2007. We started our tenth season with Mike Dukakis, 1988 Democratic nominee for the Presidency and 3 term governor of Massachusetts, for a conversation about the future of the party and the importance of building a political footprint precinct by precinct, with gatherings in Los Angeles and San Francisco. Then we began a series of science based luncheons as Scott Hubbard, former NASA Mars Czar, joined us to understand he drove to the space agency to correct a number of failures of the late 1990’s and get the program back on track to explore the Red Planet. Then it was time for a quick jaunt down to Los Angeles for lunch with our old pal John Callas, Mars Rover Project Manager, as he took us through some of the granular aspects of driving both Spirit and Opportunity around the surface. What’s cool is that both rovers will text John’s cell phone on a daily basis and tell him where they’ve been. Rusty Schweickart, led a discussion at the Claremont Hotel in Berkeley about the dangers of Near Earth Objects, which could lead to an ELE or an Extinction Level Event. Joining the former Apollo astronaut were Mercury astronauts Wally Schirra, Scott Carpenter , Russian Cosmonauts like Alexei Leonov, the first man to walk in space, along with a phalanx of shuttle astronauts and other space pioneers. Also around the table was Carolyn Shoemaker , the co-discovered of Shoemaker-Levy 9, the comet that broke up and crashed into Jupiter in a most spectacular fashion in 1994. Didrik Johnck , photojournalist and mountain climber, hooked up with us in Santa Monica gave us a good understanding of what it takes to climb Mt. Everest based upon his 2001 summit, which led to his Time Magazine cover story about blind climber Erik Weihenmayer. To celebrate the courage of Little Rock Nine, Melba Pattillo Beals joined us in San Francisco and Terrence Roberts met with us in Los Angeles to commemorate the 50th anniversary of their courageous act, where a group of very brave African American high school students integrated Central High, a turning point in Civil Rights. It is a debt we can never repay. Robert Reich, former Secretary of Labor and NPR Commentator, joined us for a conversation about the future of work in America and he gave us his thoughts for the upcoming 2008 presidential election. On the road with his best-selling book, Salon.com’s Joe Conason joined us for his thoughts on the silent creep of American Authoritarianism with his book, “It Could Happen Here.” Debra Bowen, California’s Secretary of State, joined us in Los Angeles and San Francisco for a conversation about the future of secure voting in an electronic arena. Between the first and second luncheon, her office announced that the supposed “hack-proof” voting machines were easy game for the most basic of manipulation. Janis Karpinski, who was at abu Ghraib, joined us in Los Angeles to discuss the real identity of those few “bad apples,” who came from the Office of the Vice President. Thanks to our friend Laurie Levinson at Loyola School of Law, Frank Gehry , Pritzker Prize winning architect, joined us in Los Angeles to discuss the future of architecture in a post 9.11 world, where security impacts aesthetic. Linda Ronstadt , multi Grammy winning artist, joined us at One Market in San Francisco for a wide ranging conversation talked about the role of the artist and their relationship in today’s society. Scotty McLennan, Dean of Religious Life at Stanford and the model for Doonesbury’s Revered Scot Sloan, joined us in Palo Alto to discuss the upsides and pitfalls of religion in this day of age. What would Jesus really think? Larry Berman chaired a fascinating luncheon on the story and life Pham Xuan An, the North Vietnamese superspy who was also a Time magazine correspondent. Around the table that day included people like Pentagon Papers editor Dan Ellsberg and Vietnamese journalist Nguyen Thai, both who knew Pham back during the war. Bill Becker , the Executive Director of Presidential Climate Action Plan, chaired a luncheon in San Francisco that asks the question—can a new Democratic Administration create an economy that is environmentally sustaining? To better understand why the space shuttle Columbia disintegrated over the skies of Texas, Scott Hubbard and Nobel Laurette Douglas Osheroff , members of the Columbia Accident Investigation Board (CAIB), talked about tragedy and delved into the organizational flaws of NASA management. Lawrence O’Donnell , West Wing Executive Producer, MSNBC commentator, and former Capitol Hill staffer talked about the intersection between Hollywood and Washington. Lotus founder and Linden Labs Chairman Mitch Kapor gave a fantastic tutorial in San Francisco about Second Life, where residents can explore, meet other residents, socialize, participate in individual and group activities, and create and trade virtual property and services with one another, or travel throughout the world. Gary Hart, retired two term US Senator from Colorado and Presidential candidate, joined us in San Francisco for a conversation about the shocking lack of foreign policy credentials found with most incoming presidents and pressed us to demand better. Charles Moskos, the preeminent military sociologist, joined us in Los Angeles for a conversation about Gays in the military, from the author