Orcas Crossroads Lecture Series

The Crossroads Lecture Series brings distinguished speakers to Orcas Island to share their expertise on timely and important issues.   Topics and speakers are carefully selected with input from the Crossroads Associates and other members of the community.  Important goals of the series are to provide the essential background for understanding different sides of complex issues and to encourage a lively exchange of ideas. (More about people and history on our About Us page.)

All lectures are Sundays, 4:00 p.m. at the Orcas Center with one exception this fall.

2014-15 LECTURES


Paul Roberts “The Impulse Society: America in the Age of Instant Gratification”
Sunday, March 29, 2015 4:00 pm, Orcas Center

The Impulse Society is an urgent, powerful story: how the pursuit of short-term self-gratification, once scorned as a sign of personal weakness became the default principle, not only for individuals, but for all sectors of our society money. Yet it is in this unease that journalist and author Paul Roberts finds clear signs of change—and broad revolt—as millions of Americans try to step off the self-defeating treadmill of gratification and restore a sense of balance.


Lisa Bergman “Classical Funny Bones: The Lighter Side of Classical Music”
Sunday, June 7, 2015 4:00 pm, Orcas Center

Classical music is serious stuff—or is it? Lisa Bergman , concert pianist, KING FM on-air announcer, arts administrator and passionate promoter of classical music turns things inside out with the innermost secrets of over five centuries of music. With a live performance and colorful anecdotes—from catgut strings to Mozart in the marketplace—an hilarious adventure behind the scenes awaits you.
This lecture is co-sponsored by the Orcas Island Chamber Music Festival.

Prof. Roger Roffman “Cannabis at the Crossroads: Exploring the Roads Ahead”
Sunday, September 21, 2014 4:00 pm, Orcas Center

Twenty-three states have said it’s medicine, two states have said it can be grown and sold for fun, and there seems to be a sea change happening in our country’s attitudes about pot. How did we get here and where are we headed? Professor Roffman will explore the opportunities and pitfalls that come with legalization. Professor Emeritus at the School of Social Work, University of Washington, Roffman latest book is Marijuana Nation, One Man’s Chronicle of
America Getting High: From Vietnam to Legalization.

September 21
at 4:00 pm.

Dr. Roffman will be signing copies of his book Marajuana Nation.
Copies available at Darvill’s Bookstore.

Prof. Leslie McCall “Economic Inequality: American Attitudes and Political Responses”
Sunday, October 5, 4:00 pm, Orcas Center

What are the policy implications of American’s concern about economic inequality? What is the connection politicians make between problems of inequality and problems of opportunity? How is inequality a civil rights issue? This presentation by Leslie McCall, Professor of Sociology and Political Science at Northwestern University will consider these relevant issues. She is author, most recently, of The Undeserving Rich: American Beliefs About Inequality, Opportunity, and Redistribution.
Dr. Melody Rose“Leader of the Free World? The Future of American Women in Politics”
Saturday, October 18, 4:00 pm, Orcas Center

Why has the U.S. not elected a woman to the Presidency? What are the hurdles and opportunities for women of either major party in reaching the nation’s highest office? With wit and wisdom, Dr. Rose, President of Marylhurst University and former Chancellor of the Oregon University System, unpacks the nuances of the American presidency, and reveals why we have yet to experience a female chief executive. Rose coauthored (with Regina Lawrence, 2010) Hillary Clinton’s Race for the White House. Her most recent book is Women & Executive Office.


Thank You Letter to the Orcas Community

Thanks to the Orcas community for supporting the Crossroads Lectures. We hope you will also enjoy the outstanding speakers for the upcoming season. In our first seven seasons, we have brought 50 speakers to an audience that has totaled about 5700.

Because we have deliberately kept the cost of a ticket at $10, our ticket sales cover only about half our costs. Donations from the Crossroads Associates and a small number of generous underwriters allow us to continue to offer complimentary tickets to students and those who would not otherwise attend, as well as to keep single tickets affordable.

Would you please consider becoming a Crossroads Associate? The cost is only a little more than season tickets for two, $250 annually, and it includes two season tickets. Crossroads Associates are invited to the major planning meetings (usually in December) where we brainstorm for relevant and intriguing topics to include in the following season. Input from Associates has been very helpful to the Committee, and the planning meeting is lively, interesting and enjoyable. Associates are also invited to the small, private receptions held for the speakers, which Associates may also host, allowing you to engage in intimate discussion with the speakers.

