Past Events

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

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

Photo: Emily Berl

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.

Garry St. James

Garry St. Jean

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. 

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.

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.

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.


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.


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

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

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

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

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.

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.

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.


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 | 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