of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” doctrine. Lord Beaverbrook joined us with the British ex-pat community in San Francisco for a conversation about Europe in the 21st Century, from the perspective of a Tory. Wavy Gravy, Master of Ceremonies at Woodstock, recited poetry, talked about his non-profit work, and reflected with us in Berkeley about the 40th anniversary of the Summer of Love and his stint as Bob Dylan’s roommate in Greenwich Village. Lawrence Kasdan, screenwriter, director, and producer, (Grand Canyon, Body Heat, Big Chill, and Silverado) joined us in Los Angeles and presented the challenges of putting together a deal in Hollywood in an environment when the most intelligent plot and dialogue often bypass the target audience of 14-18 year old boys. John Sayles , director, screenwriters (Eight Men out, Lone Star, Matewan, and Return of the Secaucus Seven) along and his producing partner Maggie Renzi detailed the challenges of funding and distributing independent film. Craig Newmark , founder of Craigslist.com, inaugurated The Luncheon Society in Manhattan and offered a spirited defense of Net Neutrality now that the future of “The Internets,” as W called them, are in great peril. Finally, in San Francisco, the Chief Mission Scientist of the Mars Rover program, Steven Squyres, gave us an update of the progress of both rovers and let us peer into the future of not only both Rovers, but future unmanned and manned missions to Mars.
2006. We began as we always do with Michael Dukakis, 1988 Democratic nominee for the Presidency and 3 term governor of Massachusetts on building grassroots support for the 2006 midterm races with luncheons in Los Angeles and San Francisco. Then it was back and forth to Los Angeles and San Francisco again with Paul Hackett , Gulf War Veteran and 2004 Congressional candidate, joined us for two gatherings as part of this year’s “Emerging Democratic Voices.” We sat down with Ohio’s rising political star who was exploring a bid to run for the US Senate from Ohio. Gary Hart retired two term Senator and presidential candidate joined us three times this year, first for lunches in both LA and SF and later for a third lunch late September in Berkeley in conjunction with his book, “Courage of our Convictions,” which is a must-read. Roger Ebert joined us for a memorable dinner in Santa Monica, 48 hours after the final envelopes were opened at this year’s Academy Awards. It was a conversation about the winners and losers, the future of film, and some mind-blowing off-the-record tales of Hollywood. Janis Karpinski, the commanding officer at Abu Gharib, offered her arguments in Los Angeles on why the prisoner abuse was not the work of a few bad apples, but instead a concerted policy that came from the highest levels of the Defense Department and the Office of the Vice President. Frank Drake, the father of SETI Research, joined us in Los Angeles and discussed on the possibilities of microbial life within our solar system as well as the potential of intelligent life outside our nine (or eight) planets, during the great planetary debate Ambassador Joseph Wilson and Valerie Plame joined The Luncheon Society this year in San Francisco and Los angeles where they talked about their upcoming legal fight against Dick Cheney, Scooter Libby, et al. Will Wright, the virtuoso game designer, who created “The Sims” and other digital landmarks, joined us in Berkeley and gave us an insight into “Spore,” one of the most hotly awaited games for 2007, where you start out as a single celled creature and evolve outward. While on a fund raising tour throughout California to support his gubernatorial aspirations Eliot Spitzer joined us in San Francisco to offer his vision on the future of New York State. Joining us in San Francisco was Sheldon Whitehouse, running for the US Senate from Rhode Island, who told us how he was going to beat Lincoln Chafee, which he soundly did. Craig Newmark the founder of Craiglist.com founder (and a great Luncheon Society member), offered a spirited defense of Net Neutrality in San Francisco now that the future of “The Internets,” as W called them, are in great peril. Lance Williams and Mark Fainaru-Wada , the San Francisco Chronicle Investigative reporters who broke open the BALCO steroids story, detailed how the scandal that destroyed the reputation of baseball, football, as well as track and field. Peter Bart, Variety’s Editor and Chief, brought his keen insight to San Francisco on the intersection of movies and culture and is one of the few voices in Hollywood that has been on both sides of the fence. Joseph Margulies, the lead litigator in the Rasul v. Bush case and who successfully petitioned the United States Supreme Court to extend the right of judicial review to all prisoners at Guantánamo, reminded us that the US Constitution is something special and cannot be sold down the river to achieve some narrow political end. Kitty Dukakis gave us two great luncheons in San Francisco and Los Angeles and spoke bravely how she battled her addictions and depression and how she found relief through Electroconvulsive Therapy. Donald Glaser, professor at Cal and a Nobel Laureate, led a great conversation about Visual Illusions in both art and science. He talked about how they impact what we see-and most interestingly-what we don’t in a great luncheon in Berkeley.
