Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Congratulations to this year's Richmond Forum Scholars! Front row: Morgan Canaan, Douglas S. Freeman - Center for Leadership, Government & Global Economics; Iram Amir, The Steward School; and Julia Gibson, Douglas S. Freeman - Center for Leadership, Government & Global Economics. Back row: Pablo Gomez Garcia, James River High School, and Fuller Wise, St. Christopher's School.

Our Scholars were chosen from a very impressive pool of high school juniors from around the region who submitted applications, essays, and recommendations. Finalists were chosen for personal interviews.

The new class Scholars got right to work at the November program, helping us behind the scenes. Given our tiny staff of three, our Scholars play essential roles in keeping everything running smoothly and taking good care of our speakers.

Learn more about our Richmond Forum Scholar program here.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

2016-2017 Programs Announced!

A sold-out audience at Saturday night's Richmond Forum program with Russell Wilson and Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. also got their first look at the big names that will take the stage at the nationally recognized series for the 2016–2017 season.

Nate Parker
The Richmond Forum's 31st season will kick off in November 2016 with one of the fastest-rising new directors in Hollywood, Nate Parker. Parker's new film, The Birth of a Nation, swept the awards at the Sundance Film Festival in January and broke festival records when the worldwide distribution rights were immediately purchased for $17.5 million. The film, scheduled for theatrical release on October 7, 2016, and already being discussed as an Oscar contender, portrays the life of Nat Turner and the 1831 slave rebellion he led in Southampton County, Virginia. At The Richmond Forum, Parker will discuss why, as a Virginia native, he needed to tell this story and how he believes it to be relevant to the ongoing black struggle for justice and equality today. Parker wrote, directed, and plays the title role in the film.

Meacham & Goodwin
The Forum's January 2017 program will take place the evening following the inauguration of our next U.S. President. To provide a long view of America's "new" presidents, historians Jon Meacham and Doris Kearns Goodwin will return to The Forum. The evening's discussion will include a look at past inaugural addresses, the fabled "first 100 days," and the transition from campaigner to Oval Office occupant. Steve Inskeep, host of NPR's Morning Edition will moderate the discussion.

In February, Peabody Award-winning broadcaster and 2013 National Humanities Medal recipient Krista Tippett will deliver a speech titled Becoming Wise. Tippett's radio program, On Being, is heard on 365 public radio stations across the U.S. and the podcast version of the program received 21 million downloads in 2015. Tippett thoughtfully delves into the mysteries of human existence in conversations about faith, spirituality, ethics, and moral wisdom with scientists, theologians, poets, activists, and others. At The Forum, Tippett will distill the insights gleaned from these conversations about what it means to be human and spiritual.

Barak & ElBaradei
In March, The Richmond Forum will welcome two distinguished leaders from the Middle East for a frank discussion of regional current events and the prospects and roadblocks to peace. Ehud Barak, former Israeli Prime Minister and, more recently, Defense Minister, will engage in a first-ever public discussion with Nobel Peace Prize recipient Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei, the former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency and a leading figure in the 2011 Egyptian Revolution. The evening's conversation will be moderated by longtime Middle East reporter and foreign policy analyst Robin Wright.

The April 2017 Forum program will be announced at a later date.

For 30 seasons, The Richmond Forum has been bringing leaders from the world stage to our stage in Richmond—to expand horizons, stimulate conversation and inspire our community. With 4,500 attendees at each program, The Richmond Forum is the largest and most-respected speaker series in America.

Past Forum speakers have included filmmaker Steven Spielberg, former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, Robert Redford, Archbishop Desmund Tutu, Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson, Anderson Cooper, B.B. King, Mexican President Vicente Fox, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, former Secretaries of State Albright, Baker, Powell, and Rice, and three former U.S. Presidents: George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush.

Current subscribers have until May 7th to renew their subscriptions for next season. Any seats not renewed will go on sale to the public through a lottery. Learn more about becoming a Richmond Forum subscriber.

