother Darin and close friends, what he has learned from research and what other poets have written.


John O'Brien

As Representative Jim McDermott prepares to retire after 28 years of service, the top three contenders for his 7th District seat in Congress are on the stump to succeed him. 


Rev. Starsky Wilson at Seattle Public Library
Courtesy of Naomi Ishisaka Photography

Reverend Starsky Wilson was co-chair of a commission created to study the aftermath of the shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.

Wilson's charge was “to address the underlying root causes that led to the unrest in the wake of Michael Brown’s death and to publish an unflinching report with transformative policy recommendations for making the region stronger and a better place for everyone to live.”

Author Lindy West lives in Seattle.
Photo by Jenny Jimenez / http://photojj.com

From slaying trolls on Twitter, writing as a columnist for The Guardian, to co-founding the social media campaign, Shout Your Abortion, Lindy West is fearless. But she wasn’t always that way.

West’s new memoir is “Shrill: Notes From A Loud Woman.” Memoirists often chronicle embarrassing experiences, but not everyone can do it with the humor and grit West is known for. She got her start at The Stranger and kept writing, because she’s good at it, and because life’s too short to be ashamed of yourself, or shamed by others.

From left: Rob McKenna, Matt Manweller, Chris Vance, John Carlson and Ross Reynolds.
KUOW Photo/Lisa Wang

It’s been a long road, but the race to the White House is coming down to the wire.

Ross Reynolds gathered a panel of prominent Republicans to share reflections on the state of their party. The wide-ranging discussion began with a question: What does it means to be a Republican in today’s political landscape, on a local and national level?

Female House members on the steps of the House on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.  Jan. 3, 2013, prior to the official opening of the 113th Congress.
AP Photo/Cliff Owen

It’s been 100 years since the first woman was elected to Congress. Since then, the rise of women into positions of political and corporate power has been slow-going to say the least.

Jay Newton-Small is TIME Magazine’s Washington D.C. correspondent and the author of “Broad Influence: How Women Are Changing the Way America Works.” She had to dig, and hire a team of researchers, but the data she discovered reveals how a critical mass of women in public and private leadership positions clearly benefits both realms.

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