2005. Michael Dukakis, 1988 Democratic nominee for the Presidency and 3 term governor of Massachusetts, began the year by reminding us that the future in politics belongs to those who can organize, organize, and organize. Christopher Hitchens, Vanity Fair, Slate.com, and author of numerous books, joined us in Palo alto in early 2005 to speak about Salman Rushdie, the Clintons, atheism and his new book, “A Long Short War; The Postponed Liberation of Iraq.” An old friend, Bruce Jentlseon, the Director of The Terry Sanford Institute of Public Policy at Duke University and is a leading scholar on American foreign affairs, described the foreign policy challenges of the Second Bush Administration for a luncheon in San Francisco. Dr. Brian Greene , the author of The Elegant Universe and The Fabric of The Cosmos, and professor of Physics at Columbia, joined us for a conversation about String Theory, Dark Matter, and Theoretical Physics. The Executive Vice President and Editor of the San Francisco Chronicle, Phil Bronstein discussed his concerned about the tumbling fortunes of his newspaper. Where will be go for our news—the front door for our paper or the home page of our laptops? Leon Panetta , the former Congressman, Director of the OMB, and Chief of Staff of the Clinton Administration between 1994 and 1997, discussed the challenges of managing a White House in the modern era at a luncheon in Monterey. Carl Pope, Executive Director of The Sierra Club, joined us in San Francisco and discussed the Bush Administration’s disregard for our national resources and its long term costs. Gary Hart, retired two-term US Senator from Colorado and Presidential candidate, discussed his new book, “The Fourth Power,” which offers a grand strategy for the United States in the 21st Century. Al Franken, former Saturday Night Live writer and political satirist, discussed his book “Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them,” with us in San Francisco and pondered a future run for the US Senate from Minnesota. Former Pulitzer Prize winning American Poet-Laureate of the United States from 1995 to 1997, Bob Hass, discussed his upcoming collection of poetry “Time and Materials,” which would win the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize for lunch in Berkeley. Dr Jill Tarter, the current Director of the Center for SETI Research, holding the Bernard M Oliver Chair at the SETI Institute, talked about the possibility of life “out there” as well as the movie Contact, the Carl Sagan novel which later became a movie starring Jodie Foster. Jill was the real version of Jodie Foster’s fictional character, however far more laid back. Proudly defending his wife’s honor, Ambassador Joseph Wilson, joined us to discuss his wife’s plight, and was the first time an American intelligence operative has been unmasked for a political payback for a great lunch in San Francisco. Just back from the Green Zone, Larry Diamond Stanford Professor, Hoover Institution Fellow and Senior Adviser on governance to the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq, discussed the fluidity of the situation on the ground. Dan Ellsberg, who while serving as a consultant at Rand made public the Vietnam policy review titled The Pentagon Papers, discussed his concerns about the war in Iraq and their parallels for a conversion in Berkeley. A San Francisco institution and satirist, Phil Frank , talked about “Farley,” which satirized San Francisco, both along political and social lines. Among those around the room were many who had been in his cartoons. Bob Edwards, Peabody Award-winning member of the National Radio Hall of Fame and former host of NPR’s Morning Edition, talked about his new show on Satellite radio and his controversial departure from public radio. Bill Lockyer, California’s Attorney General, detailed the changes win the AG’s office as a political figure with the most executive and legislative experience than any other official of the State Government; the Attorney General met us in San Francisco and Los Angeles, inaugurating our first gathering in the Southland. Dr