Monday,  May 13, 2024

In Conversation with Andrew Yang

Andrew Yang is the cofounder of the Forward Party, a new, independent political movement dedicated to restoring the promise of American democracy. He was a Democratic presidential candidate in 2020 whose campaign outlasted over a dozen mainstream political officeholders and raised $40 million from hundreds of thousands of everyday Americans, dubbed “the Yang Gang.” He served as CEO of Manhattan Prep, growing the company until its acquisition in 2009.

Named by President Obama as a Presidential Ambassador of Global Entrepreneurship, he is the founder of Humanity Forward and Venture for America. He lives with his family in New York.

Andrew Yang was interviewed by David McCuan, PhD, Chair of the Political Science Department at Sonoma State University.

Monday, April 15, 2024

A Speaker Series Special Event: In Conversation with Fred Warner and Greg Papa

Fred Warner, the San Francisco 49ers' team captain and linebacker, exemplifies the pinnacle of NFL excellence. Drafted in 2018 from Brigham Young University, Warner quickly ascended to become the linchpin of the 49ers' defense, known for his incredible athleticism, strategic intelligence, and innate leadership. His journey from college football to the NFL is marked by relentless dedication and a passion for the game that shines both on and off the field. Warner's contributions were pivotal in leading his team to the Super Bowl, showcasing not only his skills but also his ability to perform under pressure at the highest level of professional sports. His journey to the NFL and the Super Bowl reflects a story of ambition, resilience, and triumph, making him a source of inspiration and a testament to the power of hard work and perseverance.

Greg Papa, known as the ‘voice’ of the 49ers, is a three time California Sportscaster of the Year Award winner, widely known for his dynamic sports commentary.

Monday, March 25, 2024

In Conversation with Marie Yovanovitch

Marie Yovanovitch is the author of a New York Times best-selling memoir, Lessons from the Edge. She is also a Senior Fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and a non-Resident Fellow at the Institute for the Study of Diplomacy, Georgetown University.  Previously, she served as the U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine (2016-2019), the Republic of Armenia (2008-2011) and the Kyrgyz Republic (2005-2008).

She also served as the Dean of the School of Language Studies at the Foreign Service Institute, U.S. Department of State and as the Deputy Commandant and International Advisor at the Dwight D. Eisenhower School for National Security and Resource Strategy, National Defense University. Earlier she served as the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs, where she coordinated policy on European and global security issues. Before that, she was the bureau’s Deputy Assistant Secretary responsible for issues related to the Nordic, Baltic, and Central European countries.

In 2003-2004, Ambassador Yovanovitch was the Senior Advisor to the Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs.  Prior to that, she was the Deputy Chief of Mission of the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv, Ukraine. Within the Department of State, Ambassador Yovanovitch has worked on the Russia desk, the Office of European Security Affairs, and the Operations Center. She has also worked overseas at the U.S. Embassies in Moscow, London, Ottawa, and Mogadishu.

A Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Ambassador Yovanovitch has earned the Senior Foreign Service Performance Award eight times and the State Department’s Superior Honor Award on nine occasions. She is also the recipient of two Presidential Distinguished Service Awards and the Secretary’s Diplomacy in Human Rights Award.

Following her retirement in 2020, Ambassador Yovanovitch received the Trainor Award for Excellence in the Conduct of Diplomacy from Georgetown University, the inaugural Richard G. Lugar Award from Indiana University, the 2020 PEN/Benenson Courage Award from Pen/America, the Morgenthau Award from the Armenian Assembly of America, the American Spirit Award for Distinguished Public Service from the Common Good, the Paul H. Douglas Award for Ethics in Government, and the Vandenberg Award.

Ambassador Yovanovitch is a graduate of Princeton University where she earned a BA in History and Russian Studies. She studied at the Pushkin Institute and received an MS from the National Defense University.

Monday, February 13, 2024

In Conversation with Anthony Ray Hinton

Anthony Ray Hinton survived for 30 years on Alabama's death row. His story is a decades-long journey to exoneration and freedom.

In 1985, Mr. Hinton was convicted of the unsolved murders of two fast-food restaurant managers based on the testimony of ballistics experts for the State who claimed that the crime bullets came from a dusty revolver found in Mr. Hinton's mother’s closet. Without the benefit of a competent expert to challenge the State’s theory (Mr. Hinton’s lawyer hired a ballistics expert who was blind in one eye), an all-white jury convicted Mr. Hinton and he was sentenced to death.

After years of petitioning to have the revolver re-analyzed, three independent experts concluded that the bullets could not have been fired from his mother’s revolver. With the assistance of the Equal Justice Initiative, led by attorney Bryan Stevenson, Mr. Hinton was freed in 2015.

Since his release, Mr. Hinton has traveled the world sharing his story and discussing the changes that need to be made to prevent similar injustices from happening to other people. In 2018, Mr. Hinton published The Sun Does Shine: How I Found Life and Freedom on Death Row, which was selected for Oprah’s Book Club and is a New York Times bestseller. In 2019, he was awarded an honorary doctorate from St. Bonaventure University.

Monday, November 27, 2023

In Conversation with Kori Schake

Kori Schake is a senior fellow and the director of foreign and defense policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI). She is also a proud alumna of Sonoma Valley High School.

Before joining AEI, Dr. Schake was the deputy director-general of the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London. She has had a distinguished career in government, working at the US State Department, the US Department of Defense, and the National Security Council at the White House. She has also taught at Stanford, West Point, Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies, National Defense University, and the University of Maryland.

Dr. Schake is the author of five books, among them “America vs the West: Can the Liberal World Order Be Preserved?” (Penguin Random House Australia, Lowy Institute, 2018); “Safe Passage: The Transition from British to American Hegemony” (Harvard University Press, 2017); “State of Disrepair: Fixing the Culture and Practices of the State Department” (Hoover Institution Press, 2012); and “Managing American Hegemony: Essays on Power in a Time of Dominance” (Hoover Institution Press, 2009).

She is also the coeditor, along with former Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, of “Warriors & Citizens: American Views of Our Military” (Hoover Institution Press, 2016).

Dr. Schake has been widely published in policy journals and the popular press, including in, Foreign Affairs, Politico, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Post. She is a contributing writer at The Atlantic and War on the Rocks.

Dr. Schake has a PhD and MA in government and politics from the University of Maryland, as well as an MPM from the University of Maryland School of Public Policy. Her BA in international relations is from Stanford University.

Monday, October 30, 2023

In Conversation with Jared Diamond

Jared Diamond is a Pulitzer-prize-winning author of six best-selling books, translated into 38 languages, about human societies and human evolution: Guns, Germs, and Steel, Collapse, Why Is Sex Fun?, The Third Chimpanzee, The World until Yesterday, and Upheaval.

As a professor of geography at UCLA (University of California at Los Angeles), he is known for his breadth of interests, which involves conducting research and teaching in three other fields: the biology of New Guinea birds, digestive physiology, and conservation biology.  His prizes and honors include the U.S. National Medal of Science, the Pulitzer Prize for Non-fiction, the Tyler Prize for Environmental Science, and election to the U.S. National Academy of Sciences.

He is a director of World Wildlife Fund/U.S. and of Conservation International.  As a biological explorer, his most widely publicized finding was his rediscovery, at the top of New Guinea’s remote Foja Mountains, of the long-lost Golden-fronted Bowerbird, previously known only from four specimens found in a Paris feather shop in 1895.

Monday, September 18, 2023

In Conversation with David Brooks


David Brooks is a columnist for The New York Times and a contributor to The Atlantic. He is a commentator on “The PBS Newshour."

His most recent book, “The Second Mountain,” shows what can happen when we put commitment-making and relationships at the center of our lives. He is also the author of “The Road to Character,” “Bobos In Paradise: The New Upper Class and How They Got There” and “The Social Animal: The Hidden Sources of Love, Character, and Achievement.”

Mr. Brooks is on the faculty of Yale University and is a member of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences.

Follow him on Twitter @nytdavidbrooks

Monday, August 7, 2023

In Conversation with Kevin Roose

Kevin Roose is an award-winning technology columnist for The New York Times and the bestselling author of three books, Futureproof, Young Money, and The Unlikely Disciple.  His column, “The Shift,” examines the intersection of tech, business, and culture.  He is a recurring guest on The Daily and appears regularly on leading TV and radio shows. He writes and speaks frequently on topics including automation and artificial intelligence, social media, disinformation and cybersecurity, and digital wellness.

