Speakers Forum | KUOW News and Information

Speakers Forum

Thursday, 11:00 p.m. - midnight on KUOW

Sarah Vowell, Gloria Steinem, Michael Pollan: you can't make it to every lecture in town but you can hear plenty here. We record talks all over the Puget Sound region, from uber–famous intellectuals to lesser–knowns. From soldiers to urban farmers to humorists; we tape it, then air it on Speakers Forum.

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Mars Hill Church pastor Mark Driscoll in 2011.
Flickr Photo/Mars Hill Church Seattle (CC BY NC ND 2.0)/https://flic.kr/p/9CHiMZ

What happened during the creation and growth of Mars Hill Church made waves in Seattle and beyond. A charismatic minister, Mark Driscoll, preached in a daring, new way. He sought to make his ministry “culturally relevant,” bringing a hipster attitude to conservative theology. His methods drew people to the church in growing numbers.

Courtesy of Penquin Random House

Perhaps it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the author of “The Botany of Desire” chose to experiment with and write about psychedelic drugs. They are edible after all. Still, like many people, Michael Pollan wasn’t exactly keen to fool around with mind-altering experiences.

Courtesy of Randy Stewart

Ignite Seattle is an unusual event. The organizers like to surprise the audience when they can — like that time a couple got married on stage. Thrills like that aside, there’s something thoughtful and genuine in every talk. More often than not, we learn something new. 

Courtesy of Libby Lewis Photography

Viet Thanh Nguyen is a Pulitzer Prize-winning author. He was awarded that honor in 2016 for his debut novel “The Sympathizer.” Then he received a MacArthur Fellowship in 2017.

Courtesy of Beowulf Sheehan and Leslie Jamison

On her website, Leslie Jamison writes: “I've worked as a baker, an office temp, an innkeeper, a tutor, and a medical actor. Every one of these was a world; they're still in me.” On her way through those worlds, Jamison dealt with alcohol addiction. She tracked that experience —  from inception to recovery — in her new memoir “The Recovering: Intoxication and Its Aftermath.”

Courtesy of Hachette Book Group

Author Nomi Prins used to be a Wall Street banker. Now she writes with a critical eye about how banks and economies work.

One example: how in 2017, U.S. banks used 99 percent of their earnings to buy their own stocks and pay out dividends to their shareholders.

KUOW Photo/Sonya Harris

It sometimes seems as if author Barbara Ehrenreich has seen it all and done it all. From “Witches, Midwives, and Nurses: A History of Women Healers” to “Living with a Wild God: A Nonbeliever's Search for the Truth about Everything,” the scope of her writing has been vast.

Senator Patty Murray in the KUOW offices, Jan. 2016.
KUOW Photo/Gil Aegerter

The Civic Cocktail series brings political, business and community leaders to Seattle for a drink and a line of questioning from reporters and attendees. The most recent session featured Senator Patty Murray and former Washington Governor and U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke.

Courtesy of Timothy Greenfield Sanders/Harper Collins

The work of diplomacy is subtle, but the actions of world leaders are sometimes the opposite. Famed American diplomat Madeleine Albright confronts the dangers of undiplomatic and undemocratic political trends in her new book “Fascism: A Warning.”

Courtesy of Peter DiCampo

Last year, a hashtag became an event in Seattle: #EducationSoWhite 2017 gave voice to and started a conversation about the lack of diversity among teachers in our schools. Ninety percent of Washington state teachers are white, while nearly half of the students are people of color.

Courtesy of M. Sharkey

There’s a thing at talks around Seattle. Often enough, you can feel it when the crowd gets restless if the event goes to a certain length. You can see the people looking for a chance to exit. One bolts, and others rush to follow.

There was no restlessness at author Alexander Chee’s reading on Monday night. Even though the room was a tad warm, no one left. They hardly stirred.

Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos speaks at the Washington Policy Center's annual gala on Friday, October 13, 2017, at the Hyatt Regency in Bellevue.
KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

If Diane Ravitch were running for office, her opponent might attack her for being "for Common Core before she was against it." Ravitch served as an assistant secretary of education in the George W. Bush administration, and was originally a proponent of standardized testing, school choice, common core standards and the No Child Left Behind Act. 

Courtesy of Jorge Aguilar

Last year thousands of people hit the streets of Seattle and the nation to march for all things scientific: respect for the scientific method, evidence-based government policies, public funding for research and increased support for STEM education.

Courtesy of Farrar, Straus and Giroux

You hear of situations where a book comes to a writer in a torrent. In this talk, writer André Aciman tells such a story about his well-loved novel, “Call Me By Your Name,” published in 2007.

Aciman’s book came to renewed acclaim, and some controversy, when the film adaptation became a phenomenon last year. The acclaim: The movie was nominated for multiple awards and won an Academy Award for screenwriter James Ivory. The controversy: Some raised age-of-consent issues about the relationship between 17 year-old Elio and his lover, 24-year-old Oliver.