Dean Ornish, best selling author and head of the Preventive Medical Research Institute, detailed the damage caused by our current diet and offered hope on how to correct it to find better heart health. We ate healthy in San Francisco. Bruce Babbitt , former two-term Arizona Governor, 1988 Presidential candidate, Interior Secretary in the Clinton Administration, and author of “Cities in the Wilderness: A New Vision of Land Use in America,” which proposes to expand the Endangered Species Act to dave watersheds and ecosystems for gathering in Los Angels and San Francisco. Lanny Davis, Fox News commentator, former Clinton White House Counsel, and author of “Truth to Tell: Tell It Early, Tell It All, Tell It Yourself: Notes from My White House Education” discussed the elemental process of damage control at One Market in San Francisco. Christopher Kraft, who led NASA’s Mission Control from the dawn of manned space flight, the landing on the Moon, and to the early days of the Space Shuttle, discussed the future of space flight in San Francisco.
2004 Mike Dukakis, 1988 Democratic nominee for the Presidency and 3 term governor of Massachusetts, began the year by drilling into us that the candidate who can best organize in 2004 will win the presidency. This was just as his old Lt Governor, John Kerry, was starting to pull ahead in Iowa. Robert Reich, former Secretary of Labor in the Clinton Administration, talked about the future of work as seen through a cross-country trip that he took with his son as they moved from Massachusetts to The Bay Area. Jane Goodall., the UN Messenger for Peace, Primatologist, and founder of the Jane Goodall Institute for Peace talked about her 45 year study of social and family interactions of Chimpanzees in the Gombe Preserve in Tanzania. Dr. David Kessler, Dean of UCSF Medical School and former Chairman of the Food and Drug Administration talked about the potential and outlines for healthcare reform for the present and the future. He also gave us his phone number should we have any medical issues. Gary Hart, retired two-term US Senator from Colorado and Presidential candidate, chaired a conversation about the challenges faced by a Democratic president should John Kerry beat George W. Bush in the fall election. Larry Diamond, Stanford Professor, Hoover Institution Fellow and Senior Adviser on governance to the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq, talked about the transfer of power from the Coalition Provisional Authority to the Iraqis for a great luncheon in Palo Alto. Christopher Hitchens, Vanity Fair, Slate.com, and author of numerous books, discussed his most recent adventure in Afghanistan, where he was pinned down in Herat by enemy machine. After that we all took off to Beldon Place for an afternoon of power drinking. We still talk about it all of these years later. Liz Carpenter, syndicated columnist, reporter and Press Secretary for Lady Bird Johnson discussed her Washington years where she covered Presidents from Franklin Roosevelt to John Kennedy. Melba Pattillo Beals, a Congressional Gold Medal award winner, talked about her childhood as a member of The Little Rock Nine, as part of the group that integrated Central High in 1957, which was a turning point in the struggle for Civil Rights. Jeff Bingaman, the United States Senator from New Mexico, discussed the sustainable energy opportunities open to Americans who were open to solar, wind, and biomass after we were able to pull him away from a sun fuels conference at Stanford. William Perry, former Secretary of Defense under Clinton, discussed his disdain for Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and worried that the lack of planning would harm military planning in the long-term. Will Durst, offered us humor to mask our tears, only four days after John Kerry lost to George Bush in the 2004 Presidential election in San Francisco. Peter Schwartz, a Futurist, Chairman of GBN, and just part of a cover story in Time Magazine, discussed how his group helps businesses, NGOs, and governments plan strategies for multiple possible futures.
