It was the vision of the late Dean Lesher that Walnut Creek be the cultural hub of the East Bay Area. In addition to quality arts and cultural programming, it was his vision that the Lesher Center for the Arts serve as a center of public discourse. He was deeply influenced by the Chautauqua series of lectures and his hope was to one day have a series in Walnut Creek.

In 2004, in partnership with the Contra Costa Times (which Lesher once owned), KGO AM 810 Radio, KTVU (FOX) Channel 2, the East Bay Leadership Council, and the Diablo Regional Arts Association, the Dean and Margaret Lesher Foundation set out to make Dean Lesher’s dream a reality. The Lesher Foundation made a $1 million grant to underwrite speaker fees for a 5 year series, and the media outlets made generous donations of advertising. Sold as a subscription package, the first NEWSMAKERS series of 6 lectures sold out in days. All subsequent seasons have sold out in a matter of hours.

Since, the Lesher Foundation renewed its $1million five-year grant to underwrite production costs of NEWSMAKERS.  Contra Costa Newspapers, KTVU FOX 2, and KGO Newstalk AM 810 each committed donations of advertising and creative services for the series. 

Each year, speakers are selected from the fields of politics, international affairs, journalism, sports and entertainment to present a broad array of engaging topics.  The selections are made by a committee of representatives of each partner.

In addition to promoting public discourse, it is the goal of NEWSMAKERS: Lesher Speaker Series to promote the East Bay’s non-profit community. For each lecture, a non-profit is selected as a partner. Twenty tickets are donated to the non-profit to leverage for fundraising, or reward their staff and supporters. On several occasions, the speakers themselves have donated their time to a private reception for the non-profit. Additionally, KTVU Channel 2 has generously donated their services to produce a video highlighting each non-profit and their accomplishments, which is screened for the NEWSMAKERS audience and also donated to the nonprofit.

Unlike other speaker series, NEWSMAKERS is a non-profit program. Ticket sales alone cannot fund the costs of producing the programs. The support of the Lesher Foundation enables the series to exist.

It is our hope that NEWSMAKERS will spark debate and inspire; provoke as well as entertain. All points of view are sought and diversity of topics is a priority. We hope you will become part of the discourse and join us for Season 10!



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