If you are inclined to support the series to an even greater extent than with an Associate membership, you are encouraged to consider underwriting a lecture with a $1,000 contribution. In any case, please send a check made out to CROSSROADS and mail to us at

We look forward to seeing you this season.

Bruce Buchanan
For the Orcas Crossroads Lecture Series Committee

We welcome your views.
Email your comments on any aspects of the Crossroads series.


2013-14 LECTURES

Prof. Ayanna Thompson “Othello in the 21st Century: To Perform or Not To Perform?” Friday, March 21, 2014, 7:30 pm, Orcas Center
Co-sponsored with the Chamber of Commerce .

Othello is the best-known black character in Shakespeare's plays, a traditional role of dignity for black actors. But racial stereotypes of the 17th century create some discomfort among 21st century audiences. This lecture, co-sponsored with the Shakespeare Festival, will explore historical and contemporary performances of the play in light of this discomfort.

Ayanna Thompson is Professor of English at George Washington University. She specializes in Renaissance drama and focuses on issues of race as/in performance. She is the author of Passing Strange: Shakespeare, Race, and Contemporary America (Oxford University Press, 2011) and Performing Race and Torture on the Early Modern Stage (Routledge, 2008), and she is the editor of Weyward Macbeth: Intersections of Race and Performance (Palgrave Macmillan, 2010) (co-edited with Scott Newstok) and Colorblind Shakespeare: New Perspectives on Race and Performance (Routledge, 2006). Professor Thompson is a Trustee of the Shakespeare Association of America.
Paul Gronke “Is Congress a "Broken Branch" or is America a "Broken Polity"?” Sunday April 13, 2014, 4:00 pm, Orcas Center

Is Congress a "broken branch" in need of institutional reform? Or is the real dysfunction in the broader American political system? Prof. Gronke's talk will reflect on Congress and the electorate, drawing on his thirty years as an observer of both, uncovering warts but also suggesting tough but effective medicine for the American political system.

Paul Gronke is Professor of Political Science at Reed College. He studies American politics and empirical political theory, with specialities in the U.S. Congress, elections and electoral behavior, and public opinion.
Gronke is the founder and Director of the Early Voting Information Center, where he and his team conduct research on early voting and election reform, predominantly in the United States.
He has published a book, The Electorate, The Campaign, and the Vote (Michigan University Press, 2000), as well as articles in many prestigious journals and edited volumes. At Reed, Gronke teaches courses on political behavior, political institutions, and social science research methods. He served as the chair of the Political Science Department from 2001 - 2009 (with a few breaks for leave).

Dr. Chris McKay "The Search for Life in Other Worlds, with an Update from the Mars Curiosity Rover" Sunday, May 18, 2014, 4:00 pm, Orcas Center

Do organic molecules exist on Mars? If so, are they of biological origin? Chris McKay, a Planetary Scientist with the Space Science Division of NASA Ames Research Center, will discuss the ongoing efforts to determine local habitability and share the latest reports from the Curiosity Rover, which has been operating on Mars since August 2012. Other Solar System worlds of keen interest include Saturn's moon Enceladus.

Dr.McKay received a Ph.D. in AstroGeophysics from the University of Colorado in 1982. His research focuses on the evolution of the solar system and the origin of life. He is actively involved in planning for future Mars missions including human exploration, and has been involved with polar and desert research, traveling to the Antarctic Dry Valleys, the Atacama Desert, the Arctic, and the Namib Desert to conduct research in these Mars-like environments. He has served as co-investigator on the 2005 Huygens probe to Titan, the 2008 Mars Phoenix Lander, and the current Mars Science Laboratory.

FALL 2013-14

Barbara Coombs Lee “Transforming Our Dying” Sunday September 22, 2013, 4:00 pm, Orcas Center

Barbara Coombs Lee is President of Compassion & Choices, a national organization improving care and expanding choice at life’s end. She was an author of Oregon’s Death with Dignity Act, campaigned for its passage and defended it from legal and political challenge. She calls on the Baby Boomer generation to challenge medicine’s death phobia, lead it away from end-of-life technological boondoggles and allow people to choose more graceful, responsible and life-affirming experiences. How can we take charge and control our own last chapters?
David Horsey “The Last Refuge of Scoundrels” Sunday October 20, 2013, 4:00 pm, Orcas Center