The Richmond Forum is a non-profit 501(c)(3) educational organization. All programs are held at the Altria Theater in Richmond, Virginia.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Readers Respond to "The Forum Files"

Since the release of "The Forum Files" on November 21st, we've enjoyed seeing the reviews come in from Forum subscribers and other readers. Researched and written by award-winning author (and Forum subscriber) Ray McAllister, "The Forum Files" is a fascinating history of not only The Richmond Forum, but the tradition, going back to the 19th century, of bringing the world's most famous and accomplished people to Richmond to speak before large audiences. "The Forum Files" is filled with never-before-seen photos, speaker correspondence, and surprising behind-the-scenes stories.

What readers are saying!
"We are SO enjoying the book--it is even more phenomenal than we expected it to be! So good to read the history of the Forum before we started attending--30 years ago."
"I have learned so much. And even a few mysteries have been solved for me!"
"Beyond enjoying the amazing photos, I really got pulled into the story. Mr. McAllister has done a wonderful job."
"Who knew all this was going on behind the scenes at our forum?"
"It is terrific reading; a definite holiday coffee table book."
"I had a chance to look at the Forum book over the weekend. What wonderful memories are now preserved forever!"

"The book rocks. The Forum rocks!!"
"The Forum is my favorite Richmond activity and this just might be my favorite new Richmond book."
"My mother attended for years, and I can't wait to give her this book for Christmas. Thank you for doing this!"
"The Forum Files" is available online at or at the offices of The Richmond Forum. Books may also be ordered by phone at the number below.

6968 Forest Hill Avenue
Heritage Junction Office Park
At the corner of Forest Hill Avenue and Cherokee Road.
Our building actually faces Cherokee.
Hours: Monday through Friday, 9AM to 5PM
We will be closed December 24th - January 1st.
804-330-3993, ext. 301

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Ray McAllister and The Richmond Forum Release "The Forum Files"

In a new book titled "The Forum Files: The Stories Behind The Richmond Forum," award-winning author and Forum subscriber Ray McAllister has captured the thirty-season history of America's largest non-profit lecture series. (Or is it forty-seven seasons?) Truth be told, the tradition of a large and vibrant lecture series is embedded in Richmond's history, going back to the 19th century when the Richmond Lyceum presented speakers of national and international renown in the rooftop garden of the then-new Jefferson Hotel.

The current Richmond Forum is the reincarnation of an earlier series, The Richmond Public Forum, which operated for seventeen seasons from 1964 to 1980...which was itself inspired by an even earlier Richmond Public Forum that presented speakers of national and international note in the auditorium of John Marshall High School.

For "The Forum Files," McAllister has pulled together the first comprehensive history of The Richmond Forum and each of its predecessor series, revealing the fascinating story of how the largest lecture series in America came to grow in mid-size Richmond, Virginia.

The book is also filled with behind-the-scenes stories, quotes from Forum speakers, and never-before-seen photographs and fascinating speaker correspondence from the Forum's files. In addition, McAllister conducted interviews with longtime Forum subscribers, founding volunteers, and speakers; and also culled the archives of The Richmond Times-Dispatch and area libraries for a treasure trove of images and information.
  • Learn how America's largest lecture series came to be here in Richmond, Virginia.
  • Explore the unique tradition of lecture series in Richmond, going back to the 19th century.
  • Find out how Peter Pan helped sound the death knell for an earlier Richmond Public Forum!
  • Find out what speaker paid a special and unheralded visit to Richmond's Arthur Ashe statue. 
  • Learn what speaker was The Forum's highest-paid ever.
  • Follow the story of Forum founder Ralph Krueger, whose vision, passion, and persistence drove the early days of The Richmond Forum.
  • Find out what our speakers have to say about their experiences at The Richmond Forum, including a special essay by Diana Nyad!
  • Oprah, Spielberg, Nader, Kissinger, Tutu, Sagan, Ford, Reagan, Bush, Clinton, Redford, Bhutto, Bernanke, Netanyahu, Kuralt, Buchwald, ...the biggest names in the world are all in "The Forum Files."
"The Forum Files" is on sale now at Preview more of the book at  The full-color, 164-page, hardbound book is just $38.95.

