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Miller Center to conduct oral history project on former Sec. of State Hillary Clinton

Scholars will interview Clinton’s colleagues, rivals, fellow international leaders and activists.

Hillary Clinton will sit for 20 interviews with the University's Miller Center, which will also interview over 70 of her colleagues and political opponents.
Hillary Clinton will sit for 20 interviews with the University's Miller Center, which will also interview over 70 of her colleagues and political opponents.

The University’s Miller Center of Public Affairs announced Thursday that it has begun an oral history project on former Sec. of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. The project will cover Clinton’s time as Secretary of State under the Obama administration.

Clinton will sit for 20 interviews and Miller Center scholars also plan to interview over 70 of Clinton’s colleagues and political opponents, activists, grassroots organizers and international leaders. According to Prof. Barbara Perry, Director of Presidential Studies and co-chair of the oral histories program at the Miller Center, interviews will begin in January and the project should be completed in two to three years.

A nonpartisan research center at the University established in 1975, the Miller Center has conducted over 660 interviews for its oral history projects on political figures including former presidents George H.W. Bush, George Bush, Jimmy Carter and former Sen. Edward Kennedy. Oral history projects aim to create a comprehensive historical record of political figures’ times in office, with contributing perspectives from those who worked closely with them.

The project is co-directed by Allida Black, distinguished visiting scholar and historian and adviser to Clinton, and Perry, who has previously conducted oral history projects on former Sen. Edward Kennedy, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush. 

Perry said that the Miller Center will focus on interviewing those who worked with Clinton on executing her policies and ideas, emphasizing her women, peace and security policy and use of smart power — the effective use of hard and soft power in foreign relations. 

“We’re going to be interviewing people from grassroots movements, all the way up to world leaders themselves: particularly women who led countries around the world,” Perry said. 

Each interview will last from a few hours up to two days and focus on different topics, such as women, peace and security and Clinton’s work with different countries.

Black has designed oral history programs in the past and established the Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project, examining the strengths and weaknesses of oral histories about Roosevelt. She initially brought forth the idea of completing an oral history project to Clinton in 2017. After talking with several other oral history programs across the country, Black said the Miller Center “seemed like the perfect match” to record and archive Clinton’s tenure as Secretary of State. 

“What we know about Hillary as Secretary of State has really been covered sporadically by the press,” Black said. “The real work that happened on the ground … is something that has not been examined, nor have we really looked at how she integrated women, peace, and security as an integral part of American foreign policy.”

Both Black and Perry noted that the Miller Center typically interviews the top officials in the presidential administration for presidential oral histories. Clinton’s project will uniquely include perspectives from international leaders, activists and Clinton’s rivals, along with those in the White House during the Obama administration.

“It is of monumental importance — not just in terms of Secretary Clinton’s work, but in terms of the diplomacy and foreign policy of the Obama administration, as well as the efforts that world leaders took to work with her… as well as folks on the ground,” Black said. “This is going to be used by students, by scholars, by diplomatic practitioners, by the heads of NGOs for generations to come.”

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