Two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist David Horsey shares his cartoons and opinions about the debilitating polarization of American politics in the age of Obama. His multi-media presentation will be drawn from his new book, “Refuge of Scoundrels,” which covers the last five raucous years of news events in the U.S. and the world. After a long career at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Horsey now works for the Los Angeles Times. His cartoons and columns are syndicated to more than 200 newspapers.
Patricia C. Kuszler “Obamacare: Fact, Fiction, Fury?” Sunday, November 17, 2013, 4:00 pm, Orcas Center

The Affordable Care Act (aka “Obamacare”) has generated continuing and ongoing debate since its passage in 2010. Professor Kuszler’s presentation reviews the provisions of Obamacare, discusses what it changes and what it does not change, debunks popular fictions, and delves into the fury surrounding the Act as it is being implemented. Patricia Kuszler, MD, JD, is the Charles I. Stone Professor of Law and Associate Dean for Academic Administration at the University of Washington School of Law. She is also Director of the Center for Law, Science and Global Health.


John Gottman & Julie Gottman “Making Love Last” Sunday March 10, 2013 2:00 pm Orcas CenterMark Your Calendars

Celebrated researchers and couples counselors, John Gottman PhD and Julie Gottman PhD, plumb the mysteries of love: Where does it come from? Why does some love last, and why does some fade? With a gift for translating scientific ideas into insightful and practical advice, the Gottmans share their research about love and what it takes to develop a trustful, intimate, and emotionally fulfilling bond.

Tim Walsh “Earthquake and Tsunami Risks in the San Juan Islands” Sunday April 7, 2013 2:00 pm Orcas Center

Every few hundred years or so, the Pacific Northwest experiences a tremendous Cascadia Earthquake. Geologist Tim Walsh of the Washington Division of Natural Resources will discuss risks of such an earthquake, and the resulting tsunami, in the San Juan Islands.
Greg Anderson “Why Save Vanishing Languages?” Wednesday May 1, 2013, 5:00 pm Emmanuel Episcopal Parish Hall

The global language extinction crisis stands out among the most widespread but still poorly known social issues of the 21st century. Anderson will contextualize the global language extinction crisis, its causes and consequences, and speak to the situation in the Pacific NW region. Many of the voices of our region have already fallen silent, but he will highlight steps underway to combat the crisis on the local level.

Sallie Tisdale “Questioning Charity: the pros & cons of international charity” Sunday May 12, 2013 2:00 pm Orcas Center

The international conversation about the effects of foreign aid and donation raises many serious questions: What do people need? What really works? How do we know we are doing good? Award-winning writer Sallie Tisdale will talk about the challenges and successes of international aid work, and recount her experiences volunteering in a village in Uganda, as featured in Harper’s magazine in 2012.

FALL 2012

Watch the Videos

Tom McCormick “Is Health Care a Right?” Sunday September 9, 2011 2:00 pm Orcas Center

Controversy surges over the question of whether health care is a right or a privilege. Dr. McCormick’s lecture will explore philosophical concepts of "rights" and "duties" and ethical principles that undergird our bid for a "just society." Conflicts arise from an almost unlimited demand for health care services against limited resources to pay for such. How do "social determinants" of health enter this picture?

Hedrick Smith "The Dream At Risk" Saturday September 22, 2012 5:00 pm Emmanuel Episcopal Parish Hall
View the video of
Pulitzer Prize winner Hedrick Smith’s new work, Who Stole the American Dream?, steps back from the partisan fever of the 2012 campaign to explain how we got to where we are today -- how America moved from an era of middle class prosperity and power, effective bipartisanship and grass roots activism to today’s polarized gridlock, unequal democracy and unequal economy that has unraveled the American Dream for millions of middle class families.


Daniel Kammen “Energizing the Low-Carbon Future” Sunday October 7, 2012 2:00 pm Orcas Center

View the video of
Dr. Kammen will explore innovations in and barriers to building renewable energy systems worldwide, from villages to large regional economies, focusing on tools already available and others needed to battle for a sustainable planet. Dr. Kammen is Professor in the Energy and Resources Group and in the Goldman School of Public Policy at UC Berkeley, where he founded and directs the Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory.

Claudia Kawas "Lessons from the Oldest Old: the 90+ Study" Sunday November 4, 2012 2:00 pm Orcas Center

View the video of
Claudia Kawas, MD, oversees “The 90+ Study”, initiated in 2003 at the University of California, Irvine, to study the oldest-old, the fastest growing age group in the United States. She will share major findings of the ongoing study -- factors associated with longevity -- What makes people live to age 90 and beyond? What types of food, activities or lifestyles are associated with living longer? What are ways to remain dementia-free in your 90’s?