Worried that he was not ready for a world dominated by AI, automation, and mind-morphing algorithms, Kevin decided to do what reporters do: he interviewed experts, read a ton of books and papers, and went in search of answers. The result was his book, Futureproof, a guide to surviving the technological future.  Originally published in 2021, Futureproof is scheduled for an updated rerelease in late 2023 to address the more recent trends in AI and technology and how to work with them rather than against them.

Kevin is the host of two New York Times podcasts: Hard Fork, a weekly chat show with Casey Newton about the wild frontier of technology, and Rabbit Hole, an eight-part series released in 2020 about how the internet is influencing our beliefs and behavior.

Kevin’s first job in journalism was unique: as a sophomore in college, he took a semester off and went undercover at Liberty University, Jerry Falwell’s evangelical Christian school. His goal was to figure out what life was like among people who he considered his polar opposite.  From his experience came his first book, The Unlikely Disciple, a memoir of a strange and enlightening semester “abroad.”

After college, Kevin joined The New York Times, followed by New York Magazine, and wrote a second book: Young Money, which chronicled the lives of 8 junior Wall Street investment bankers right after the 2008 financial crisis.

Before rejoining The Times in 2017, Kevin produced and co-hosted a TV documentary series about technology, called Real Future. At The Times, Kevin writes about technology and its effects on society. Recently, that has meant a lot of coverage of companies like Facebook and YouTube, as well as profiles of internet personalities like PewDiePie, and social phenomena like online radicalization and workplace automation.

Kevin will be interviewed by Sonoma Speaker Series Board Member, David Bolling.

Monday, June 12, 2023

In Conversation with Dr. Eric Verdin, President and CEO, Buck Institute

Dr. Eric Verdin is the President and CEO of the Buck Institute for Research on Aging in Novato.

The Buck is the first and the largest independent research institute in the world that is focused solely on aging. At the Buck, his lab studies the relationship between aging and the immune system.

Dr. Verdin was born in Liege, Belgium, received his MD from the University of Liege and did his training at Harvard Medical School.  Prior to coming to the Buck Institute, he was a Senior Investigator and the Associate Director of the Gladstone Institute. He is also a professor at the University of California, San Francisco.

Dr. Verdin has published more than 280 scientific papers, holds more than 15 patents, and consults with multiple biotech and pharmaceutical companies. He is in the top 1% of the most highly cited scientists in the world and a global thought leader in the field of aging.

April 17, 2023

In Conversation with Lisa Kristine

Lisa Kristine is an internationally renowned humanitarian photographer. For more than 30 years she has documented indigenous peoples and social causes in more than 150 countries across six continents. Her work navigates the emotional landscapes of her subjects and their environments, driving awareness around causes such as human trafficking, indigenous wisdom, and global unity.

Lisa’s work has garnered widespread acclaim in the world of photography and the international humanitarian stage. She is the recipient of a Lucie Humanitarian Award, presented at Carnegie Hall, honoring the greatest achievements of master photographers. The Dalai Lama, the Queen Mother of Bhutan and Amnesty International, among others, have all endorsed her work.

David Clarke, former Head of Photography for the Tate Modern, describes Lisa’s arresting images of modern slavery as “a testament to truth and an insightful and inspiring body of evidence which should never and can never be denied.”

As a speaker and activist, Lisa regularly delivers keynotes at conferences, universities, museums, and corporations around the world, including the Vatican, the United Nations, Wisdom 2.0, and Thomson Reuters. Her riveting TED talk, Photos That Bear Witness to Modern Slavery, has been viewed nearly 3 million times.

Sir Richard Branson says of her photography: “Lisa’s images take us behind the veil to the atrocities of slavery. To respect human dignity for those from every walk of life, business leaders must embrace our unique role in upholding the precepts of equality, belonging and purpose.”

In 2017, Lisa founded a Human Thread Foundation, an international nonprofit organization whose mission is to incite action to eradicate human trafficking and to promote human dignity.

Lisa is on the Board of the Thomson Reuters Foundation’s Stop Slavery Award.

She is a supporting partner in the United Nations’ International Labor Organization’s 50 For Freedom Campaign, catalyzing 50 countries to ratify the Protocol on Forced Labor. Her photographs inspired the Make a Stand Lemonade movement, which to date has reached more than 100 million people and has raised over one million dollars toward the eradication of slavery. Lisa is a founding member of GSN, Global Sustainability Network, dedicated to promoting inclusive and sustainable economic growth, a world without slavery and with decent work for all. Pope Francis inaugurated Lisa’s exhibition at the Vatican in 2019.

Lisa is the subject of four documentaries, and her work on slavery is featured in three films. SOLD, made by Oscar award-winning team Emma Thompson and Jeffrey Brown, includes a character inspired by Lisa and played by Gillian Anderson.

March 6, 2023

In Conversation with Javier Zamora

Javier Zamora - Memoirist, poet, and speaker Javier Zamora believes that immigrants must keep ownership of their own stories. In his new memoir, Solito, he explores his own: a harrowing journey to the US as an unaccompanied nine-year-old that gives a unique and unforgettable glimpse into the realities of child migration.

Accompanied only by strangers and a hired “coyote,” he left his beloved aunt and grandparents to reunite with his mother and father in the United States. The three-thousand-mile journey is supposed to last two weeks, but after their guide abandons them in Oaxaca, it stretches into two life-altering months spent among strangers turned guardians as they travel from El Salvador to Guatemala and to Mexico before arriving in the United States.

Narrated by his nine-year-old self, Zamora’s memoir, Solito, provides an intimate account of his near-impossible journey and the unexpected moments of kindness, love, and joy scattered across perilous boat trips, desert treks, arrests, and betrayals.

In September 2022, Jenna Bush Hagar chose Solito as her “Read with Jenna” Today Show book selection, commenting: I don’t think I’ve ever read a memoir which captivated me in so many waysIt was a beautiful book about family, those that we have and those that we make, and the little family that they made on their journey. An epic journey to their loved ones, because they had no choice.” 

Now, Javier Zamora chronicles his revelatory journey as an immigrant and as an artist to audiences at universities, organizations, libraries, and more. Going beyond his harrowing border crossing, Zamora explores the ways he has been processing and healing from trauma ever since, from therapy to poetry to nature hikes. As a native Salvadoran who grew up as an undocumented American, he delves into the intersecting and conflicting meanings of home and identity.

Until recently, Zamora only had a temporary protected status, and was neither a citizen nor a permanent resident of the United States, making him ineligible for many poetry award submissions. Despite his talent, grades, and body of work, he found himself largely excluded from career-making prizes, contests, and fellowships because of his status.

In 2015, he cofounded the Undocupoets, a “group fighting to end citizenship-based discrimination in poetry publishing and contests,” and drafted a petition urging literary organizations to remove citizenship or residency as a requirement for applications. As a result, the American Academy of Poets, the Poetry Foundation, the Lambda Literary Foundation and more opened their prize submissions to any poet regardless of immigration status. In 2017, Undocupoets launched their own fellowship for former or current undocumented poets.

Javier Zamora has been a Stegner fellow at Stanford University and a Radcliffe Fellow at Harvard, and holds fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation. Zamora has also been granted fellowships from CantoMundo, Colgate University, the Lannan Foundation, the MacDowell Colony, Macondo, and Yaddo. HIs debut poetry collection, Unaccompanied, is rooted in the indelible experiences of a nine-year-old boy navigating politics, racism, war, and the impact of a border crossing on his family.

Zamora holds a BA from the University of California, Berkeley, and has earned an MFA from New York University. The recipient of the 2017 Narrative Prize, the 2016 Barnes & Noble Writers for Writers Award, and the 2020 Pushcart Prize, Zamora has been published in Granta, the Kenyon ReviewAmerican Poetry, the New Republic, the New York Times, and Poetry, among other publications. Javier Zamora lives in Tucson, AZ.



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January 23, 2023

In Conversation with Katherine Schweit

Katherine Schweit is an author, attorney, former Chicago prosecutor, and career FBI special agent who authored Stop the Killing: How to End the Mass Shooting Crisis.

