John O'Brien

Producer, Speakers Forum

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

Emcee Scott Berkun at Ignite 26 on Feb. 18, 2015, at Seattle's Town Hall.
Flickr Photo/Randy Stewart (CC-BY-NC-ND)

The Ignite series started here in Seattle in 2006, but has expanded to over 100 countries. Each Ignite event gives you the chance to talk about something that inspires you.

What’s the catch? You have to do it in five minutes on the stage at a packed Town Hall. Their motto is: “Enlighten us, but make it quick!”

Musician Kim Gordon at La Route du Rock 2007
Flickr Photo/Guillaume (CC-BY-NC-ND)

Seattleites turned out in force recently to hear from and ask questions of alt-rock deity Kim Gordon. Gordon is a musician, artist, record producer and one of the founders of the band Sonic Youth.

Inspired by post-punk, avant-garde and no wave bands of the 1970s, Sonic Youth created an unconventional sound marked by dissonance, feedback and alternate tunings that helped change how rock was defined.

Our guest on this episode of Speakers Forum is David J. Morris, a war correspondent, former Marine and PTSD sufferer.

Morris served as a lieutenant in the Marine Corps in the 1990s, but did not see combat then. He went on to work as an embedded journalist in Iraq and Afghanistan. In 2004 he was nearly killed when a Humvee he was riding in hit an IED.

The cast of "Letters to the Editor": Shellie Shulkin, David Bestock, Molli Corcoran, Andrew Litzky, Laura Ferri and Carl  Shutoff.
KUOW Photo/John O'Brien

The Jewish Transcript newspaper, now known as The Jewish Sound, first went to print in Seattle in March 1924. Its founder, Herman Horowitz, said he felt a duty to the Jewish community of the Northwest to provide a forum for “their ideas, aspirations and principles." 

To mark the publication’s 90th anniversary, the editors of The Jewish Sound approached Seattle’s Book-It Repertory Theatre about a collaboration. 

Dr. Atul Gawande
Flickr Photo/Center for American Progress (CC-BY-NC-ND)

The United States is experiencing a pendulum swing in end-of-life care.

In 1945 the average American died at home. By the late 1990s, 83 percent were dying in institutions. Now in recent years, 45 percent are dying with hospice care.

Left to right: Bob Ferguson, Pete Holmes, Joni Balter and Larry Hubbell at a marijuana forum at Seattle University.
Courtesy of Danielle Potter

In 2012 Washington voters’ approved Initiative 502. Passage of the measure set in place a licensing and regulation scheme and rescinded state laws criminalizing recreational marijuana use and possession. It legalized the production, sale and taxation of small amounts of marijuana-related products for adults 21 and over.

Islamic scholar David Fenner, Zaki Abdelhamid of Humanities Washington and editorial cartoonist Milt Priggee at a Think & Drink discussion concerning the Charlie Hebdo attacks in January.
Courtesy of David Haldeman

Just over a month ago, on the morning of Jan. 7, two men stormed the offices of the French satirical paper Charlie Hebdo and killed 12 people.

In quick response, much of the world condemned the attack as a senseless act of terrorism. Within a day the slogan "Je Suis Charlie" became a widespread symbol of freedom of expression against radical extremism.

A panel discussion on regional sex trafficking featuring (left to right): Zan Brookshire, Peter Qualliotine, Dan Satterberg, Robert Beiser, David Arkless, Mar Brettman, Pete Holmes, Noel Gomez and Valiant Richey.
KUOW Photo/John O'Brien

King County and Seattle are looked to as leaders in the effort to prevent sex trafficking. But according to Prosecuting Attorney Dan Satterberg the county has over 100 websites facilitating the sale of sex.

A recent Seattle research survey conducted over a 24-hour period counted 8,700 online postings and responses concerning men seeking commercial sex. 

Author Wes Moore takes questions at an event with the American Library Association in January 2014.
Flickr Photo/ALA (CC-BY-NC-ND)

Troubled youth to Rhodes Scholar.

U.S. Army paratrooper to White House fellow.

Wall Street banker to author and television host.

That’s a brief synopsis of the life path of Wes Moore, so far. He came to fame in 2010 when his first book “The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates” became a New York Times best seller. 

In the post-WWII period, 40 percent of Americans were private sector union members. That number is now below 7 percent.

The reasons behind this drastic decline are hotly disputed. Union supporters say greedy corporations, helped by politicians, have worked systematically to bust the movement. Detractors say leadership corruption, improved labor laws and global competition served to make unions less relevant over time.  

American soldiers in presence of gas, 42nd division. Essey, France. September 20, 1918.
Flickr Photo/Otis Historical Archives (CC-BY-NC-ND)

To mark the 100th anniversary of the start of World War I, University of Washington professor Robin McCabe planned a series she calls “Music from the War to End All Wars.”

The debut event includes professor Robert Stacey’s talk ,“A Gathering Storm? Artistic Crisis and the Coming of the First World War.” 

Musician and author James McBride.
Flickr Photo/American Library Association (CC-BY-NC-ND)

As you listen to this episode of Speakers Forum, keep in mind that author James McBride gave this talk without any notes. In it he riffs on his family, career, books and life in America with thoughtful, humorous and inspiring improvisation.

Walter Benjamin in 1928.
Wikimedia Commons

Walter Benjamin was a radical German philosopher and critic. In the 1920s and 30s his fascination with new technology lead him to create a series of radio broadcasts. No recordings of those broadcasts remain. We don’t even know what Benjamin sounded like, though it has been said he was a talented performer. Benjamin, who was Jewish, committed suicide in 1940 when he became trapped in his attempt to escape the Nazis.

Flickr Photo/nwlynch (CC-BY-NC-ND)

Did you know E.B. White was fired by the Seattle Times in 1923? You’ll learn about that and other curiosities in this Yuletide episode of Speakers Forum.

It features stories by White, John Updike, Ken Kesey, Vladimir Nabokov and a spoof on Clement Clark Moore’s “A Visit from St. Nicholas.”

Our faithful rogues included Paul Dorpat, Jean Sherrard, Randy Hoffmeyer, Marianne Owen, David Skovar and Seattle indie American band Pineola.

Timothy Clemans (left) and Seattle Police COO Mike Wagers at the hackathon, Friday, December 19, 2014.
KUOW Photo/John O'Brien

The Seattle Police Department took an unusual step Friday to address issues surrounding the release of police video recordings: They invited area tech experts to the department’s first ever hackathon.

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