Oral history center to interview outgoing Gov. Jerry Brown

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UC Berkeley alumnus and outgoing California governor Jerry Brown is set to participate in Bancroft Library’s oral history project along with help from partner KQED.

The Oral History Center, or OHC, was established in the Bancroft Library in 1954 by Hubert Howe Bancroft, according to the OHC website. Gov. Jerry Brown’s interview is expected to touch on topics including his experience as California governor and his time as secretary of state, among other themes.

“(The interview is) a big deal in a couple of ways: The governor doesn’t give a lot of interviews, and … he’s sitting down for over 30 hours … in which there are no restrictions,” said Martin Meeker, director of the OHC. “There’s no limitations on the topics that we can cover.”

The OHC conducts interviews with themes ranging from science and business to politics and arts, among others. The goal of the interviews are to elicit from each interviewee “a full and accurate account of the events central to their lives and to the broader world,” the OHC website states.

Meeker will be working on the project with KQED senior editor for politics and government Scott Shafer and OHC historian Todd Holmes. The interviews are planned to begin toward the end of this year, according to an article by KQED.

They are beginning to outline the different themes and questions they want to focus on during the interview, Meeker said.

Shafer stated that the decision to ask Gov. Brown to contribute to the project seemed like an obvious choice.

Shafer continued to say he is excited to hear Gov. Brown’s reflections on his two governorships, especially on how Gov. Brown believes the role of governor changed him and how he changed California.

“In some ways, I think I’ll be getting a history lesson from a very interesting professor,” Shafer said.

Shafer said the interview process will accommodate the governor’s schedule. Whether it will be on UC Berkeley’s campus, in Gov. Brown’s office or on his Colusa County ranch, Shafer said he is unsure. Meeker estimates the interview could take place sometime during 2019 .

Though most Berkeley students haven’t heard about the OHC project, Shafer said oral history provides an aspect to the interview that any written material cannot produce: emotion. Meeker added that oral history provides material that historians and radio producers use to create their own interpretations of the past.

“I cannot imagine a better partnership — Bancroft’s esteemed Oral History Center and KQED’s leading California politics journalist — to help capture in his own words the history that Jerry Brown has lived and shaped,” associate professor in the campus department of history Mark Brilliant said in an email.

Contact Julie Madsen at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @Julie_Madsen_.