2011-12 Season

Sunday, September 18, 2011,  2:00 pm

Nancy Ellen Abrams and Joel R. Primack

The New Universe and the Human Future

Modern cosmology gives us a completely new picture of the universe based on dark matter, dark energy, and the drama of cosmic evolution.  Abrams and Primack will explain the new picture with stunning astronomical videos and relate it to life here on Earth, suggesting ways of understanding the global issues of our time in their cosmic context.


Sunday, October 9, 2:00 PM

Dmitry Orlov

The Fall of the American Empire

Dmitry Orlov was an eyewitness to the dissolution of the Soviet Union. His book Reinventing Collapse outlines clearly how we are manifesting five stages of collapse in the United States: financial, commercial, political, social, and cultural.  He suggests that by examining maladaptive parts of our common cultural baggage, we can survive, thrive, and discover more meaningful and fulfilling lives, in spite of steadily deteriorating circumstances for the US.


Saturday, October 29, 7:30 PM

Steve Olson

Mapping Human History: Discovering the Past Through Our Genes

Olson masterfully describes a profound insight gleaned from the Human Genome Project:  the remarkable unity of the human species at the genetic level.

Using the genetic differences found in people today to reconstruct the last 150,000 years of human history and reveal the biological roots of our similarities and differences, this lecture offers new ways of thinking about race, ethnicity, ancestry, and language.


Sunday, February 26, 2012, 2:00 PM
Nancy K. RivenburghThe Future of News Reporting Worldwide



Sunday, March 18, 2:00 PM, Orcas Center
Stephen Kobrin
Books and Bits: The Future of PublishingThe digital revolution changes the way information is encoded and transmitted, dramatically affecting what a book is, how books are published and how readers acquire them. Digital communications and the internet create the possibility of more direct human interactions with the material.Professor Kobrin will talk about the current situation and speculate about the future of both publishing and book distribution. Some of the questions he will address include:• Is a new relationship evolving between authors and their readers as a result of the rise of the internet and the digital revolution? Publishers have traditionally intermediated that relationship, but will they continue to do so?• With the rising importance of web-based retailers for books (both electronic and print) and the lessened availability of bricks and mortar bookstores, it is increasingly difficult for readers to browse physical books. How will readers discover books in the digital world and how will they evaluate their quality once they do?• Will the traditional bookstore survive in the face of web-based competition?• Will ebooks replace print books? More reasonably, what will be the niche for each in the future?Professor Kobrin is the William H. Wurster Professor of Multinational Management at the University of Pennsylvania Wharton School of Business. Since 2008 he has been the Publisher and Executive Director of the Wharton Digital Press. He is a book lover himself but has been charged with negotiating the issues faced by the Wharton School Press with publishing in the age of the information revolution.


Sunday, April 1, 2:00 PM, Orcas Center
David Skover
The First Amendment and the Internet:  Current Dilemmas



The non-profit Orcas Crossroads Lecture Series is operated by a group of volunteers with financial support from Crossroads Associates, the Daniel and Margaret Carper Foundation, and Individual Contributors.  About half the cost of the series is offset by ticket sales. Join Crossroads supporters, and find more information, at www.orcascrossroads.org. (See Information About Us for more about Crossroads people and history.)

Ticket Information

Tickets are available through this website and at Darvill's Book Store.

  • Crossroads Associates receive two season tickets; find more information on the benefits of joining the Associates and consider supporting the series in this way.
  • Season tickets for all lectures are $50; for the three lectures in the spring they are $25.  They may be purchased at Darvill's Bookstore, or pay now with PayPal.
  • Individual tickets may be purchased in advance at Darvill's Bookstore for $10, or pay now with PayPal and pick up tickets at the door. Remaining tickets will be sold at the door.
  • Through the generosity of the Crossroads Associates, a limited number of complimentary tickets are made available in advance at the Senior Center or ten minutes before each lecture at the door.
  • We also welcome Underwriters for individual lectures. A $1000 donation covers close to half the cost of one lecture and helps us bring nationally known experts to Orcas. Pay through PayPal to support the series in this way.

Request more information about underwriting by sending your name and phone number so we can call you.

Editors' Picks of Books

One example of a book by one of our popular speakers, available from Darvills on Orcas Island or from Amazon if not local.  (Click on the book cover to go to Amazon.)

Flotsametrics And The Floating World