Courtesy of Sandbox Radio

Over the last few years Speakers Forum has featured broadcasts of the Seattle theatre troupe Sandbox Radio. In that time we came to love the work of actor and comedian Peggy Platt. She wrote and performed skits full of sharp humor and the ironies of life.

U.S. Army Spc. Kevin Welsh provides security before boarding a CH-47 Chinook helicopter after completing a mission in Chak valley in the Wardak province of Afghanistan on Aug. 3, 2010.
Flickr Photo/U.S. Army (CC BY 2.0)/https://flic.kr/p/8tkNqR

Steve Coll is a staff writer for The New Yorker. His new book, a sequel to his Pulitzer Prize-winner “Ghost Wars,” is “Directorate S: The C.I.A. and America's Secret Wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan, 2001-2016.”

Courtesy of Penquin Random House

As crazy as the world seems sometimes, author Steven Pinker argues our ancestors would most certainly envy us. From life expectancy and standards of health to general prosperity, peace and happiness, he argues we’re better off than they were — and don’t get him started on anesthesia.

Courtesy of Jamie Rand Imaging/Jamie Colman

This past weekend, students in hundreds of cities and towns around the country joined in March For Our Lives  "sibling marches." Before the March For Our Lives Seattle event, students and supporters gathered to hear speeches.

Courtesy of Randy Stewart

Ignite Seattle needs to be on your Seattle bucket list. But until you can make it out to one of their events, listen in to your fellow citizens’ brave and inspiring efforts to share their ideas with hundreds of friendly strangers. 

Courtesy of Emile Pitre

Dr. Temple Grandin was diagnosed as brain-damaged at age two. Her mother Anna steadfastly pursued ways to understand her daughter’s condition and ultimately educate her. Anna came to suspect her daughter was on the autism spectrum, at a time when the prescribed treatment was commitment to an institution. She fought that, too.

Courtesy of Red Hen Press

If you’re familiar with the Dear Sugar advice column, you know who Steve Almond is. For the uninitiated, he was the first “Sugar” — a purportedly female advice columnist on The Rumpus. After a while, Almond says, that got weird.

Courtesy of Penquin Random House

Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich is famously small in stature—and has a penchant for short jokes about himself — but he has big ideas about democracy, patriotism, work, leadership, and the American experiment.

'That's Debatable' panel at the SIFF Cinema Egyptian, Wednesday, March 7, 2018, in Seattle.
KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

You don’t have to score tickets to Hamilton to know that debate played a crucial role in U.S. history. When it comes to charting the course of a nation, there is no substitute. The same is true in planning for the future of cities like Seattle. So, here’s a query for a modern debate: Is Amazon, the behemoth internet retailer, good for Seattle?

Christopher Sebastian Parker and Arlie Russell Hochschild at Seattle University, Feb. 12, 2018.
KUOW Photo/Sonya Harris

We hear all the time about the social-political divide in the United States, mostly from the comfort of our respective bubbles. When UC Berkeley-based sociology professor Arlie Russel Hochschild realized the extent to which she didn’t understand the experience of right-leaning Americans, she decided to do something about it. She choose to embed herself in Lake Charles, Louisiana, for an ethnographic experiment.

KUOW photo/Sonya Harris

For 26 years, Seattle’s African-American Writers’ Alliance has held a reading at The Elliott Bay Book Company on the last Saturday in February. The group’s mission is to provide support for new and published writers, provide peer review and create opportunities for public readings.

KUOW photo/Sonya Harris

Marriage conjures up so many things, but here’s a longish shortlist: union, promise, vow, relationship, interdependence, security, sacrifice, contract, commitment, hard work, choice. Why do people get married? According to a Pew Research Center study, the top three reasons are for love, long-term commitment and companionship.

KUOW photo

If you listen to David Barsamian’s long-running public affairs program Alternative Radio, you know his distinct voice, full of passionate analysis and notable raspiness. But while as host he always introduces his featured speakers, a who’s who of progressive thinkers, we don’t normally hear Barsamian himself at length.

KUOW Photo/Sonya Harris

Journalist David Cay Johnston has known and reported on President Donald Trump for nearly 30 years. When they first met in Atlantic City, Johnston says he recognized Trump as “the P.T. Barnum of our age.” He has also said about Trump, and repeats in this talk, that “Donald doesn’t know anything.”

The White House
Flickr Photo/joswr1ght (CC BY NC 2.0)/https://flic.kr/p/JeAj3d

Here’s a test for you. Who was the first U.S. President to be born an American, i.e., after the Revolution? Hint: He is the same man who said “As to the presidency, the two happiest days of my life were those of my entrance upon the office and my surrender of it.”

That would be President Martin Van Buren.

The U.S. Presidency is marked by pomp, circumstance and widespread reference to its occupant being “the most powerful man in the world.”

Courtesy of Red Hen Press

Several years ago, Seattle poet Tina Schumann was inspired to compile an anthology of memoir, essays and poems by children of immigrants in the United States. 

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