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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Poet Rachel Zucker
Courtesy of Rachel Zucker

Several years ago, poet Rachel Zucker was asked to write a lecture about poetry. That process led her, in part, to question what it is that poets do — and why.

She recently presented that lecture, “The Poetics of Wrongness,” as part of the Seattle Arts & Lectures Poetry Series.

Photo of Melissa Ponder

Ampersand Magazine is a production of Forterra, a Seattle-based conservation and community-building organization. Ampersand Live is a gathering of poets, artists and storytellers keen on preserving and celebrating the fragile bond between society and nature in the Pacific Northwest. 

Activist Ralph Nader
Flickr Photo/Sage Ross (CC BY SA 2.0)/https://flic.kr/p/5ryFHB

In this talk, activist Ralph Nader focuses on why we fail to make political progress, even when a majority of citizens passionately support an issue. He argues that left-right coalitions focused on Congress are one key to breaking gridlock in Washington, D.C. He calls on Seattleites especially to gear their tech savvy towards political participation.

People take part in a 'Black Lives Matter' demonstration.
Flickr Photo/Joe Brusky (CC BY NC 2.0)/https://flic.kr/p/pscnno

You may have heard the term “white fragility.” Dr. Robin DiAngelo coined the expression to describe the defensive positions white people often take when confronted with the facts of racism.

This talk details the realities of our racist society today and points towards possible remedies.

Poet Lucia Perillo
Courtesy of James Rudy

The accolade "local treasure" is not easily awarded. Poet Lucia Perillo earned that and many other awards, including a MacArthur Genius Grant. 

Perillo died in Olympia on October 16 at the age of 58. She had lived with multiple sclerosis since her diagnosis in 1988.

UW Professor Megan Ming Francis at Kane Hall on October 12, 2016.`
Courtesy of Emile Pitre

As we come to the end of a very long presidential election cycle, what can we do to remedy our legacy of racial injustice and move forward? University of Washington professor Megan Ming Francis searches for answers to that question in her talk “Race and Violence in American Politics.”

Maria Semple at Town Hall Seattle
KUOW Photo/Sonya Harris

If you don’t already love Maria Semple’s Seattle-brewed writing, her new work may pull you in. Just one day in the life of protagonist Eleanor Flood will likely leave you wanting more.

(Clockwise from top left) Claire Miccio and baby John, Kris 'Sonics Guy' Brannon, Maliah Washington, Jessica Salvador, Lance Forshay and Andrew Scudder, and Paul Constantine.
KUOW Photos/John O'Brien

A question arose this election season, as it does periodically: How well do U.S. citizens and candidates for public office understand and value the contents of the Constitution of the United States?

Developmental psychologist Alison Gopnik
Wikimedia Photo/Kathleen King (CC BY-SA 3.0) http://bit.ly/2miDSmR

The concept of "parenting" has only been around since the 1960s. Child development researcher Alison Gopnik believes our modern views on child raising do a disservice to children’s ability to thrive.

Gopnik is a professor of psychology and philosophy at University of California, Berkeley, where she directs the Gopnik Cognitive Development Lab. Her new book is “The Gardener and the Carpenter: What the New Science of Child Development Tells Us About the Relationship Between Parents and Children.”

She spoke at Town Hall Seattle on October 3. Sonya Harris recorded her talk.

Sandbox Radio actors Mik Kuhlman, Rebecca Olson, Keith Dahlgren and Eric Ray Anderson.
Courtesy of John Ulman

Sandbox Radio is back on Speakers Forum! Our presentation of their latest work, "Gold Rush,"  includes the following performances: 

Colosseum, Rome, Italy
Flickr Photo/Jean-Marc (CC BY NC ND 2.0)/https://flic.kr/p/ggWBMX

From Romulus and Remus to its infamous fall, the once “small, ordinary” town of Rome came to define empire and change the world forever. British scholar, television host and author Mary Beard has made mining the history of that empire her central work.

Beard is a classics professor at Cambridge and the author of “SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome.” 