"The Forum Files" is published by The Richmond Forum. After production expenses, proceeds will benefit the Ralph Krueger Memorial Fund, supporting the student initiatives of The Richmond Forum.

The Richmond Forum is a non-profit 501(c)3 educational organization.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

The Richmond Forum Announces 2015-2016 Programs!

The 30th season of The Richmond Forum will feature actor Alan Alda; two-time Super Bowl quarterback for the Seattle Seahawks, Russell Wilson; Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. of the PBS series Finding Your Roots; the former Prime Minister or Australia; and more!

The season will kick off in November with a presentation by famed political philosopher Michael Sandel. Sandel has been called "the most famous teacher of philosophy in the world" and a "rock star moralist." He's spoken to large audiences around the world—from the Sydney Opera House to an audience of 14,000 in an outdoor amphitheater in Korea—and his own classes are the most popular lectures offered at Harvard. Sandel will lead the Forum audience in an exploration and debate of the nature, obligations, and moral tensions of a democratic society.

Alan Alda
In January 2016, The Richmond Forum will welcome beloved actor Alan Alda to the stage. Best known for portraying Hawkeye Pierce on the long-running television series M*A*S*H, Alda has also been a writer, director, and science advocate over his 40-year career. He has won seven Emmys and six Golden Globes for his work. At The Richmond Forum, Alda will discuss his career and his surprising conclusion when contemplating the meaning of his own life.

James Balog
In February, famed adventurer, photographer, and filmmaker James Balog will address The Richmond Forum and present his dramatic images of the rapidly changing polar ice caps and ice sheets. Balog, who holds a graduate degree in geography and geomorphology, is the founder of the Extreme Ice Survey, the most wide-ranging, ground-based photographic study of glaciers ever conducted. His work has been the subject of the Emmy Award-winning film, Chasing Ice, a NOVA/PBS documentary, two books, and numerous magazine and newspaper features, including in National Geographic.

Former PM Julia Gillard
In March, former Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard will join a long list of current and former world leaders who have traveled to Richmond to address The Richmond Forum, although none have travelled farther. Gillard was sworn in as the 27th Prime Minister of Australia in 2010, becoming the first woman to hold that office. In 2012, Gillard gave a fiery speech on the floor of the Australian Parliament regarding the treatment of women in professional and public life. The speech soon went viral worldwide and became known as "the Misogyny Speech." At The Richmond Forum, Gillard will share her experiences and perspectives as a commanding woman on the world stage, as well as her view of the issues and challenges facing all world leaders today.

Russell Wilson with Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr.
In April, the series will close out with a very special homecoming program when native son and two-time Super Bowl quarterback for the Seattle Seahawks Russell Wilson takes the stage for an exclusive conversation with Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr., the host of the PBS genealogy series, Finding Your Roots. The program will be a discussion and discovery of the family legacy and influences that have made Wilson the man he is today and will include sports, genealogy, and Virginia and American history.

For 30 seasons, The Richmond Forum has been bringing leaders from the world stage to our stage in Richmond—to expand horizons, stimulate conversation and inspire our community. With 4,300 attendees at each program, The Richmond Forum is the largest and most-respected speaker series in America.

Past Forum speakers have included filmmaker Steven Spielberg, former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, Robert Redford, Archbishop Desmund Tutu, Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson, Anderson Cooper, B.B. King, Mexican President Vicente Fox, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, former Secretaries of State Albright, Baker, Powell, and Rice, and three former U.S. Presidents: George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush.

Current subscribers have until May 23rd to renew their subscriptions for next season. Any seats not renewed will go on sale to the public through a lottery; click here to read the details.

