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

Author Helen Macdonald at Benaroya Hall
Courtesy of Libby Lewis Photography

In her acclaimed memoir "H Is for Hawk," author Helen Macdonald reflects on the shock and depression she experienced at the unexpected death of her father. The two had a close bond, marked by their mutual fascination with nature.

Thrown by her loss and struggling with depression Macdonald, an experienced falconer, chose to train a notoriously difficult-to-handle raptor, a Northern Goshawk. She called her Mabel.

Photo courtesy of Greg Olsen

If you’ve been looking for a new Schoolhouse Rock episode on modern presidential power, without the musical and cartoon characteristics, look no further. The early days of the Trump administration are ripe with questions of the reach and limitations of the powers granted to the President of the United States.

This panel discussion among professors at the University of Washington School of Law clarifies many of those questions. 

Photo courtesy of Writers Resist

Authors around the country led a series of events recently called “Writers Resist: A Celebration of Free Speech.” Participants read from their own work or historic writings concerned with freedom, free speech and equality. There were nine such events in Washington State. In Seattle, the participants in order of appearance were:

KUOW Photo/Lisa Wang

Ten days after President Donald Trump’s inauguration a group of Seattle-area artists and arts supporters came together to share experiences and build community. KUOW set aside a space for them to record personal messages. Their reflections express the conflict of the moment, marked by fear and hope, uncertainty and renewed determination.

Professor Pedro Noguera at the University of Washington.
Courtesy of Emile Pitre

Every three years the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), made up of the world’s richest countries, publishes an international student assessment. They test 15-year-olds for comprehension in reading, math and science.

One goal is to understand which countries have the most successful education programs and why. In 2015 the United States ranked 25 out of 72 countries. 

FLICKR PHOTO/Penn State (CC BY NC ND 2.0)/https://flic.kr/p/jbLpvD

Tim Wise is known for his commitment to exposing and countering racism. He grew up in Tennessee and went to college in New Orleans, where he became involved in efforts to oppose Ku Klux Clansman David Duke’s political aspirations. Dr. Cornel West referred to Wise as “a vanilla brother in the tradition of John Brown.”

Photo courtesy of Jose Guadalupe Martinez

The largest march in Seattle history took place on Saturday, January 21. Listen here to the speeches you may have missed at the Seattle Womxn’s March, because over 100,000 demonstrators can’t fit in Judkins Park.

KUOW Photo/Sonya Harris

Some people say that sports and politics don’t mix. Sports and politics writer Dave Zirin and Seattle Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett got together recently to test that theory. Mix it up they did. The two had a lot to talk about, and not just concerning sports.

KUOW Photo/Sonya Harris

Dr. Sylvia Tara has struggled with weight issues for much of her life. After gaining a substantial amount of weight following the birth of her children, she committed herself to finding a way to lose the pounds and keep them off. That decision led her to an exploration of what exactly fat is, how it may harm us and how it actually helps us survive. 

Larry Hubbel, Joni Balter, Seattle Mayor Ed Murray and San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee at Seattle University
Courtesy of Sophie Egan

Back in 2005 Seattle announced a 10-year plan to end homelessness. That plan failed.

The One Night Count of unsheltered homeless people in King County made in 2006 totaled 1,946. That total increased to 4,505 in 2016.

What to do? Seattle’s Mayor Ed Murray and San Francisco’s Mayor Ed Lee grapple with that question on a daily basis. Both are keenly aware of the reality of homelessness, and serious about finding solutions. 

Benjamin Hunter at Mt. Zion Baptist Church
Courtesy of Seattle Colleges

For his 1967 speech “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence,” Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote:

"We are now faced with the fact, my friends, that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history, there is such a thing as being too late. Procrastination is still the thief of time.”

Jessica Bennett at Town Hall Seattle.
KUOW Photo/Sonya Harris

Author Jessica Bennett and a group of fellow female professionals were facing man’s world issues, like male colleagues taking credit for their ideas and work. The women started a monthly meeting to share stories and look for solutions. Their gatherings explored workplace discrimination and social research on how to combat it. 

White House 2014 World AIDS Day
Flickr Photo/Ted Eytan (CC BY 2.0)/http://bit.ly/2hT2Rem

Author David France faced the fear and reality of AIDS first hand as a gay man, an investigative reporter and a New Yorker. He was there when word of the illness spread through the gay community and was largely ignored by politicians, religious figures and the press.

He writes about that dark history and how a small group of activists forged a way out in “How To Survive A Plague: The Inside Story of How Citizens and Science Tamed AIDS.”

KUOW Photo: Lisa Wang

Last year KUOW teamed up with Seattle Asian Art Museum, Pratidhwani, South Asian American Digital Archive (SAADA) and Tasveer to launch the Storywallahs series. Theses events provide a stage for storytelling on a theme.

This time around the stories concern first days: What was it like to arrive in the United States for the first time? This gathering of reflections will surprise and inspire you.

Flickr Photo: Marilylle Soveran

The writer Henry Fielding defined a rogue as a rich man without charity. Merriam-Webster describes a dishonest, worthless or mischievous person. This year, Seattle stage rogues Jean Sherrard, Paul Dorpat, Khanh Doan and Kurt Beattie shared their talents for the annual “Short Stories Live: A Rogue’s Christmas.”

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