Alaina Caldwell, Gerald Elliott, Jodi White, Alissa Wehrman, Eula Scott Bynoe, Matthew Brasco and Jasmine Jackson.
KUOW Photo/Brie Ripley

It’s all over the news and social media: A person of color is shot and killed by police, there’s a protest, and an investigation, then another shooting. What does this seemingly endless cycle say about racism in America? 

This summer, Speakers Forum recorded an event called “Black Lives in America: Healing and Moving Forward.” It was hosted by the crew at HellaBlackHellaSeattle, a podcast focused on creating community for people of color in Seattle. 

Courtesy of Seattle University/Yosef Chaim Kalinko

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is known for his record-setting feats in the NBA and as a best-selling author and cultural critic. His new book is “Writings on the Wall: Searching for a New Equality beyond Black and White.”

He spoke with journalist Art Thiel on September 8 at Seattle University. Jennie Cecil Moore recorded their talk.

Labor journalist Sarah Jaffe
Courtesy of Julieta Salgado

When it comes to the future of good jobs and a contented workforce in the United States, the outlook is tenuous at best. Workers left in the wake of off-shoring, financial crises and game-changing robotic technology developments know that all too well.

Journalist Sarah Jaffe says community movements are a key to better outcomes. “For the people taking part in them it is not a question of left or right, but of the powerless against the powerful.”

Writer Charles Mudede at Smoke Farm.
Courtesy of Jason Evans

The 8th Smoke Farm Symposium featured talks by professor Tanya Erzen, writer and filmmaker Charles Mudede, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory scientist Ken Williford and historian and MacArthur Fellow Mott Greene.

Topics included prison reform by Erzen, global migration and citizenship by Mudede, the search for microscopic life on Mars by Williford and science history by Greene.

Zaki Barak Hamid, Sam Reed, Matthew Manweller, Ross Reynolds, Diane Tebelius and Slade Gordon.
KUOW Photo/Lisa Wang

He came. He saw. He won the nomination. What does Donald Trump’s unique form of Republicanism mean for the party faithful in our state?

KUOW and Humanities Washington invited a panel of GOP standard bearers to discuss that and other long-range questions as this election cycle draws to a close. Is Trumpism a blip on the radar for the party of Lincoln, or the way of the future?

Listen to the panel discussion below.

Grizzly sow and cubs near Fishing Bridge, Yellowstone National Park.
Flickr Photo/Yellowstone National Park (CC BY 2.0)/https://flic.kr/p/sTZsC2

In 1972 a young man named Harry Walker was killed by a grizzly bear in Yellowstone National Park. The subsequent wrongful death trial focused on whether the National Park Service had done enough to prevent human interaction with bears.

The story puzzled and fascinated former park ranger Jordan Fisher Smith. In it he found myriad questions of what it means to manage nature.

Sharon Ballantine at University Book Store
Photo Courtesy of Monica Valenzuela

Sharon Ballantine is a life and parenting coach and the author of “The Art of Blissful Parenting.” In it she writes about the ways parents can build rich, lasting, meaningful relationships with their children.

But it’s not all about the bliss. One of her suggestions: give yourself, not just your child, a time-out when things get stressful. Her reading and talk offers helpful tools and suggestions for any parent.

Author and illustrator Elisha Cooper
Courtesy of Elisha Cooper/Christopher Smith

In his new memoir, “Falling: A Daughter, A Father, and a Journey Back,"  author Elisha Cooper recalls how he and his family faced and survived his daughter Zoe’s cancer.

The act of reflection, some years after the events, is cathartic for Cooper. The result is the chronicle of a life-changing period, marked by terrifying uncertainty and resilience. He tells the story with humor and a palpable sense of awe. 

kids at play
Flickr Photo/guilherme jofili (CC BY 2.0)/https://flic.kr/p/8Gw7aW

Dr. Peter Gray is an evolutionary research psychologist. He focuses on our education system and how children learn naturally. And that’s the rub: Gray points to the many ways our schools impede natural learning, with disturbing consequences.

His research and writing shed light on how the creativity and skills we establish in free play influence learning.

Bust of Chief Si'ahl in Seattle's Pioneer Square.
Flickr Photo/Brian Glanz (CC BY 2.0)/https://flic.kr/p/DwkeT

The first thing to know about Chief Seattle is how he pronounced his name.

