John O'Brien | KUOW News and Information

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

Courtesy of Libby Lewis Photography

Writer Isabel Allende has cast a spell on her readers since at least 1982, when she published her first major work “The House of the Spirts.” Her fiction, noted for elements of magic realism, has struck a deep chord. She has sold nearly 70 million books.

Courtesy of Susan Fried

What’s a progressive citizenry to do? It’s been over a year since President Donald Trump was elected. Liberal Seattleites reacted to that event (they call it “the incident” here) in various ways.

The individuals you’ll hear in these talks switched careers, took a road trip to conservative Oregon, reflected on the balance between parenting and activism, sought ways to confront family divisions, and took up boxing.

Courtesy of Spelman College/J.D. Scott

In 1997 Dr. Beverly Tatum published her acclaimed book "Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? And Other Conversations About Race.” The work explores an enduring American reluctance to acknowledge the realities of racial identity development and racism. For the last 20 years, it has served as a catalyst in efforts to address those realities.

Esther Perel and Dan Savage at the Egyptian Theatre
KUOW Photo/Sonya Harris

It’s the holiday season, so oh what fun it is to offer you this moment in time when renowned sex advice columnist Dan Savage met renowned sex therapist Esther Perel for an extremely frank discussion of marriage and infidelity.

Keiko Green reads 'the garden at higo' at Ampersand Live
Courtesy of Forterra/Jen Au

Once a year Ampersand magazine hosts an evening of storytelling, poetry and performance that reflects upon the unique nature of life in the Northwest. The magazine comes under the umbrella of Forterra, an organization committed to making our lives here sustainable.

Courtesy of Penquin Press

Author and political commentator Lawrence O’Donnell was a teenager in 1968. He recalls the time in some detail. He was coming of age as someone drawn to politics and directly affected by the Vietnam War.

Courtesy of Heather Malcolm

It’s Thanksgiving week, and among the many things one might be thankful for, pie and whiskey could be high on your list. A group of writers led by Kate Lebo and Sam Ligon certainly thought so. They thought so much of that duo that they created the anthology “Pie & Whiskey: Writers under the Influence of Butter & Booze.”

Courtesy of Jon Shields

Do we teach civics anymore? Technically, yes, in the public school systems of all 50 states. We often call it government. But are these courses fulfilling the spirit of our country’s founding when it comes to civic responsibility? Thomas Jefferson had something like this in mind: “If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be.”

Courtesy of Workman Publishing

If you’re a regular listener to WNYC’s On The Media, you know that Brooke Gladstone is a force in journalism. You hear her commitment to accurate, nuanced reporting and analysis in everything that show does. She won’t accept any nonsense, even from her co-host, Bob Garfield.

Courtesy of Northeastern University-Seattle

The name Bill Ayers rings a bell for people of a certain age. He is one of the icons of '60s and '70s counterculture and anti-Vietnam War movements. As a young man he became a founder of the notorious leftist radical organization The Weather Underground.

One of the group's goals was to overthrow the U.S. government. They orchestrated a string of bombings of public offices. In 1970, three members were killed when a bomb they were building exploded. Ayers became a fugitive for a time after that incident.

David Neiwert and Knute Berger at University Lutheran Church
KUOW Photo/Sonya Harris

Author David Neiwert would prefer to write books about whales at this point in his career.

Seriously. He’s done it. He says it’s much less stressful than writing about extremist groups.

Courtesy of Marvel Comics

Comic books are more popular now than they’ve ever been. Sales have been on the rise for years and keep climbing. They are also experiencing growth in diversity. One indication is the character Kamala Khan, the new Ms. Marvel.

Khan is a Pakistani-American teenager, a shapeshifter and a Muslim. One of her primary creators is the Seattle-based author Willow Wilson. (The G is silent.)

KUOW Photo/John O'Brien

There are so many great literary events in the Puget Sound area every month. As individuals, we make it to those we can. Sometimes we miss one we really wanted to attend. It’s the same for us here at Speakers Forum. But we’re especially grateful we didn’t miss this one.

Courtesy of Julian Johnson

Author Amy Tan is known for her portrayals of Chinese and Chinese-American lives, especially mother-daughter bonds. Her relationship with her own mother Daisy was fraught to say the least, but it also inspired her writing.

Courtesy of Seattle University

In the lead up to Seattle’s mayoral election on November 7, the candidates have been crisscrossing the city to debate and discuss their credentials. There have been moments of geniality and tension.

Seattle University hosted a conversation with contenders Cary Moon and Jenny Durkan. The tone was civil, and heated, at turns. If you haven’t made up your mind about who to vote for, you may find the tipping point you’re looking for here.