The Richmond Forum is a non-profit 501(c)(3) educational organization. All programs are held at the Altria Theater in Richmond, Virginia.

Recap: Dr. Daniel J. Levitin & Rosanne Cash

(Thank you to Karen for allowing us to share her wonderful recap of our "Music and Your Brain" forum with Dr. Daniel J. Levitin and Rosanne Cash. A link to Karen's blog, where she originally posted this, can be found below.) 

A watched suitcase never arrives.

So I told myself after waiting 'til the last possible minute to give up and walk over to the Mosque Landmark Altria Theater. A generous friend had double-booked himself, leading to offering me his Richmond Forum tickets.

Considering I woke up In Memphis, lunched in Chicago and still have no idea where my belongings are, I could have been excused for saying no thanks and spending a recuperative evening at home.

Here's the problem: tonight's speakers were Dr. Daniel Levitin, the guy who wrote "This is Your Brian on Music," a book I read despite enormous gaps in my musical knowledge, and the incomparable Rosanne Cash.

There was no way I could live with myself if I passed up a chance to hear these two talk, play guitar and sing from my friend's prime ninth row orchestra seats.

The best part was that the good doctor wasn't just a neuro-scientist, he was a musician.

As in, years spent as a session musician, record engineer and producer who worked on albums by Steely Dan, Joe Satriani, Chris Isaak and Blue Oyster Cult. That made him was way more than just a science nerd.

It wasn't my first Forum. Back in the '90s, I had a subscription to the Richmond Forum and saw all kinds of fascinating people speak: Dr. Joyce Brothers, H. Ross Perot (there's a flashback), even Bill Cosby (before, you know).

Twenty five years on, people still get dressed up for the Forum but it's become way more of a production. SPARC's spotlight ensemble was onstage singing and dancing Broadway show tunes like "At the Ballet" from "A Chorus Line" while people filed in and socialized. A soloist sang the national anthem and  we were off and running.

The evening was a conversation between the doctor and Rosanne who was participating not just because she's a musician but because eight years ago she was diagnosed with a rare brain disorder, had surgery (the drill bit broke while the doctor was drilling into her skull) and had to fight her way back to playing, writing and singing.

We heard a fair amount of science explained tonight, fine by me because I could stand to know more. Music serves an evolutionary purpose. Music releases a chemical in the brain called oxytocin (this got applause when mentioned). "It's a very pleasurable chemical," the doctor said.

There was humor, too, like when Rosanne said that music was currency in her family. "It's cash, you might say," the doc quipped. "Boy, I lobbed that one right at you," she laughed before telling a story about her famous father sitting in with her at the second Clinton inaugural.

When they got ready to do their first song together, "Blue Moon with Heartache," it took a minute to get the volumes right on their guitars. "Turn me down, I sound like Megadeth Lite," Rosanne said with authority.

She was very dry and funny, bossy sometimes to the doctor and almost making fun of his wealth of knowledge at other times. They were both completely engaging, with each other and the audience.

She made the point that a musician's song subject matter changes as she gets older. For her that meant writing more third person songs, more observations. "You're a better singer at 50 than you are at 30 because your whole life shows up in your voice."

I loved the visual imagery when the doctor talked about how Coltrane's musical ideas were too big for that little horn he played. "You could hear them just struggling to get out."

They played together on the moving "Etta's Song," about the 65-year marriage of one of the musicians in Johnny Cash's band and his wife Etta. "They started every day saying 'What's the temperature, darling?' and while she wasn't sure if the question was literal or metaphorical, she couldn't resist using it as a lyric.

The doctor told us the guitar he was playing was from Guitar Works and he loved it, while Rosanne shared that she'd gone to Plan 9 today for Record Store day. I'm sorry I missed that.

The room melted when they did "Seven Year Ache" and then it was intermission. During the break, people could write down and submit their questions for the Q & A afterwards.

I was surprised that so many questions were directed at the doctor but Rosanne had her share, too.

