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.

On stage at Ignite Seattle 27
Flickr Photo/Randy Stewart (CC BY-SA 2.0)/http://bit.ly/1Pk4YSB

The Ignite series started here in Seattle in 2006 and has expanded to over 100 countries. Each Ignite event gives you the chance to talk about something that inspires you. The thing is, you only have 5 minutes to do it on a stage in front of hundreds of strangers at Town Hall Seattle.

Their motto is “enlighten us, but make it quick!”

Blaise Agüera y Arcas at The Cloud Room.
Courtesy of The Goodship Academy of Higher Education/Eileen Namanny

Seattle is a great city for lectures, and now there’s a new series to cater to “high minded” individuals who want to combine an interesting talk with a little marijuana.

Jody Hall, founder of Cupcake Royale and producer of marijuana edibles with The Goodship Company, believes our society is starving for human connection. She promotes the responsible use of marijuana as a conduit to community building.

Mona Eltahawy speaking at the Personal Democracy Forum in 2011.
Flickr Photo/personaldemocracy (CC BY SA 2.0)/http://bit.ly/1LQz9v4

Author and journalist Mona Eltahawy learned harrowing lessons about the role of women in revolution during the Arab Spring uprisings. She was physically and sexually assaulted by Egyptian riot police.

Eltahawy says she became “a proud, angry woman” because injustice demanded that of her. She calls herself an anarchist of the Emma Goldman School. She believes that shock and provocation are necessary to bring about change.

File photo: diver swimming with dolphins
Flickr Photo/Steve Jurvetson (CC BY 2.0) bit.ly/1MhxdP5

Bestselling author Susan Casey was a former competitive swimmer with extensive experience in ocean swimming. So it surprised her when she realized she had never swum with dolphins.

That changed when she unexpectedly encountered a pod of Spinner dolphins during a solo swim off Maui. Casey was so affected by the experience that she spent the next few years researching dolphins around the world. The result is her latest book, “Voices in the Ocean: A Journey into the Wild and Haunting World of Dolphins.”    

'Gassed' by American painter John Singer Sargent.
Public Domain

How can we make sense of the staggering history of loss -- loss of reason, life, and hope for the future -- represented by World War I?

In 2014 University of Washington professor Robin McCabe launched a three-part series of concerts with accompanying lectures to explore that question through music. The theme, inspired by the centenary of the start of World War I, was “Music From The War To End All Wars.” Speakers Forum aired Part I, featuring a talk by UW dean Robert Stacey, this past January.

Lady Justice, law, court
Flickr Photo/Mark Treble (CC BY NC 2.0)

"I consider trial by jury as the only anchor ever yet imagined by man, by which a government can be held to the principles of its constitution." Thomas Jefferson, in a letter to Thomas Paine in 1789.

That sentiment begs the question: Would Jefferson recognize the United States justice system today?

Ninety-seven percent of criminal cases in the U.S. result in plea bargains that do not determine guilt or innocence. Only 3 percent go to trial by jury. 

In this Nov. 20, 2008, file photo, the execution chamber at the Washington State Penitentiary is shown with the witness gallery behind glass at right, in Walla Walla, Wash.
AP Photo/Ted S. Warren

Since 1976, 1,413 people have been executed in the United States. That number rose steadily through 1999, when 98 people were executed. Last year, 35 people were put to death.

Can there be justice in the imposition of capital punishment? Humanities Washington hosted a deeper discussion of issues surrounding the death penalty at The Royal Room in Columbia City on May 27, 2015.

Penguin Random House

It's the time of year when many of us look to relax with a good book in a pleasant spot, away from the usual chatter of life, a time when Town Hall takes a month off for goodness sake, for a well-earned break and to avoid overheating its guests. It's usually not a time we're thinking about death.

Lovincer from Uganda works managing her fresh banana business to support her family.
Facebook Photo/Kiva

Jessica Jackley was a liberal arts major who stumbled her way into the Stanford MBA program.

Philosophy and business came together for her in 2005 when she helped start Kiva, the world’s first person- to-person microlending website. Kiva facilitates lending to poor and underserved entrepreneurs and students in 83 countries.

Bernie Sanders supporters packed UW's Hec Edmundson Pavilion on Saturday, Aug. 8, 2015 to hear him speak.
Flickr Photo/Hollywata (CC BY ND 2.0)

Senator Bernie Sanders has been storming the country to raise interest in his populist-themed presidential campaign.

He hit a potential hurdle in Seattle when Black Lives Matter activists blocked him from speaking at a rally in Westlake Park, but later that same day Sanders appeared before the largest crowd he had yet addressed of approximately 15,000 people at the University of Washington. 

technology computer keyboard
Flicker Photo/Leslee Lazar (CC-BY-NC-ND)

Here in the internet age we might wonder, are democratic ideals and technological innovations compatible?

Most of us leave a wide digital trail in the wake of our day to day activities. Organizations and governmental agencies have a keen interest in following where that trail leads.

This episode of Speakers Forum explores how surveillance and newly-emerging technologies affect our civil liberties and shape our lives.

Jimmy Hoff and Robert 'Bobby' Kennedy.

When John F. Kennedy was assassinated in 1963, labor leader Jimmy Hoffa was heard to say, “Bobby Kennedy is just another lawyer now.”

The animosity between Hoffa and the Kennedys dated to a famous 1957 Senate investigation, the so-called Rackets Committee, led by Robert Kennedy. That very public hearing began a lifelong feud between two powerful and dedicated adversaries.

Michael Fertik at the 2011 World Economic Forum
Flickr Photo/World Economic Forum (CC BY NC SA 2.0)

For centuries great thinkers have tried to make sense of how to judge human character. Socrates, for instance, famously said, “The way to a good reputation is to endeavor to be what you desire to appear.” The internet age throws a wicked curve ball at that seemingly simple advice.

Our speaker this week seeks to shed some light on the complex reality of the modern reputation. He compares our society to the early days of primitive humans, when everyone knew everyone else’s stories and secrets, and people lived and died according to their community standing.

Scholar Amy Kittelstrom argues that being liberal doesn't mean not being religious or spiritual.q
Flickr Photo/Madison (CC BY NC 2.0)

When we call someone liberal, do we imply that they are not religious or spiritual? Today’s speaker says we shouldn’t.

In her new book “The Religion of Democracy,” scholar Amy Kittelstrom chronicles seven liberals who influenced early American democracy and helped guide its progress -- and did so with their religious values firmly in tow.

Seattle sunrise.
Flickr Photo/Michael B. (CC BY NC ND)

It’s fair to say that dire warnings about climate change have become the new normal. Consider these recent headlines from NASA’s Climate Change Blog: "Turkish Glaciers Shrink By Half," "A Third Of Big Groundwater Basins In Distress," "It's The Final Act For Larsen B Ice Shelf," and "Longer Melt Season A Game Changer For Arctic Mammals."

So we shouldn’t expect a great punch line when our bar scenario takes place, as it did recently at Columbia City’s Royal Room.