Courtesy of Morgen Schuler Photography

Ignite Seattle is a volunteer-powered event that started back in 2006. The concept is simple: Enlighten us, but make it quick! Puget Sounders of all stripes go on stage to share something that inspires them for five minutes.

The Jane Goodall Institute/Michael Neugebauer

Dr. Jane Goodall hasn’t been in one place for more than three weeks since October 1986. That’s when she says she went from being a scientist to an activist for the welfare of wild and captive chimpanzees. She now travels nearly 300 days a year.

Ijeoma Oluo, Kate Harding and Samhita Mukhopadhyay at Seattle First Baptist Church
KUOW Photo/Sonya Harris

On the night of November 8, 2016, many writers and journalists were preparing pieces on what it would mean for the United States to elect its first woman president. Those works obviously didn’t make it to print.

Participants at UW Reads the Constitution 2017
KUOW Photo/John O'Brien

Twelve years ago the University of Washington Libraries staff started a tradition. They invited UW students, staff, and the general public to join them on a given day to read the U.S. Constitution.

Author Franklin Foer at The Elliott Bay Book Company
KUOW Photo/Sonya Harris

If you find yourself checking your phone — a lot — or feeling phantom vibrations, there’s a good reason. Big technology companies (Google, Apple, Amazon and Facebook to name a few) want your attention. They want to know what you’re thinking about, what you’re doing, and what you’re likely to do next.

Courtesy of Michael Violandi

Many of us spend large portions of our lives in cars. Many of us are annoyed by other people in their cars.

The fact is, human beings behind the wheels of their automobiles are dangerous. In 2015, over 35,000 Americans died in fatal car crashes. With the advent of texting while driving, those numbers are trending up. 

Claire Dederer and Vanessa Grigoriadis at University Lutheran Church
KUOW Photo/Sonya Harris

This talk by and discussion with author Vanessa Grigoriadis explores the complicated politics of modern sexuality. It pushes the conversation toward the establishment of healthier, more informed attitudes about sex and consent in an often confusing social landscape.

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Courtesy of Alan Berner

The cover article of this year’s June issue of The Atlantic magazine concerned a woman called Lola. “My Family’s Slave” was written by Alex Tizon, a Pulitzer Prize-winning Filipino-American writer.

Lola had lived with the Tizon family and cared for them since before Alex Tizon was born. She had come with them from the Philippines to the United States. To Tizon and his siblings, it had always seemed like she was part of the family, until it didn’t.

Courtesy of Nation Books

Who are the most dangerous people in America? According to author John Nichols, the answer to that question includes the following: Betsy DeVos, Scott Pruitt, Stephen Miller, Steve Bannon, Jeff Sessions, Elaine Chao, Kris Kobach and Rex Tillerson.

The list goes on to include over 40 members of President Donald Trump’s inner circle.

Ask a cop, get beyond 'protect and serve'

Sep 16, 2017
KUOW's Ask A Cop event at the Tukwila Community Center
KUOW Photo/Lisa Wang

“To protect and serve.” That’s the motto of many police agencies. But recent police shootings in Seattle and around the nation have undermined respect for the job cops do.

Courtesy of Andrew Bannecker

Does anyone not know Nancy Pearl?

For years she’s told NPR and KUOW listeners what to read with a kind of care and insight that’s made her a household name. There’s also a decent chance her action figure is on your desk or bookshelf right now. 

Ashley Ahearn and Sally Jewell at The Mountaineers Program Center
KUOW Photo/Lisa Wang

Chances are you’ve heard the name Sally Jewell in engineering, business, recreational, environmental or political news. Her career has touched on all of those areas, from her early days in the oil fields of Oklahoma to a long stretch in the banking industry; from a successful run as CEO of REI to becoming only the second woman to serve as U.S. Secretary of the Interior. 

Marchers held signs at the Black Lives Matter rally in Seattle on Saturday, April 15, 2017.
Daniel Berman for KUOW

To mark the 50th anniversary of the 1967 Detroit rebellion, Seattle Public Library hosted a discussion of the factors that create inequality, repression and resistance.

Courtesy of Ben E. King / HBO

Author Tom Perrotta made his name in 1998 when, still unpublished, one of his manuscripts was picked up for movie treatment. The quirky tale told in “Election,” starring Mathew Broderick and Reese Witherspoon, became a surprise hit. 

Courtesy of Libby Lewis Photography

Since 1994, the Seattle Arts & Lectures Writers in the Schools (WITS) program brings professional writers into classrooms to help student writers find their voices and hone their skills. 

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