The Progressive Forum premiered on June 13, 2005, with Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and Houston Mayor Bill White at The Hobby Center, Sarofim Hall, in a program called, “Our Environmental Challenges.” The year before, in June 2004, founder Randall Morton saw Robert Kennedy on Larry King Live and called one of Houston’s fine speaker organizations and suggested they present Kennedy but nothing came of it. Dismayed about national trends after the elections of November 2004, he called Kennedy’s representatives who were responsive to Kennedy appearing at a new speaker series. Morton had experience creating and hosting another speaker series which became the largest in the oil industry, The Oilfield Breakfast Forum. He also had 32 years of marketing experience operating his own advertising and public relations agency, Randall Morton International, Inc. The success of the Kennedy-White event demonstrated that The Progressive Forum had a viable business model. Six months later, the Forum opened its first spring season in 2006 with Jared Diamond, Seymour Hersh, and Molly Ivins. Al Gore appeared June 7th in a sell-out event launching An Inconvenient Truth at The Progressive Forum, his first U.S. book event for that title. That first year, The Progressive Forum presented seven events which also included George Soros, Edward O. Wilson, and Frank Rich in the fall.
The Progressive Forum produced a special closing event on April 21, 2014, to focus on the most important issue for the success of life, climate change, featuring Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org. After producing 48 events over nine years, founder Randall Morton retired from TPF to move on to other projects. As a legacy gift to the community, TPF left a website with timeless wisdom, featuring a comprehensive page on all past speakers with videos, biographical sketches, reading lists, and news updates.
When it premiered in 2005, The Progressive Forum became America's only civic speaker organization expressly dedicated to progressive values. TPF produced the national book launches for Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth, climatologist James Hansen's Storms of My Grandchildren, and Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor's My Beloved World, which was broadcast to a national television audience on C-Span Book-TV. In the fall of 2013, TPF provided the national book launch for Lester Brown's autobiography, Breaking New Ground. TPF provided the film premiere of Fighting Goliath: Texas Coal Wars, introduced by Robert Redford who commissioned and narrated the documentary. Gloria Steinem celebrated the 30th anniversary of the historic National Women's Conference held in Houston. TPF presented U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi as well as two Supreme Court Justices, John Paul Stevens and Sonia Sotomayor. In the fall of 2012, TPF became the first city-based speaker organization featuring comprehensive website pages and event videos of its past speakers, reaching a worldwide audience.
The Progressive Forum, Houston, is a civic speaker organization dedicated to enriching our democracy and culture by presenting the great minds we believe are advancing the success of the individual, our species, and life on the planet, great minds from all the fields of human endeavor, the sciences and humanities as well as politics and public affairs. Our progressive viewpoint is rooted in mainstream constitutional, enlightenment, and egalitarian values that need continual affirmation. The Progressive Forum originated a new model for civic speaker organizations in Houston to create larger audiences and a higher quality experience by providing an evening theater event compared to traditional hotel luncheons.
Founder's Biographical Sketch
Randall Morton founded The Progressive Forum in 2005 and produced 48 events in nine years, closing TPF in 2014. He co-created and co-hosted The Oilfield Breakfast Forum for nine years which continues as the largest speaker series in the petroleum industry. He operated Randall Morton International, Inc. for over 32 years, an independent market communication, advertising, and public relations agency primarily serving the leading oil equipment companies in the U.S., Japan, Mexico, and Europe. He was a member of the board and management committee of the predecessor to Grant Prideco, the largest manufacturer of drill pipe, later absorbed by National Oilwell Varco. He served as an issue writer for the Democratic National Committee while earning a degree in government from Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. At Georgetown, he was ranked third nationally as a pass receiver in nonscholarship football on a team ranked sixth nationally. He earned a second degree from Tulsa University in communications, and a year later, served TU as an adjunct professor in advertising design and copy writing. He has two grown children.
The Progressive Forum
Randall R. Morton, president
Former Team Members
Blue Willow Bookshop, event book sales
Bomar Design, graphic design, event program, web site design
CJ Martin, photography
ClicknPrint Tickets, box office services
Elaine's Florist and Gift Baskets
Gotham Image Works, videography
Humankind, search engine optimization consultant
Lancaster Hotel, hospitality
Michelle Wicmandy, digital marketing consultant
Speedy Printing, programs, book plates, fund letters, signage
Wortham Center, venue
Former Board Directors
Former Advisory Directors
Catherine D. Anspon
Rebecca Perring Tapik