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

Thomas Merton Center dinner honoring Bill McKibben, 11/4/2013
Flickr Photo/Mark Dixon (CC BY 2.0)/https://flic.kr/p/hkccL6

On his recent visit to Seattle, author and environmentalist Bill McKibben apologized for his “life’s work of bumming people out” about climate change. He continued with that sobering work in this talk at Town Hall Seattle, but not without sharing his optimism about the successes and the future of the environmental movement.

Courtesy of David Haldeman

This Humanities Washington Think & Drink conversation addresses the effects of climate change in the Northwest. It features Amy Snover, director of the University of Washington Climate Impacts Group, Seattle City Councilmember Mike O’Brien and KUOW environment reporter Ashley Ahearn. They spoke at Naked City Brewery and Taphouse on March 30. Anna Tatistcheff recorded their talk.

Timothy Egan (with Oscar Wilde) in Galway, Ireland
Courtesy of Timothy Egan

Seven years ago, writer Timothy Egan was on a trip to Helena, Montana. While on a walk with the governor he came across a statue that intrigued him and asked a simple question: “Who is that?” The answer lead Egan on an extended journey leading toward his new book, “The Immortal Irishman.”

Egan, who lives in Seattle, is a New York Times columnist and the author of seven books. He spoke at Town Hall Seattle on March 1. Jennie Cecil Moore recorded his talk.

NPR political correspondent Mara Liasson speaking at KUOW studios on March 31, 2016.
KUOW Photo/Bond Huberman

NPR national politics correspondent Mara Liasson spoke March 31 at Seattle Town Hall about political trends in this election cycle. 

She was then joined by a panel of local communications experts to discuss the challenges news organizations and journalists face in a shifting media landscape. The panel included: Seattle Times editor Kathy Best, KUOW president and general manager Caryn Mathes, GeekWire co-founder John Cook and Providence Health Services and Swedish Hospital executive Dan Dixon.

John Nichols and Robert McChesney at UC Berkeley.
Flickr Photo/Steve Rhodes (CC BY NC 2.0)/https://flic.kr/p/gVotXN

In their new book “People Get Ready: The Fight Against a Jobless Economy and a Citizenless Democracy,” Robert McChesney and John Nichols argue for a return to democratic ideals -- or else. Their dire warnings point to the possibility of a massive failure for our economy and political system without the renewal of core democratic infrastructures: “a credible free press, high quality education for all and checks on inequality, militarism and corruption.”

In this Sept. 17, 2014 file photo, Colorado-based author Jon Krakauer gestures during an interview in Denver.
AP Photo/Brennan Linsley, File

Shocked by the story of a family friend, author Jon Krakauer began an exploration of why sexual assault is at once so prevalent and yet so unreported and not prosecuted.

His new book is “Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town.” In this talk he explains how what happens in Missoula, Montana is a template for our national failure to confront the epidemic of sexual assault.

Senator Cory Booker at Town Hall Seattle
KUOW Photo/John O'Brien

In this talk, Sen. Cory Booker (D-New Jersey) challenges all Americans -- left, right and center-- to rise above cynicism and treat one another with love and respect, even if we don’t always see eye to eye. His new book is, “United: Thoughts on Finding Common Ground and Advancing the Common Good.”

Booker spoke at Town Hall Seattle on March 24.

Niah, April and Jasmyne Sims pose outside Safeco Field before the Bernie Sanders rally Friday in Seattle.
KUOW photo/John O'Brien

Bernie Sanders hit familiar themes in his ballpark appearance in Seattle Friday.

The presidential candidate spoke to thousands of people at his second Seattle appearance in less than a week. People lined up outside Safeco Field hours ahead of the rally.

Actress Lauren Weedman writes about her roller coaster ride of a life in her new book "Miss Fortune: Fresh Perspectives on Having It All From Someone Who Is Not Okay."
Courtesy of Sharon Algona

In the late 1990s actor and comedian Lauren Weedman starred in the Seattle sketch comedy series “Almost Live!” That launched her career in TV and film in New York and L.A.