After the murder of 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook elementary school in 2012, Schweit was promoted to the FBI executive ranks and joined a violence prevention team as part of a White House National Security Council effort within then-Vice President Joe Biden’s office. There, she worked with leaders from other federal agencies gathering best practices from federal and private industry experts, nationally and internationally. She was part of the crisis team responding to incidents, including the shootings at the Holocaust Memorial Museum, the Pentagon, and the Navy Yard in the Washington D.C. area.

She wrote the FBI’s seminal research, A Study of 160 Active Shooter Incident in the United States, 2000 – 2013. This benchmark study is the only research ever done relying on law enforcement reports. Her access to survivors and first responders prompted her role as executive producer of the award-winning dramatic film and documentary, The Coming Storm; a depiction of how to prepare for what happens after a shooting. At its premier at the annual International Association of Chiefs of Police convention, then-FBI Director James B. Comey called the film “the most important training available to law enforcement today.” The film is widely used in security and law enforcement training in the United States and relied on by the Department of State worldwide.

She is the former director for security training for a Fortune 300 company, and a member of DePaul University College of Law’s adjunct faculty, teaching courses in the culture of the Second Amendment and the rules of evidence. At Webster University, Ms. Schweit teaches courses in business and cyber law and policy. She is a Certified Compliance and Ethics Professional. As a member of the federally funded National Center for School Safety, her expertise in school safety supports the University of Michigan-led effort to provide extensive, free resources to school administrators, teachers, parents, and school resource officers.

A native of Detroit, Ms. Schweit earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Michigan State University and wrote for daily newspapers in Michigan and Chicago. She earned a law degree at DePaul University and joined the Cook County prosecutor’s office as an assistant state’s attorney. As a journalist she earned state and national writing recognition, including a Peter Lisagor Award for her 1990 analysis of discipline meted to judges and attorneys by the Illinois Supreme Court after one of the largest FBI public corruption investigations ever conducted. Today, she lives in Northern Virginia, outside of Washington D.C.

October 3, 2022

In Conversation with Jaycee Dugard and Dr. Rebecca Bailey

Jaycee Dugard is an abduction survivor. Since her rescue in 2009, she has used her freedom and voice to share her unique survivor experience. Jaycee is the founder and president of The JAYC Foundation, an organization created to assist families and individuals that have experienced a severe crisis, challenge, or conflict through a major life disruption; to spread the message of hope, growth, and resiliency through educational and animal-assisted programs; and to encourage the collaboration of various entities to provide "Protected Spaces" for families to heal.

Recently, Jaycee co-created the Polyvagal Equine Institute with longtime friends Dr. Rebecca Bailey and equine expert Margie McDonald. The organization is dedicated to sharing educational programming focused on incorporating horses with Dr. Stephen Porges' polyvagal theory to a variety of populations.

Jaycee has strong ties to Sonoma County and its community. This is where she and her family came to heal and recover after her rescue. After the devastating 2017 Northern California fires, her foundation provided much needed therapeutic and equine-assisted therapy sessions for those affected in the community.

Jaycee is the author of A Stolen Life, a New York Times Bestseller, and Freedom: My Book of Firsts, both memoirs that she wrote detailing her eighteen years in captivity, eventual rescue, and recovery process. She plans to continue writing and speaking at venues across the country. An important goal she has is to educate the media and the helping professions about the term "Stockholm Syndrome, " a media-driven term that is degrading and insensitive to survivors and their families. Jaycee enjoys spending time with her family and her faithful four-legged companions in California.

Rebecca Bailey, Ph.D. is a leading family psychologist and equestrian who has become a world-renowned professional educator, speaker, author, and entrepreneur.

Many of you may know her from her years of devotion as a psychologist in our community. She is the founder of Transitioning Families, a group of independently licensed mental health practitioners dedicated to Bailey's innovative ideas for helping families through crisis and difficult change. She is best known for her work with survivors of non-familial abduction and is on the advisory board of the JAYC foundation. Together with Jaycee Dugard, they have created an innovative model which utilizes horses to help educate judges, police officers, therapists and other professionals about compassion, kindness, and connection.

Dr. Bailey is the founder of the Polyvagal Equine Institute, an organization dedicated to equine-assisted psychotherapy and education with a focus on applying Dr. Stephen Porges' research on the autonomic nervous system to a variety of populations. She believes that understanding the interaction between the nervous system and our thoughts and actions is key to compassionately responding to and addressing the complexities of today's societal demands. Dr. Bailey has appeared as a guest and commentator on numerous network shows, including Anderson Cooper and ABC's 20/20.

A graduate of The Wright Institute in Berkley, CA, Dr. Bailey was raised in the Boston area. She relocated to California 35 years ago and now lives in Northern California with her loving husband and countless animals.

August 8, 2022

In Conversation with Former San Francisco Mayor Willie L. Brown


Willie L. Brown - Two-term Mayor of San Francisco, legendary Speaker of the California State Assembly, and widely regarded as the most influential African-American politician of the late twentieth century, Willie L. Brown, Jr., has been at the center of California politics, government, and civic life for an astonishing four decades.

His career spans the American Presidency from Lyndon Johnson to George W. Bush, and he’s worked with every California Governor from Pat Brown to Arnold Schwarzenegger.  From civil rights to education reform, tax policy, economic development, health care, international trade, domestic partnerships, and affirmative action, he’s left his imprimatur on every aspect of politics and public policy in the Golden State.

As Mayor of California’s most cosmopolitan city, he refurbished and rebuilt the nation’s busiest transit system, pioneered the use of bond measures to build affordable housing, created a model juvenile justice system, and paved the way for a second campus of the University of California, San Francisco, to serve as the anchor of a new development that will position the City as a center for the burgeoning field of biotechnology.

Today, he heads the Willie L. Brown, Jr., Institute on Politics and Public Service, where this acknowledged master of the art of politics shares his knowledge and skills with a new generation of California leaders.


February 3, 2020

In Conversation with David and Nic Sheff


David and Nic Sheff

DAVID SHEFF is the author of Beautiful Boy: A Father’s Journey Through His Son’s Addiction, a #1 New York Times bestseller. The book, published in a dozen languages, was named the year’s Best Non-fiction Book by Entertainment Weekly, “Best Books of 2008” by Amazon, and it won first place in the Barnes and Noble Discover Award in non-fiction.

In 2009, David was named to the Time 100, Time Magazine’s list of the World’s Most Influential People. A feature film adaptation of “Beautiful Boy,” starring Steve Carell and Timothee Chalamet, was released in the U.S. in October, 2018 and internationally in February, 2019.

“David Sheff wrote a book in 2008 that became a kind of landmark. Beautiful Boy, a painful, personal story of the battle he tried to fight with and alongside his son, Nic, who was addicted to methamphetamines. The book became an international best-seller and made David Sheff one of the country’s most prominent voices on addiction — not as a doctor, an addict or an academic expert, but as a father. Sheff has continued to try to figure out a road that can lead out of addiction, and he presents that route in his new book, Clean: Overcoming Addiction and Ending America’s Greatest Tragedy.”

– Scott Simon, NPR’s Weekend Edition

Following in his father's footsteps, NIC SHEFF became a writer and author himself. Two years after David’s book became a best-seller, Nic wrote an article called “Breaking Dad,” where he discusses how difficult it was to read that memoir. He was so fixated on his own addiction that he didn’t realize how much pain his drug use was afflicting on those around him.

He eventually wrote two books about his struggle, 2009's Tweak: Growing Up on Methamphetamines, which is also listed as source material for the movie, and 2011's We All Fall Down: Living with Addiction.

By 2013, Nic had broken into television, writing an episode for Netflix show The Killing, then moved on to write, story-edit, and co-produce 13 Reasons Why, drawing upon his own history of self-harm and attempted suicide. 

Clean and sober since 2011, Nic travels the country sharing an unglamorized, authentic and heart-touching story of substance abuse and recovery.  He has been recognized as “a life-changing speaker.” His deeply engaging talks put a compelling human face on our nation’s substance abuse epidemic, encouraging those who struggle to embrace help and bringing hope to all who are touched by it.

Obviously, as we’ve seen with so many celebrities; no amount of money or privilege can save someone from this thing. Addiction is an equal opportunity destroyer.

