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 Progressive Forum opened its first spring season in 2006 with Jared Diamond, Seymour Hersh, and Molly Ivins. Al Gore appeared on June 7 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 stepped away from The Progressive Forum to move on to other projects.
After a hiatus of three and a half years, Randall Morton relaunched The Progressive Forum with an event featuring Anthony Romero, executive director of the ALCU, on November 6, 2017; climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe on April 19, 2018; and the 68th Secretary of State, John Kerry, on September 29, 2018.
When it premiered in 2005, The Progressive Forum became America's only civic speaker organization expressly dedicated to progressive values. The Progressive Forum 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, The Progressive Forum provided the national book launch for Lester Brown's autobiography, Breaking New Ground. The Progressive Forum 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. The Progressive Forum 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, The Progressive Forum became the first city-based speaker organization featuring comprehensive website pages with event videos on past speakers for worldwide consumption. In 2021, The Progressive Forum added free worldwide livestreams and may be the largest city-based lecture series with both livestream and inperson audiences.
The Progressive Forum, Houston, is America’s only expressly progressive lecture series. It’s dedicated to enriching our democracy and culture by presenting the great minds it believes 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.
Founder's Biographical Sketch
Randall Morton founded The Progressive Forum in 2005 and produced 48 events in nine years before closing The Progressive Forum in 2014 and relaunching it in the fall of 2017. He co-founded 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 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 was also a starter on Georgetown’s rugby team and the Tulsa Rugby Club. 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 is a licensed private pilot and an enrolled member of the Osage Indian tribe of Oklahoma. He is a member of a working group at Rice University’s Baker Institute Center for Energy Studies. He’s the proud father of two grown children and likes to think he’s a pretty good cook.
The Progressive Forum
Randall R. Morton, president, founder
Merrisa Milliner, marketing
BEND Productions, videographer
Karen Mata, event manager
Sonia Hamer, assistant event manager
Board of Directors
Aziz Shaibani, MD
Stefania Tomaskovic, PhD
David Sterling, of counsel