2003. Michael Dukakis, 1988 Democratic nominee for the Presidency and 3 term governor of Massachusetts, joined us to discuss the importance of mass transit, especially found within intracity passenger rail in San Francisco. Jim Sano, President of Global Expeditions, gave a conversation about following in Ernest Shackleton’s footsteps and leading an ascent up Everest. Then it was down to Monterrey for a conversation with Leon Panetta, the former Congressman, Director of the OMB, and Chief of Staff of the Clinton Administration between 1994 and 1997. He discussed the arc of his career, from a Senate aide, to the Nixon White House, to the halls of Congress and then to the Clinton Administration. George McGovern, 1972 Democratic Presidential nominee, former 3-term US Senator, talked about the challenges of fighting terrorism while maintaining the importance to individual freedoms. Coming off their World Series loss, Peter McGowan, The Managing General Partner of the San Francisco Giants, discussed the challenges of running a major league franchise in these modern times. Gary Hart, retired two term US Senator from Colorado and Presidential candidate joined The Luncheon Society for his first of many conversations on the domestic implications of foreign policy. In San Francisco for an ABA Convention, Warren Christopher, former Secretary of State under Bill Clinton, joined us and accurately predicted back in 2003 that no weapons of mass destruction would be found within Iraq. Lowell Bergman , who was portrayed by Al Pacino in the movie The Insider, talked about the sequence of events between Jeffrey Weigand, 60 Minutes and Brown and Williamson Tobacco, where tobacco was manipulated to increase the levels of nicotine. We then had a robust conversation about the geopolitical nature of global terrorism with George Shultz , who served as Secretary of State under Reagan as well as Secretary of Labor and Treasury under Nixon at Kokkari in San Francisco. Rusty Schweickart, Lunar Module pilot of Apollo 9; discussed the inevitability of a collision with a Near Earth Objects, along their terrible dangers. It is hard to believe that we have had 5 ELEs (Extinction Level Events) in the history of earth. A sixth calamity is inevitable.
“The Salad Days” (Luncheon Society gatherings between 1997 and 2002). It all began when Tom Koch, Tim Farley and Bob McBarton got together with former radical turned investment banker Peter Camejo. We asked why he chose investment banking, the former Olympic athlete replied, “After Carter beat me in the election, I had to get a job.” We let Alan Cranston, former Majority Whip of the United States Senate, pick the restaurant. Thinking that he was aiming for something grand, he surprised us with Red Lobster in Palo Alto. He also let us in on a secret. “If you get here before 4:30 PM,” he noted, “you get an extra 10% off.” Great story about Cranston. In the late 1930’s Adolf Hitler published an edited version of Mein Kampf in the United States without the anti-Semitic slurs. Cranston realized that Hitler was soft pedaling his hate and published an accurate version of the book. Hitler sued Cranston for copyright infringement and won. Cranston simply shrugged and said, “Well Hitler did own the copyright.” Former Congressman Jerry Waldie took us back to the days of the Rodino Committee, where he voted to move forward with impeachment. Waldie’s best friend, former ongressman Pete McCloskey walked us through his political career as a restaurant in Woodside where he lived when not farming in Rumsey. He also detailed his legal battles with Pat Robertson, surrounding the televangelist’s assertion that he was a combat soldier during the Korean War. Great story here. McCloskey and John Ehrlichman were old friends and used to vacation together—all the more ironic because McCloskey was the first Republican to call for Nixon’s impeachment. California State Supreme Court Justice Stanley Mosk met with us twice in San Francisco en route to becoming the longest serving State Supreme court justice in California history. Former San Francisco Mayor George Christopher told us how he was able to convince Horace Stoneham, owner of the New York Giants to leave The Polo Grounds and move to San Francisco instead of Minneapolis, their intended target. George also ran as Richard Nixon’s running mate at Lt Governor in the 1962 California gubernatorial race and in 1966 lost to Ronald Reagan in the Republican Primary for Governor. Mike Dukakis joined us in Los Angeles for the first of our many get-togethers. Our old friend Leo McCarthy gave us a tutorial about California politics as only seen from his vantage point, as Assemblyman, Speaker of the Assembly, and Lt Governor. Former San Francisco Mayor Art Agnos told us what happens when Mother Theresa shows up at your front door at 11 pm and says, “Come with me.” Of course, you listen and you follow her. Our old friend Willy Fletcher walked us through life as a judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, one step below the US Supreme Court.
Link here for Luncheon Society gatherings between 2008 and the present.