- Nic Sheff

Signed copies of their books were for sale in the lobby by Readers Books before and after their compelling interview.

November 22, 2019 

In Conversation with U.S. Congresswoman Jackie Speier

Jackie Speier

U.S. Congresswoman Jackie Speier has served San Francisco and San Mateo Counties since she was first elected in April 2008.  Before her election to the US House of Representatives, she served for 18 years in the California State Legislature.

Speier was born in San Francisco’s Sunset District and is a life-long resident of the Bay Area.  While studying at UC Davis, she interned for State Assemblyman Leo Ryan, later joining Ryan’s Washington, DC staff upon his election to Congress.  She returned to San Francisco to earn a JD degree from UC’s Hastings College of the Law before rejoining Congressman Ryan as his Legal Advisor.

In November, 1978, Jackie and the Congressman led a group to the People’s Temple in Jonestown, Guyana to investigate claims that constituents were being held against their will by the Rev. Jim Jones.  These claims turned out to be true.  This catastrophic event ended up being the largest mass murder-suicide in American history.  Over 900 men, women and children died from cyanide poisoning. 

Speier and Congressman Ryan were escorting defecting cult members to their plane when Jones’ gunmen attacked them.  Ryan and four others were killed – Jackie was shot five times at point blank range with an assault rifle and left for dead on the airport tarmac for 22 hours. She underwent 10 surgeries in the aftermath.  While recovering, she realized she had a choice to make: Did she want to be a victim or did she want to be a survivor?

Forty years after the Jonestown massacre changed her life, Speier told her extraordinary story in her book, UNDAUNTED: Surviving Jonestown, Summoning Courage, and Fighting Back.  UNDAUNTED shares the personal struggles—as a widow, a mother, and an outspoken victim of gun violence—that have shaped Congresswoman Speier’s unwavering dedication to her constituents and to fighting for what’s right - fighting against waste, fraud, abuse, and corruption.

Despite ongoing health struggles stemming from the shooting, and personal tragedies including the loss of her husband while she was pregnant with her second child, Speier continued to blaze an unparalleled path in regional and national politics.

This near-death experience motivates her vow “not to waste another minute of my life.” She has authored more than 300 state laws supported by Democratic and Republican Governors. In Congress, she has championed legislation to end sexual assault in the military and at colleges, require background checks for all gun sales, protect consumers from frustrating robocalls, and pass the equal rights amendment.

In 2012 Newsweek named Jackie to its list of 150 “Fearless Women” in the world. She is the co-author of a popular self-help book for women entitled This Is Not the Life I Ordered.  When asked for her philosophy of life, Jackie often quotes Winston Churchill: “Success is never final and failure is never fatal.”

Jackie now serves on two crucial committees in Congress: The House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, and the House Armed Services Committee (HASC).  She works tirelessly to fight wasteful spending, ensure our intelligence community has proper and effective oversight, and has been a recognized champion fighting military sexual assault. She is a leading Democratic voice in protecting women’s healthcare and biomedical research through her service on the Republican-created House Select Investigative Panel to Attack Women’s Health.  She is also a member of her party’s leadership team as Senior Whip, and a Vice-Chair of the Gun Violence Prevention Task Force.  And more recently, she is a very vocal proponent of impeaching President Trump.

Jackie Speier will be on stage in conversation with David Bolling, Editor & Publisher of Valley of the Moon Magazine.

October 28, 2019

In Conversation with Alex Alpharaoh

In partnership with La Luz, Sonoma Community Center & Transcendence Theatre Company presents.

ALEX ALPHARAOH was only 2-months old when he and his 15-year old mother were almost killed in a bomb blast at a bus stop in the violent streets of the infamous “Limonada” colony, in the slums of Guatemala City, Guatemala. This began their brutal journey to the United States.

Most of his life Alex was forced to live in the shadows of society and, through his perseverance and determination, went on to achieve a college degree and become a well-respected social worker in a specialized field, as well as a spoken word artist, well-trained actor, writer, director, and producer.

He earned his reputation as an Emcee and Spoken Word Artist by honing his skills in various venues throughout Los Angeles, and eventually throughout the country.  His 85-minute solo performance piece, WET: A DACAmented Journey, tells the story of living his whole life in the United States as an undocumented American.

Since opening in the fall of 2017, WET received rave reviews, was nominated for several awards, and won Best Solo Performance of 2018.  The play captures the desperation that DACAmented individuals feel when considering the very limited options of adjustment of status, by being forced to navigate through a broken U.S. Immigration System. The play also examines the mental, emotional, and psychological hardship one man has to endure in order to secure his livelihood in the only home he has ever known: Los Angeles.

It is the story of what it means to be an American in every sense of the word, except for one: on paper.

Alex Alpharaoh will be in conversation with Nikko Kimzin, Director of Community Engagement & Theater Education for Transcendence Theatre Company.

August 19, 2019

(Robert Markowitz/NASA)

Sonoma Speaker Series: In Conversation with Sunita Williams

It’s been 50 years since Neil Armstrong captivated the world as he took those first steps on the moon!  His words are forever etched in our memory - “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” 

In celebration of this historic event, we are honored to have Sunita "Suni" Williams take the stage.  Williams is a pilot, engineer, runner, swimmer, lover of pets and an astronaut.  She is also a great role model for anyone interested in space exploration.

Suni is a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, Maryland.  In July, 1989, she began combat helicopter training.  In 1993, she became a naval test pilot, then later became a test pilot instructor, flying more than 30 different aircraft and logging more than 3000 flight hours. Williams completed an M.S. in engineering management from the Florida Institute of Technology in Melbourne in 1995, and she entered astronaut training in 1998.

Since then, Suni has spent a total of 322 days in space on two missions; she ranks second on the all-time U.S. endurance list for females. With 50 hours and 40 minutes, she is second on the list of total cumulative spacewalk time by a female astronaut.

During her time in space, she has done seven spacewalks, conducted several science experiments, completed a marathon and triathlon, and even blogged and tweeted from space—all of this while she was the Commander of Expedition 33 and manning the International Space Station. She is about to embark on another long-duration mission into space in 2020, is now on a short list of just 12 female astronauts who are hoping to go to the moon in 2024!

Suni will be introduced by former NASA astronaut & lunar-module pilot on board the 1969 Apollo 9 mission, Rusty Schweikart.  She will be interviewed by her Annapolis classmate, Bill Angeloni.

June 11, 2019

Sonoma Speaker Series: In Conversation with Shannon Watts

Photo Credit: Christopher Langford

Shannon Watts is a mother of five who, prior to founding Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, was a stay-at-home mom and former Communications Executive. The day after the Sandy Hook tragedy, Watts started a Facebook group with the message that all Americans can and should do more to reduce gun violence. That online conversation has grown into a nationwide grassroots movement of Americans fighting for public safety measures that respect the Second Amendment and protect people from gun violence. Moms Demand Action has established a chapter in every state of the country and is part of Everytown for Gun Safety, the largest gun violence prevention organization in the country, with over 5 million supporters.

Watts’ fiery and sharp social media presence promotes awareness and brings important issues to the forefront.  With the same candor, Watts frequently leads passionate and informative keynotes and conversations across the country to audiences ranging from parent organizations to women’s leadership conferences to colleges and universities.

In addition to her work with Moms Demand Action, Watts is an active board member of Emerge America, one of the nation’s leading organizations for recruiting and training women to run for office. In 2018, she was named one of InStyle Magazine’s Badass Women, one of People Magazine’s 25 Women Changing the World and a Yerba Buena Center for the Arts 100 Honoree. Watts’ writing has appeared in Vogue, Refinery 29, Time, The Washington Post, The Hill, and other media outlets.

In her debut book Fight Like a Mother: How a Grassroots Movement Took on the Gun Lobby and Why Women Will Change the World, Watts tells the inspiring story of how her rallying call-to-action grew into a social movement powered by mothers to protect children from America’s gun violence crisis and offers lessons for others who want to make a difference in their community.  The book is scheduled for release on May 28, 2019.  VIP tickets will INCLUDE a book with purchase.  General Admission ticket holders can pre-order a book by contacting Sonoma’s LOCAL BOOK STORE, Readers Books (707-939-1779). Click here to buyShannon will donate a majority of the books' proceeds to nonprofits -- like Everytown for Gun Safety -- that are working to end gun violence.