Weedman writes about her roller coaster ride of a life in her new book "Miss Fortune: Fresh Perspectives on Having It All From Someone Who Is Not Okay." She spoke with The Stranger’s Dan Savage at Town Hall Seattle on March 17. Anna Tatistcheff recorded their talk.

Robert Gates being sworn in as U.S. Secretary of Defense in 2006.
Public Domain

In his varied career, Robert Gates has gone from CIA recruit to director; academic to president of Texas A&M University; Air Force veteran to U.S. Secretary of Defense; Eagle Scout to Head of the Boy Scouts of America.

Gates worked for eight presidents, and said he respected all but one. You’ll find out which in this talk at Town Hall Seattle on  Feb. 2.

His new book is “A Passion for Leadership: Lessons on Change and Reform from Fifty Years of Public Service.” In it he assesses the types of leadership that cause institutions to fail and succeed. Jennie Cecil Moore recorded his talk.

Web Exclusive: Listen to the full version of his talk below

Sarah and her friends Aisha and Anisa. Sarah came to support Sanders and "what he stands for."
KUOW Photo/John O'Brien

Around 15,000 people showed up to see Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders on Sunday at Seattle Center. Many started lining up seven hours before Sanders was scheduled to speak.

KUOW’s John O’Brien covered the rally and spoke with several of Sanders supporters about why they’re supporting the Vermont senator. Listen to a selection below and view the photo gallery above.


Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders spoke to 15,000 supporters in and outside Key Arena, March 20, 2016.
KUOW Photo/John O'Brien

Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders scorched a path across Washington state yesterday in his bid to win the Democratic presidential nomination.

And while his stop in Seattle may not have reached Legion of Boom levels, things got plenty loud in Key Arena.

Audio Pending...

Jennifer Hopper in KUOW's green room in 2014.
KUOW Photo/Akiko Oda

In the summer of 2009 a terrible crime was committed in the South Park neighborhood of Seattle. Jennifer Hopper and her partner Teresa Butz were attacked in their home. Hopper survived, but Butz was murdered.

Journalist Eli Sanders wrote a series of articles in The Stranger about that attack and its aftermath. He received the Pulitzer Prize for the third piece in the series “The Bravest Woman In Seattle.”

Author Kara Platoni
Courtesy of Justine Quart Photography

Kara Platoni took a year off to travel around the world searching for cutting edge investigations into sensory perception -- including what the taste of fatty acids does to mice and us and how scent triggers memories in Alzheimer’s patients.

The lessons she learned inspired her new book “We Have the Technology: How Biohackers, Foodies, Physicians, and Scientists Are Transforming Human Perception One Sense at a Time.”

Activist Abby Brockway was part of a panel discussing civil disobedience in response to climate change.
Courtesy of Rising Tide Seattle

Would you risk arrest and prosecution to protect the environment? Or empathize with those who do? Humanities Washington made this the focus of their most recent Think & Drink: “The Necessity Defense: Climate Change and Civil Disobedience.”

KUOW’s Ashley Ahearn served as moderator. The panel included activist Abby Brockway and UW professors Richard Gammon and Megan Ming Francis. Brie Ripley recorded their conversation at Naked City Brewery on Feb.17. 

Photo Credit: Chris Bennion

Sandbox Radio, a troupe of artists that has been bringing contemporary stories, skits, and music to the stage and airwaves since 2011, presents "The Big One." 

It includes the following performances:

Flickr Photo/Indra Galbo (CC BY NC ND 2.0)/https://flic.kr/p/3GLm42

Among a long list of achievements, University of Washington professor Ralina Joseph co-founded the group WIRED (Women Investigating Race, Ethnicity, and Difference.)

The meaning and importance of the term "difference" is the focus of her recent lecture “What’s The Difference With ‘Difference?’”

The StoryCorps 'Finding Our Way' event at The Gates Foundation, Seattle.
KUOW Photo/Caroline Dodge

When StoryCorps came to Seattle’s New Holly neighborhood last summer, people from all over the city took the opportunity to visit with a friend or family member and record a conversation. Their stories can stop you in your tracks.

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.

Taken at 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.

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