Commonwealth Club honors distinguished citizens 

Brian Riley, the managing director of Merrill Lynch San Francisco, is the co-chair of the Commonwealth Club Distinguished Awards Dinner on Thursday.

What is the Distinguished Awards Dinner? It is our 22nd annual, put on by the Commonwealth Club, that honors distinguished citizens in the community. This year’s dinner, we are really trying to recognize what’s great about California, which is the theme of the dinner.

Why is California such a wonderful place to live? For me, the Bay Area is a perfect combination of city living you’ll find on the East Coast and the recreation lifestyle you can only find on the West Coast.

Who are this year’s winners and how did you chose them? Oscar-winning director and writer Brad Bird of Pixar Animation Studios; founder and chairman of the board of O’Neill Wetsuits, Jack O’Neill; former U.S. Secretary of State the Honorable George P. Shultz and his wife, California and San Francisco Chief of Protocol Charlotte Mailliard Shultz. It’s sort of a nomination process. They are all done at the request of the individual.

What is the Commonwealth Club? It is the oldest forum in the United States. People who come and speak are not paid and not publicized, but the forum is ... the embodiment of American free speech.

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