Bringing activism into the everyday, Fight Like a Mother will inspire everyone—mothers and fathers, students and teachers, lawmakers, and every citizen outraged, angry, and motivated to work for change—transforming hearts, minds, and laws, and most importantly, show them how to honor their values with action. Along with her observations and wisdom, Watts shares inspiring messages of perseverance, courage, and compassion, and outlines the core mantras and principles that Moms Demand Action has used to battle the NRA and the intimidating tactics they use to prevent gun safety progress.

Watts proves that a woman with a laptop can be more powerful than a man with a gun!

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Sonoma Speaker Series: In Conversation with Donna McKechnie

The Sonoma Speaker Series is partnering with Transcendence Theatre Company to bring Donna McKechnie to our stage!  McKechnie is a professional dancer, singer, actress, choreographer, and author whose illustrious career has spanned more than 50 years.  She is regarded internationally as one of Broadway’s foremost singing and dancing leading ladies.

Donna is best-known and beloved for her portrayal of Cassie in the original Broadway cast of the 1975 musical, A Chorus Line, for which she received the Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical.  Her featured number, "The Music and the Mirror," sheds a spotlight on the hopes and dreams of a struggling dancer, willing to return to the chorus for a job doing what she loves.

Born in Pontiac, Michigan in 1942, McKechnie grew up in the Detroit suburbs before falling for musicals by going to the movies.  After seeing the film, The Red Shoes, she took her first ballet class at age 7, and by 13 she was teaching her own class. "I was terribly shy," she told People Magazine in 1983, "but I was always in harmony when I was dancing."

“I knew about New York when I was very young because of Cyd Charisse, Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, then The Red Shoes literally changed my life,” McKechnie said.  At age 17, when she didn’t have the support to pursue her dream, she ran away from home and moved to New York City to become a dancer.

After touring in West Side Story, and auditioning for countless other shows, she finally landed her Broadway debut in How to Succeed in Business Without Even Trying, where she danced under the direction of Bob Fosse (1961).  25 years later, Mr. Fosse invited her to play the lead in his last production, the National Tour of Sweet Charity.  Gwen Verdon gave her the gift of a lifetime when she took Donna by the hand and personally prepared her for the role.

By the time A Chorus Line hit Broadway, it was already a phenomenon, becoming the longest-running show in history (1975-1990).  While that record has since been broken — the current leader is now The Phantom of the Opera (1988-present) — the music of Marvin Hamlisch lives on.

Other Broadway shows that Donna performed in include:

  • The Education of Hyman Kaplan
  • Sondheim: A Musical Tribute (which she also choreographed)
  • Promises - Promises
  • Company
  • On the Town
  • State Fair (where she won the Fred Astaire Award)
  • The Visit
  • and, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.

Donna continues to perform extensively on the concert stage and with symphony orchestras all over the country.

A recognized presence on the international stage, Donna first performed in London in 1969 with the musical Promises – Promises and has starred in numerous productions in London’s West End since, including Company, No Way To Treat A Lady (also choreographed), Can-Can, and Follies, among others.

McKechnie was featured in the documentary film, Every Little Step, and played Rose in the film, The Little Prince.  Her memoir, TIME STEPS – My Musical Comedy Life, was published in 2006.

Ms. McKechnie will be in conversation with Amy Miller, Artistic Director for Transcendence Theatre Company.  Transcendence will be launching their 2019 Broadway Under the Stars season by performing their first full-length Broadway musical, A Chorus Line, at Jack London State Park in June.  Members of the cast will be on hand for this Speaker Series event and may even perform a song or two!

March 4, 2019

Sonoma Speaker Series: In Conversation with Victoria Arlen

“Face it. Embrace it. Defy it. Conquer it!”  Victoria Arlen

In 2005, Victoria was 11 years old when she came down with two rare neurological disorders, Transverse Myelitis and Acute Disseminated Encephalomyelitis.  She fought for her life for five years, including four years in a vegetative state where she was ‘locked’ within herself, unable to communicate with those around her. At times, she suffered seizures for more than 20 hours per day. She was paralyzed from the waist down for a decade, and against all odds, regained the ability to walk in 2016.

Despite her illness, Victoria never gave up her childhood dream of competing in the Olympic Games.  In June of 2010, she returned to the pool and started swimming again for the first time in over ten years.  She qualified for the 2012 London Paralympic Games and won a Gold Medal (setting a World Record) and three Silver Medals.

Not long after the Paralympics, Victoria became one of the youngest on-air hosts ever hired by ESPN. Today, she reports for numerous ESPN programs including XGames, Invictus Games, The ESPY Awards, ESPN-W, Frozen Four, Special Olympics World Games and Sportscenter.

After emerging from four years in a vegetative state, Victoria remained confined to a wheelchair for ten years. Determined to walk, she began aggressive ‘activity-based paralysis recovery therapy’ at Project Walk-San Diego. Later, her family opened Project Walk-Boston, and there, after two years of therapy, she took her first unassisted step on a long and remarkable road to recovery.

One year later, Victoria was back!  In 2017, she competed on Dancing with the Stars for nine weeks and was eventually a semi-finalist. During the show, her incredible story was seen and heard by millions, including appearances on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, in People Magazine, and in hundreds of other media outlets across the country. 

Through her own heart-wrenching story, Victoria shares her breakthrough formula for overcoming even life’s darkest challenges. She talks about finding gratitude, alternative perspective, creating hope, and the power of unrelenting effort.  She shares her recipe for using the obstacles in life to create leverage for long-lasting, meaningful change through a story the audience will never forget.

If you are looking for INSPIRATION, look no further…

Monday, March 4th, 2019 from 7-8:30pm

Hanna Boys Center (17000 Arnold Drive, Sonoma, CA 95476)

January 28, 2019

Sonoma Speaker Series In Conversation with Dan Pallotta

DAN PALLOTTA is an activist, humanitarian, author, and builder of movements. He is a pioneer in the national effort to transform the way our culture evaluates the character and impact of nonprofit organizations. His iconic TED Talk on philanthropy has been viewed more than 4.5 million times, and is one of the 20 most-commented TED talks of all time. It has been translated into 27 languages and continues to be viewed over 1,000 times a day by people all over the world.

He invented the multi-day charitable event industry. He created the Breast Cancer 3- Day Walks and the multi-day AIDS Rides (long-distance cycling journeys), which raised in excess of half a billion dollars in nine years and were the subject of a Harvard Business School case study. The model and methods he created are now employed by dozens of charities and have raised in excess of $1.5 billion more for important causes from pediatric leukemia to AIDS to suicide prevention, and many others.

He is the author of “Uncharitable: How Restraints on Nonprofits Undermine Their Potential,” the best-selling title in the history of Tufts University Press. The Stanford Social Innovation Review said that the book, “deserves to become the nonprofit sector’s new manifesto.”

His latest book is, “Charity Case: How the Nonprofit Community Can Stand Up for Itself and Really Change the World.” Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. described it as, “an Apollo program for American philanthropy and the nonprofit sector.”

Dan is the founder and President of the Charity Defense Council, which is dedicated to transforming the way the public evaluates charities. He has given hundreds of talks on philanthropy and innovation in the United States and around the world. He is a William J. Clinton Distinguished Lecturer, and has spoken at Stanford, Wharton, Harvard Business School, Harvard’s Hauser Center for Nonprofits, Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, Brown, the United Nations, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the Council on Foundations, and the Gates Foundation, among others.

Dan been written about in feature and cover stories in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, Stanford Social Innovation Review, and has appeared on The Today Show, the BBC, CNN, CNBC, American Public Media’s Marketplace, and numerous NPR stations, among others.

If you are working for a non-profit, sit on the board of a non-profit, or donate to a non-profit - this is a speaker YOU NEED TO HEAR!!

Monday, Jan. 28th, 2019 from 7-8:30pm

This Sonoma Speaker Series event is sponsored by a collection of Sonoma Valley nonprofit organizations and local foundations. Therefore, only General Admission tickets are available to the public. 

December 5, 2018

Sonoma Speaker Series: In Conversation with Fr. Gregory Boyle

Gregory Boyle

Gregory Boyle, Homeboy Industries

Gregory Boyle is the founder of Homeboy Industries in Los Angeles, the largest gang-intervention, rehabilitation, and re-entry program in the world.