First musical memory? Running circles around the living room while her mother played "Hit the Road, Jack."

While the doc was explaining how we are able to store lyrics and musical information, he used the example of remembering obscure things such as Iron Butterfly's songs? "Innagadadavida," Rosanne shot back. "Well done," he said, clearly impressed.

"I'm old," she said to explain her wide-ranging knowledge. She'll be 60 next month, a fellow Gemini and still very attractive, tonight in a country-looking black shirt and skirt ensemble with spangles on the skirt.

I have to say the audience asked some thoughtful questions that garnered informative answers. The doc said countless studies have shown that, contrary to popular opinion, listening to music makes us less productive except in the case of manual labor and endlessly repetitive tasks.

And how about this: 5-10% of the population do not like music in any form. That's a really hard one for me to wrap my head around The doctor said it's an evolutionary thing; we can't all be alike or one microbe could wipe out the entire population. Count me thankful not to be in that 5-10%.

Or this: Music has been proven to be as effective as Valium in pre-operative situations and has fewer side effects. The doctor was a thoroughly fascinating fellow, smart, musical and very funny.

As if she hadn't already, Rosanne won me over completely when she talked about the exchange of energy between her and the audience, saying a performance was half her and half them.

"Some nights I look out and see the lights of people's phones scattered throughout the first six rows and I think, oh, it's going to be one of those nights." Believe me, Rosanne, there are those of us in the crowd who hate it as much as you do.

After the last question, she said, "We're going to send you off with one of the great folk songs," and they both picked up their guitars and began playing "500 Miles." Her voice was so ethereal and his harmonies so well-timed and subtle that I actually got goose bumps listening.

That, my friends, is why I had to go out tonight instead of sitting around waiting for my suitcase to arrive.

And, as luck would have it, it just arrived anyway, finally, at 11:45 p.m. Stick a fork in this day. I'm done.

(Visit Karen's blog: I Could Go On And On: A 20th Century Woman Living A 21st Century Life In Richmond, Virginia)


Monday, January 19, 2015

The Q&A at The Richmond Forum

The second half of every Richmond Forum program is reserved for the questions you submit for our speaker or panelists. So, here’s a quick look at our Q&A philosophy, our process for selecting questions, and some pointers that might improve the chances that your question is chosen at the next Forum program.

First off, the Q&A is not an opportunity for the moderator to engage in a conversation with the speaker. In most cases, there are many chances to view such conversations or interviews online or elsewhere. As a public forum, however, this is your unique opportunity to have your question asked and answered. As your proxy, the moderator’s role is to pose questions selected from those submitted by the audience in an organized manner and to ensure that these questions are answered as fully as possible by asking follow-up questions if warranted.

There are two ways to submit your questions for consideration, by email before the program and written during intermission.

The program email sent in advance of each Forum includes a link you can use to send questions in advance. While these early questions are submitted without first hearing the speaker’s talk, they do have benefits. First, all questions submitted in advance are neatly typed on question sheets, eliminating issues of hard-to-read handwriting and, second, these advance questions give us an early indication of what you’re most curious about, which assists us in developing the categories that we will use to sort the remainder of the questions that will be submitted on program night.

Intermission is your second chance to submit a question, using the sheet inserted in your program book. (Forgot a pen? Our ushers have some.) Written questions are collected by student pages and ushers and run backstage to be sorted by a team of subscriber volunteers and staff, alongside the questions that were submitted in advance. Similar versions of the same question are grouped and the pithiest, shortest, or most clever iteration is chosen to be taken on stage. Due to time constraints, questions that are too long (front and back of the sheet, for instance) or too difficult to read are set aside, as are the rare questions that are not posed in a respectful manner. By the end of intermission, our moderator is armed with a stack of great questions chosen from the hundreds submitted. With any luck, yours will be in that stack, and if you include your name, we’ll give you all the credit.

At The Richmond Forum, the Q&A belongs to you. Be sure to participate!