Skagit elder Vi Hilbert pronounced it for HistoryLink (18 seconds):

Chief Seattle, our city’s namesake, is a bit of an enigma.

He was born in 1786, after native populations were decimated by small pox and other diseases brought in by white settlers.

Donald Davis at PowellsWood
Courtesy of Larry Krackle

Did you love listening to stories when you were a kid? Of course you did. The art of a good tale, well told, has the power to draw us in, transport, transfix and enchant us. It’s a wonder we don’t listen more than we do. Here’s a chance to dive back in.

Mohamed Bakr talks with Glenda Johnson (left) at KUOW's Ask a Muslim event on July 24, 2016 at the New Holly Gathering Hall.
KUOW Photo/Lisa Wang

Islam is the fastest growing religion in the world today. In 2010, researchers counted 1.6 billion Muslims around the globe; approximately 23 percent of the world population. 

There are 3.3 million Muslims in the United States; approximately 1 percent of our population. In the wake of 9/11, President George Bush said this about Muslim Americans:

Sandbox Radio's 'The Bridal Issue' at ACT Theatre.
Courtesy of Joe Iano

It’s Sandbox Radio time again on Speakers Forum. Our presentation of their latest work, "The Bridal Issue,” includes the following performances: 

  • “The Big Stuff,” by Lisa Halpern
  • “The Mouse That Went To The Country,” by James Thurber (adapted by Leslie Law)
  • “Buckets of Rain,” written and performed by Tina Rowley
  • “The Very Proper Gander,” by James Thurber (adapted by Leslie Law)
  • “Plattitudes: Spinster,” written and performed by Peggy Platt
  • “The Pirate Don Durk of Dowdee,” by Mildred Plew Meigs (adapted by Richard Ziman)
  • “Beyond the Box: Unbridled,” by Elizabeth Heffron

As the U.S. presidential election shifts into the major party convention phase the question arises, how politically polarized are we? As this discussion details, while our political discourse may not have reached historical depths of incivility, sometimes it sure feels that way.

And statistically, both politicians and voters are more polarized now than ever before.

John O'Brien

In this talk and reading, poet Matthew Dickman speaks eloquently about the often taboo subject of suicide. He says he can’t offer an answer to the question, why do people commit suicide?

Instead, he shares what he has learned from the suicides of his brother Darin and close friends, what he has learned from research and what other poets have written.


John O'Brien

As Representative Jim McDermott prepares to retire after 28 years of service, the top three contenders for his 7th District seat in Congress are on the stump to succeed him. 


Rev. Starsky Wilson at Seattle Public Library
Courtesy of Naomi Ishisaka Photography

Reverend Starsky Wilson was co-chair of a commission created to study the aftermath of the shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.

Wilson's charge was “to address the underlying root causes that led to the unrest in the wake of Michael Brown’s death and to publish an unflinching report with transformative policy recommendations for making the region stronger and a better place for everyone to live.”

Author Lindy West lives in Seattle.
Photo by Jenny Jimenez / http://photojj.com

From slaying trolls on Twitter, writing as a columnist for The Guardian, to co-founding the social media campaign, Shout Your Abortion, Lindy West is fearless. But she wasn’t always that way.

West’s new memoir is “Shrill: Notes From A Loud Woman.” Memoirists often chronicle embarrassing experiences, but not everyone can do it with the humor and grit West is known for. She got her start at The Stranger and kept writing, because she’s good at it, and because life’s too short to be ashamed of yourself, or shamed by others.

Female House members on the steps of the House on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.  Jan. 3, 2013, prior to the official opening of the 113th Congress.
AP Photo/Cliff Owen

It’s been 100 years since the first woman was elected to Congress. Since then, the rise of women into positions of political and corporate power has been slow-going to say the least.

Jay Newton-Small is TIME Magazine’s Washington D.C. correspondent and the author of “Broad Influence: How Women Are Changing the Way America Works.” She had to dig, and hire a team of researchers, but the data she discovered reveals how a critical mass of women in public and private leadership positions clearly benefits both realms.

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