A Jesuit priest, from 1986 to 1992 Father Boyle served as pastor of Dolores Mission Church, then the poorest Catholic parish in Los Angeles that also had the highest concentration of gang activity in the city.

Father Boyle witnessed the devastating impact of gang violence on his community during the so-called “decade of death” that began in the late 1980s and peaked at 1,000 gang-related killings in 1992. In the face of law enforcement tactics and criminal justice policies of suppression and mass incarceration as the means to end gang violence, Father Boyle and parish and community members adopted what was a radical approach at the time: treat gang members as human beings.

Homeboy IndustriesIn 1988 they started what would eventually become Homeboy Industries, which employs and trains former gang members in a range of social enterprises, as well as provides critical services to thousands of men and women who walk through its doors every year seeking a better life.

Father Boyle is the author of the 2010 New York Times-bestseller Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion. His 2017 book is the Los Angeles Times-bestseller Barking to the Choir: The Power of Radical Kinship.

He has received the California Peace Prize and been inducted into the California Hall of Fame. In 2014, the White House named Father Boyle a Champion of Change. He received the University of Notre Dame’s 2017 Laetare Medal, the oldest honor given to American Catholics.

October 29, 2018

Sonoma Speaker Series: In Conversation with Michael McFaul

Michael McFaul is an American academic, Professor of Political Science at Stanford University, an analyst for NBC News, and a contributing columnist to The Washington Post.

McFaul served for five years in the Obama administration, first as Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Russian and Eurasian Affairs at the National Security Council at the White House (2009-2012), and then as U.S. Ambassador to the Russian Federation (2012-2014).

As the U.S. Ambassador, he unexpectedly found himself the subject of a concerted Russian propaganda campaign, accused of plotting to overthrow Vladimir Putin.

McFaul’s two-year tenure as Ambassador ended in 2014, but Putin did not forget about him.  At the July Summit in Helsinki, Putin attempted to make a deal with President Trump.  In exchange for letting Robert Mueller’s team question the twelve indicted Russian intelligence officers thought to have participated in cyber-meddling in the 2016 election, Russian counterparts would get the chance to question McFaul.

President Trump said that Vladimir Putin tendered him an “incredible offer.” However, the proposal drew a formal rebuke from the Senate, which approved a non-binding resolution, 98 to 0, against allowing Russia to question McFaul or other current and former U.S. officials.

McFaul, a Montana native educated at Stanford and Oxford, was known during his Russia days as an online pioneer among the diplomatic corps, writing an ambassadorial blog and engaging in exchanges with ordinary Russians. As the Summit unfolded, he went on Twitter to express his shock and disbelief:

“When Trump says Russia is no longer targeting America, that’s not how this American feels. Putin is most certainly targeting and intimidating me. And I’m an American.”

McFaul has authored several books, most recently the New York Times bestseller,  “From Cold War to Hot Peace: An American Ambassador in Putin’s Russia.”  His current research interests include American foreign policy, great power relations between China, Russia, and the United States, and the relationship between democracy and development.

Michael McFaul will be interviewed by Laura Zimmerman.

Come hear him speak about his latest book, as well as a few other topics of interest in the news these days!

October 1, 2018

Sonoma Speaker Series: In Conversation with Steve Kerr

Steve Kerr is a professional basketball coach and former player.

In 2014, he became the Head Coach of the Golden State Warriors.

Kerr is a five-time NBA champion, having won 3 titles with the Chicago Bulls and 2 titles with the San Antonio Spurs as a player, as well as 3 titles with the Warriors as a head coach.  He has the highest career 3-point percentage (45.4%) in NBA history for any player with at least 250 three-pointers made.  He also held the NBA record for highest 3-point percentage in a season at 52.4% until that record was broken in 2010.

In April of 2015, Kerr broke the NBA record for the most regular season wins for a ‘rookie’ coach. The Warriors went on to win the 2015 NBA Finals, making Kerr the first rookie coach to win a championship since the 1982 NBA Finals. On April 13, 2016, the Warriors broke the record for the most wins in an NBA season, breaking a record previously held by Kerr's 1995-1996 Chicago Bulls. The Warriors returned to the Finals for three straight years, losing in 2016 and winning again in 2017 and 2018.

Kerr was born in Beirut, Lebanon, and spent much of his childhood there. In 1984, his father, Malcolm, 52, was serving as the President of the American University of Beirut when he was assassinated by Islamic Jihad.  Steve was 18 at the time, attending the University of Arizona as a freshman.

Steve is married to his high school sweetheart, Margot, has three children, and is now a new homeowner in the Presidio Heights.  He is a big proponent of gun control.

We are honored to have Coach Steve Kerr on our stage, in conversation with Garry St. Jean, former Head Coach and General Manager of the Warriors, and now in-studio analyst for the Warriors on NBC Sports Bay Area. 

August 13, 2018

Sonoma Speaker Series: In Conversation with NPR's Scott Simon

Scott Simon

Scott Simon is one of America's most admired writers and broadcasters. He has reported from all fifty states, five continents, and ten wars, from El Salvador to Sarajevo to Afghanistan and Iraq. His books have chronicled character and characters, in war and peace, sports and art, tragedy and comedy.

Simon's weekly show, Weekend Edition Saturday, has been called by the Washington Post, "the most literate, witty, moving, and just plain interesting news show on any dial," and by Brett Martin of Time-Out New York "the most eclectic, intelligent two hours of broadcasting on the airwaves."

He has won every major award in broadcasting, including the Peabody, the Emmy, the Columbia-DuPont, the Ohio State Award, the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award, and the Sidney Hillman Award. Simon received the Presidential End Hunger Award for his coverage of the Ethiopian civil war and famine, and a special citation from the Peabody Awards for his weekly essays, which were cited as "consistently thoughtful, graceful, and challenging." He has also received the Barry M. Goldwater Award from the Human Rights Fund. Recently, he was awarded the Studs Terkel Award.

June 4, 2018

Sonoma Speaker Series: In Conversation with Daniel Ellsberg

It’s arguable that no man had a greater influence on the American perception of the war in Vietnam than Daniel Ellsberg. He was a consummate insider, served as a Marine First Lieutenant after graduating from Harvard, later returned to Harvard and wrote what is widely regarded as a brilliant dissertation on decision theory. In 1964 he went to work for the Pentagon under Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara. He then went to Vietnam for 2 years working in the State Department for General Edward Lansdale. He had an eye level view of what was happening in that horrendous war. In 1967 he joined the Rand Corporation and contributed to a top secret history of the conduct of the war in Vietnam.

That history was commissioned by none other than Secretary McNamara, and became known as the Pentagon Papers. Ellsberg had become increasingly disillusioned with the war and began attending peace rallies. At one, a draft resistor named Randy Kehler said he was going to prison rather than serve in Vietnam. To Ellsberg, Kehler’s willingness to sacrifice himself to prison to protest the war was an epiphany, and he began making several copies of the top-secret documents. First, he tried to get a number of senators, including William Fullbright and George McGovern, to release them.

May 24, 2018

Sonoma Speaker Series: In Conversation with James Clapper


When he stepped down in January 2017 as the fourth United States director of national intelligence, James Clapper had been President Obama's senior intelligence adviser for six and a half years, longer than his three predecessors combined. He led the U.S. intelligence community through a period that included the raid on Osama bin Laden, the Benghazi attack, the leaks of Edward Snowden, and Russia's influence operation during the 2016 U.S. election campaign. In Facts and Fears, Clapper traces his career through the growing threat of cyberattacks, his relationships with presidents and Congress, and the truth about Russia's role in the presidential election. He describes, in the wake of Snowden and WikiLeaks, his efforts to make intelligence more transparent and to push back against the suspicion that Americans' private lives are subject to surveillance. Finally, it was living through Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and seeing how the foundations of American democracy were--and continue to be--undermined by a foreign power that led him to break with his instincts honed through more than five decades in the intelligence profession to share his inside experience.

Clapper considers such controversial questions as, Is intelligence ethical? Is it moral to intercept communications or to photograph closed societies from orbit? What are the limits of what we should be allowed to do? What protections should we give to the private citizens of the world, not to mention our fellow Americans? Are there times when intelligence officers can lose credibility as unbiased reporters of hard truths by inserting themselves into policy decisions?

Facts and Fears offers a privileged look inside the U.S. intelligence community and, with the frankness and professionalism for which James Clapper is known, addresses some of the most difficult challenges in our nation's history.


April 2, 2018

Sonoma Speaker Series - In Conversation with Kevin Jorgeson – BORN TO CLIMB

Kevin Jorgeson

Kevin Jorgeson, a Santa Rosa native who first began climbing walls at 11 when his father took him to Vertex – a Santa Rosa indoor climbing facility – became an international climbing icon in January of 2015 when he and Tommy Caldwell put up the first free climb of the Dawn Wall on Yosemite’s El Capitan.

As a toddler, he sought routes over trees, fences, cupboards, ladders, anything. After his introduction to Vertex, rock climbing took over his life and by 19, he was the top-ranked climber for his age in the country. He became adept at bouldering – free climbing challenging rock faces close to the ground with little or no climbing aids, save a “crash pad” to cushion a fall.

His passion for free climbing inevitably led him to Yosemite and the most famous slab of granite in the world. El Capitan soars 3,000 feet above Yosemite Valley and the Dawn Wall is its hardest route. With pitches rated on the difficulty scale as high as 5.14d (5.15b or c is the highest difficulty on record), the Dawn Wall had never been free climbed when Jorgeson and Caldwell launched their 19-day assault. The two used ropes only to protect them in falls; they relied on their hands and feet alone to move up the wall. Their stunning achievement has been called the world’s hardest successful climb.

Today, in between climbing trips and lecture tours, Jorgeson, with another climbing partner, is planning to open a new, $6 million, state-of-the-art indoor climbing facility in Santa Rosa.


Monday, February 28, 2018

Sonoma Speaker Series - In Conversation with Bill Keller

Bill Keller has been an important, central figure in American journalism for decades. His most significant roles came with his work at the New York Times where he wore many hats: Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter and bureau chief in Moscow during the collapse of the Soviet Union, bureau chief in South Africa during the collapse of apartheid, foreign editor, op-ed writer, and then executive editor from 2003-2011. Today he heads up The Marshall Project, a non-profit news organization that “seeks to create and sustain a sense of national urgency about the U.S. criminal justice system.”

Keller recently talked about his work and the state of the news business in an interview with the Columbia Journalism Review:

“My worry about criminal justice reporting is that—because it’s complicated, lacking in transparency, often grim, and expensive to do well—it will fall back into a state of neglect before anything gets fixed. My worry about the press writ large is that I’m wrong about the average American’s bullshit detector, that the new president will sow widespread cynicism, and that people will tune out. Those of us who have worked in countries with authoritarian regimes know where that goes.”

In our conversation with Keller, we’ll talk about his days at the Times, the current state of American journalism, and the important work being done by The Marshall Project.

“Ultimately all journalism—especially watchdog journalism, accountability journalism, investigative journalism, call it what you will—aims to lay bare problems in the hope that someone will fix them. We want to make a difference.” Bill Keller

Monday, October 2, 2017

Sonoma Speaker Series: In Conversation With Cleve Jones - Author, AIDS & LGBT Rights Activist

Cleve Jones is an American human rights activist, author and lecturer. Jones joined the gay liberation movement in the early 1970s. He was mentored by pioneer LGBT activist Harvey Milk and worked in Milk’s City Hall office as a student intern until Milk’s assassination in 1978.

Jones co-founded the San Francisco AIDS Foundation in 1983 and founded The NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt, one of the world’s largest community arts projects, in 1987. HarperCollins published his first book, Stitching a Revolution, in 2000.

Jones was portrayed by Emile Hirsch in Gus Van Sant’s Oscar-winning film, MILK, and was the historical consultant for the production. Jones led the 2009 National March for Equality in Washington, DC and served on the Advisory Board of the American Foundation for Equal Rights, which challenged California’s Proposition 8 in the US Supreme Court. Hachette Book Group published his memoir, When We Rise, in November 2016. The ABC TV mini-series by the same name was inspired in part by stories from Cleve’s book. With a screenplay by Academy Award winner Dustin Lance Black, it premiered in February 2017 to much acclaim.

Jones lives today in San Francisco, California and works as an organizer for the hospitality workers’ union, UNITE HERE.

Bart Magee, PhD

Bart Magee, PhD is a licensed Psychologist practicing in San Francisco for 20 years. He is the principal founder of Access Institute for Psychological Services and has been Executive Director since its inception in 2002. During the AIDS years in San Francisco he volunteered with the Shanti Project and provided emotional support to people with HIV/AIDS. This experience in many ways led to his becoming a psychologist. Today, he is an active member of Division 39 (psychoanalysis) of the American Psychological Association where he advocates for community-based mental health care and psychology training. When not at work he enjoys cooking and dining with friends and running/biking in Sonoma County.

John Burnett

Cross Border Immigration in the Trump Era

Monday, June 12, 2017

Sonoma Speaker Series: In Conversation with NPR’s John Burnett And Sonoma Police Chief Bret Sackett

Join us to explore the ways the nation will handle cross border immigration under the Trump administration. Candidate Trump made immigration the centerpiece of his campaign, and the promises he made about illegal immigration across the Mexican border are now being put into place.

The Wall.  Will it be built, and if it is, will it be effective? What do those who live along the border think of a wall? What would be the environmental consequences?

Border Patrol. Trump promised to dramatically expand the border patrol and the administration is planning to hire 5000 new agents as quickly as possible. Former border patrol officials warn that rushed recruitment could open the door to corrupt or compromised agents who are paid by drug cartels and human traffickers. Will an “unshackled” border patrol, whose union strongly supported Trump, lead to human rights abuses?

And the border is not just a line between countries; within a 100-mile zone proximate to any border, US agents can set up check points to query people about their citizenship, and, if they fail to persuade the agent — because of how they look, act or sound — they can be detained.

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ICE, Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The Obama administration increased deportations above those that occurred for decades earlier, but in the first three months of the Trump administration immigration arrests shot up 38 percent compared with the same period last year.  

The relationship between local law enforcement and ICE has become a major point of contention. In some parts of the country ICE agents enjoy cooperative relations with local police, in other places, not so much. What are the legal obligations of local law enforcement officials in assisting ICE?

Sanctuary Cities. The administration has threatened to restrict federal funding to cities that have declared themselves sanctuaries. Texas has passed a law forbidding cities to declare themselves sanctuaries. What, if anything, does the constitution tell us about this state/local/federal dustup?

DACA, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. The Obama administration lifted threats of deportation for 750,000 children in the US whose parents are illegal immigrants. Trump campaigned against DACA but has since said that he will seek a favorable solution for this group. Nevertheless, there have been recent controversial deportations of “dreamers.”

And a final question: if you are here illegally, what can you do to protect you and your family from arrest and deportation?

Sonoma Police Department/ Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office

Monday, April 10, 2017

Sonoma Speaker Series - In Conversation with Brooke Gladstone and Dan Schnur

Brooke Gladstone Host, On The Media

The Trump administration will test the strength of the First Amendment, which says in part: “Congress shall make no law… abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press…”
President Trump calls the media “lying, dishonest, corrupt, disgusting, scum,” among other things and has threatened to tighten libel laws in order to censure them. In the face of crushing attacks laced with falsehoods, the media is debating when it can call a lie a lie.

Join us for a discussion of how the media should cover the Trump administration, with Brooke Gladstone, host of NPR’s On the Media and Dan Schnur, leading figure in Republican politics and Director of the Jesse M. Unruh Instate of Politics at USF and UC Berkeley professor of politics .

Republican national politics

Monday, February 6, 2017

Sonoma Speaker Series - In Conversation with John Markoff

In the coming years, artificial intelligence and robotics will have an impact on the world more dramatic than the changes personal computing and the Internet have brought in the past three decades. Cars will drive themselves and robots will do the work of FedEx employees and, inevitably, doctors and lawyers. The new era offers the promise of great physical and computing power, but it also reframes the question first raised more than fifty years ago: Will we control these systems or will they control u
A revolution is coming – or several revolutions. That’s the subject of the next event in the Sonoma Speaker Series: Artificial Intelligence. Our guest is Pulitzer Prize winning journalist John Markoff, the just-retired technology correspondent for the New York Times. Join us on Monday, February 6, 7PM at the Hanna Boys Center.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Sonoma Speaker Series - In Conversation with Randy Thom


Apocalypse Now.. Star Wars...The Incredibles...The Revenant...Forest Gump...The Right Stuff...

Movie magic is a lot more complicated than setting up a camera and shooting a group of actors. We think of film as a visual medium – it’s called motion pictures – but the medium has evolved and is still evolving, a blend of artistry and technique that involves critical elements from casting to costumes – look at the long list of after-film credits at your local Cineplex. And there is one essential element that is the subject of the next Sonoma Speaker Series – movie sound.
Our guest on Monday, December 5th, is the Director of Sound Design at Skywalker Sound, the audio division of Lucasfilm in nearby Marin – longtime sound recordist and mixer, and two-time Oscar winner – nominated another dozen times - Randy Thom. Randy was working in audio in public radio forty years ago when he approached the father of modern sound design, Walter Murch, who hired him to work on, Apocalypse Now. From there it was on to Lucasfilm and other films: Return of the Jedi, The Right Stuff (Oscar #1), Forrest Gump, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, and The Incredibles (Oscar #2), and most recently, The Revenant.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Sonoma Speaker Series - In Conversation with Ken Rudin and Neal Conan


Ken Rudin is one of America’s foremost experts in politics and campaign history. He focuses on all aspects of politics, from presidential elections — with the primaries, national conventions, debates and general election — to the races for the House, Senate and state governors. He has analyzed every congressional race in the nation since 1984. For most of the past 20 years, Ken was the eyes and ears of National Public Radio’s political coverage in his position as NPR political editor and resident “Political Junkie.”
Neal Conan - Over 36 years with National Public Radio, Neal Conan may be best known as the long time host of NPR’s “Talk of the Nation”. Previously, he served as Bureau Chief in New York and London, covered the Pentagon, the State Department, the White House, two Winter Olympic Games and several wars. He anchored innumerable live events, including party political conventions, confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominees, Presidential inaugurations and addresses, and the impeachment of President Clinton. He played a key part in NPR’s live coverage of 9/11 and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Behind the scenes, he served as editor, producer and executive producer of NPR’s flagship program, “All Things Considered” and, in an acting capacity, as Foreign Editor, Managing Editor and News Director.


“I had a wonderful experience in Sonoma - Kathy did a great job putting together the event and the crowd was terrific.”

- Andrew Yang

“I had the best experience as a speaker for the Sonoma Speaker Series.  Everyone who showed up was amazing, and I had the best time being able to share a little bit of my story.  I’d recommend it to anyone who is thinking about coming out and joining!”

- Fred Warner, San Francisco 49ers Team Captain and Linebacker.  

“Among the speakers series where I’ve appeared, my experience with the Sonoma Speakers Series rates at the top. The interviewer was super-experienced and well-prepared, the audience’s questions were thoughtful, and Sonoma‘s surroundings for those who love wine, redwoods, history, or beauty are unsurpassable.”

- Jared Diamond, author of Guns, Germs and Steel. Pulitzer Prize, 1998. National Medal of Science, 2000.

"The Sonoma Speaker Series was a wonderful experience.  I enjoyed the opportunity to meet so many interesting individuals, and it was stimulating to interact with such an informed and engaged audience.  I loved Sonoma, your platform, and all the folks I met.  Would love to cross paths again."  
- Marie Yovanovitch, former Ambassador to Ukraine, author of Lessons from the Edge.

"The Sonoma Speaker Series is a speaker’s dream — well-run, thoughtfully organized and moderated, with an audience full of inquisitive brainiacs. I’ll come back anytime!"

- Kevin Roose, Award-winning technology columnist for The New York Times and bestselling author.

"Thanks so much for the opportunity to share in the important conversation about gun violence. The audience was engaging, inquisitive, and generous. I particularly enjoyed the 1-on-1 time with so many at the VIP Reception. Call me anytime you want me back, and I'll be on a plane from D.C.!"

- Katherine Schweit, FBI Special Agent, Expert on Mass Shootings
"I want to thank everyone at Sonoma Speaker Series. My son, Nic, and I have spoken at speaker forums
throughout the country, but this one was different...and very special. We met so many extraordinary people. It was an amazing event, and we were honored to be a part of it."
- David Sheff I Author & Subject of the Movie, Beautiful Boy

"Wow! I had such a blast as a presenter for the Sonoma Speakers Series. The audience was intelligent and inquisitive. The hosts were fantastic, the location beautiful. What a wonderful experience!"

Randy Thom | Director of Sound Design, Skywalker Sound

"The Sonoma Speaker Series has been a wonderful addition to the cultural fabric of our community.  The variety and stature of the speakers has been remarkable and the setting is intimate enough that you really feel you’ve had a personal experience with the speaker."
- Steve Page | Former President, Sonoma Raceway

“I'd never heard of the Sonoma Speakers Series until I was invited, but it was well worth the trip. I found a warm, engaged audience with lots of smart questions. And, of course, the wine was splendid.”     

Bill Keller | Former Editor, NY Times

"Thought you did a great job with the Speakers Series. We really enjoyed the discussion, and the format was terrific. Congrats!"

Jeni Nichols

Have now attended several of the lectures.  They keep getting better!  Every one has been excellent. Kudos to all involved who have brought these wonderful, enlightening programs to Sonoma Valley. - Karen Collins

Great evening last night! Loved it. Great job!!!  Can’t wait for the next one!

Karen Rathman

I just wanted to tell you how much John and I enjoyed last night’s first of many speakers.  Given the general tenor of this election, it was refreshing to be able to laugh a bit, and hear their respective take on the election.  The series is a welcome addition to Sonoma — and I am grateful not to have to drive to Marin!!!

Sydney Randazzo

Was a wonderful event….kudos to all!

Lee Morgan Brown

Smart, entertaining, and close-by……spells success!  We enjoyed the conversation/debate last night by two veteran political reporters who demonstrated thoughtful and wise assessment of the current shit show which is our 2016 election cycle. Congrats on your new gig. We will all benefit!

Patsy Benziger-Wallace

You hit one outta the ball park last night!  Congratulations!  You under-charged….

Squire Fridell

You are launched!  Last night was really fabulous.   Cherie Hughes

Congrats on a winner!  Great evening, great speakers, all around congratulations.  What a welcome addition to Sonoma.

Please let me know if you need some wine for the next or future in the series.  Happy to contribute.

Again, great job to you and your colleagues!

Susan Idell

Ginny and I wanted you to know how much we enjoyed hearing Randy Thom. I wasn’t quite sure how interesting the subject was going to be, but he made it fascinating. Very nicely done.

David Freeman

Thanks very much for the invitation to the Randy Thom event.  It was really great.

John MacConaghy

Wow! We could not make the first talk, but we really enjoyed last night. Very well done! Thanks for adding another dimension to Sonoma.

Roger Wright

What a compelling speaker! I have felt such a need for this kind of thing in Napa/Sonoma, so THANK YOU for starting such an inspiring lecture series. I know the community appreciates it, too!

Eugenia Ballve

That was an A+ event. I liked every minute of it, and really enjoyed the speaker. Good show indeed!

Jim Goodwin

“It was a simply fabulous evening. Thanks much - it was outstanding.”

Kathleen Hill

Extraordinary, exceptional, mesmerizing, thrilling. Thank you so much.

Linda Kuhns

Holly and I have found the Speaker Series to be informative, inspirational, amusing and at times, jaw-dropping. The range of topics and speakers has been spot-on with every session, and it’s all happening in the very cool town of Sonoma!  Haven’t missed one yet and will continue supporting the Sonoma Speaker Series.  


Steve Kyle

Just a note to say how much I enjoyed the event this week. Thanks for all you do in the world, and for treating me so hospitably on my visit. Great people, great venue, great energy, great event, all-around.

Dan Pallotta, Speaker, Author, Humanitarian Activist, Builder of Movements

ONE MORE TRIUMPH!!  Congratulations!

Suzanne Berube

The Sonoma Speaker Series is one of the best events in Sonoma Valley. It is well organized, affordable, and attracts the most interesting speakers.

Wanda McAleese