Every April, as the school year is fast coming to a close, the Oral History Center hosts its very own commencement ceremony. For seven years running, we have produced this event to celebrate the oral history class of that year — meaning we thank and honor those people whose interviews were completed in the previous year. The Oral History Class of 2019 numbered some 111 individuals who participated in a number of oral history projects ranging from environmental regulation and wine growing to philanthropy and scientific discovery to opera and an army base.
This very special event gives us an opportunity to reflect on what we do — the meaning of oral history to us, to our narrators, and to the community at large. This year we were thinking about how oral histories “make history” in several ways: The interviews, once recorded and made available to the public, provide the raw material that is then used for the making of historical narratives by historians, journalists, students, you name it; the interviews offer historical narratives and analysis on their own, and thus they are one account of history, maybe the best first draft of history; and, perhaps most importantly, those we interview have already made history by living their lives — by building corporations, participating in social movements, creating works of art, running for political office, serving in the military, mentoring students . . . by making wine! History happens — and has happened — but through the work of the Oral History Center, and the generous and essential contributions of our narrators, history is made.
In advance of the event, I asked my colleagues for some examples of moments from their interviews when history was made — when something was told that seemed new to the historical record or in some way demanded a rethinking of it; when a narrator provided an account of a previously unrecognized contribution made — really any example of when history was made.
Amanda Tewes, in her first interview for the center, interviewed Jeanne Rose, who joined us the for event, which was held on this year on Thursday, April 25. Jeanne is a remarkable woman who, in her interview, provided deep insight into something that most people think they know well: the 1960s counterculture. In her telling, we learn of a loose-knit group who were the first 100 to populate the Haight-Ashbury, their deep connections to Big Sur, and how they began to change history with the “Summer of Love” in 1967. We further learn that 60s counterculture didn’t die at the infamous and bloody Altamont concert (which she attended) as the majority of her interview covers the 1970s and beyond when she became an influential herbalist and aromatherapist. With Jeanne Rose, the ideals and the spirit of the 60s live on. Jeanne Rose made history.
Todd Holmes, a historian with the Center since 2016, has created a remarkable project documenting the origins of the academic field of Chicano/a Studies, and for this he interviewed Ed Escobar, an Arizona State professor. In his oral history, Escobar tells how he pioneered some of the earliest Latino history courses — out of necessity because there were none. Teaching on the East Coast and then the midwest he learned that the Mexican American experience did not resonate like it did in California. But the Cuban, Puerto Rican, Dominican did. So he put together one of the first Latino history classes on those regions, expanding the definition of Latino and Latino studies in the process. Ed Escobar made history.
We have been fortunate to partner with the East Bay Regional Park District for a few years now and we’ve done a few dozen interviews already — covering many different topics from ranching to public education. Shanna Farrell, who is the project director and lead interviewer, shared with me a moment in her interview with Lawson Sakai. Sakai’s parents were from Japan, so in World War II, his family left the mandated West Coast exclusion area to avoid internment, ultimately settling in Colorado. They returned to California and to farming after the war, but with no money and an unwelcoming attitude of locals, this wasn’t easy. Enter Driscoll Farms, which is a larger grower of fruits today. Immediately after the war, they offered the returning Japanese-Americans a good deal, which included a 50/50 split on profits from the strawberry harvest. According to Sakai, this helped many families back on their feet after the war, allowing them to earn enough money to buy their own farms and thus independence. Shanna said, “I scoured my food history books and didn’t find any information about this. I felt like I had stumbled upon a hidden historical gem.” Lawson Sakai made history.
This past year we renewed our long-running partnership with the Sierra Club to document the organization’s history, and Roger Eardley-Pryor conducted two interviews this year, one with former president Michele Perrault. Roger recalled for me how this interview provides a unique and personal window into the international dimensions of environmentalism. Perrault told stories of traveling to the Soviet Union, China, and India in the early 1990s where she and her colleagues networked with proto-environmental groups, teaching them how to organize and what the key issues were. Their work resulted in, among other things, the creation of some of the first nature preserves in those countries and the establishment of the robust network that is in place today. Michele Perrault made history.
In the coming weeks and months, we will release the oral histories that are not already posted online. This past year we conducted at least 500 hours of new interviews and we are deeply grateful for the support of numerous individuals and institutions for making this work possible. Soon we will begin to post the names of these sponsors on our website so you can thank them too. In the meantime, enjoy the photos and our video from the commencement, highlighting interviews from the Oral History Center Class of 2019.
Our 10-minute video features highlights from the interviews of all of the narrators who were able to attend commencement, plus some bonus interviews. Our remarkable narrators share their insights about nature, science, art, the university, wine making, and more.
Martin Meeker, Charles B. Faulhaber Director, Oral History Center, UC Berkeley
Herb Sandler and Marion Osher Sandler formed one of the most remarkable partnerships in the histories of American business and philanthropy—and, if their friends and associates would have a say in things, in the living memory of marriage writ large. This oral history project documents the lives of Herb and Marion Sandler through their shared pursuits in raising a family, serving as co-CEOs for the savings and loan Golden West Financial, and establishing a remarkably influential philanthropy in the Sandler Foundation. This project consists of eighteen unique oral history interviews, at the center of which is a 24-hour life history interview with Herb Sandler.
Marion Osher Sandler was born October 17, 1930, in Biddeford, Maine, to Samuel and Leah Osher. She was the youngest of five children; all of her siblings were brothers and all went on to distinguished careers in medicine and business. She attended Wellesley as an undergraduate where she was elected into Phi Beta Kappa. Her first postgraduate job was as an assistant buyer with Bloomingdale’s in Manhattan, but she left in pursuit of more lofty goals. She took a job on Wall Street, in the process becoming only the second woman on Wall Street to hold a non-clerical position. She started with Dominick & Dominick in its executive training program and then moved to Oppenheimer and Company where she worked as a highly respected analyst. While building an impressive career on Wall Street, she earned her MBA at New York University.
Herb Sandler was born on November 16, 1931 in New York City. He was the second of two children and remained very close to his brother, Leonard, throughout his life. He grew up in subsidized housing in Manhattan’s Lower East Side neighborhood of Two Bridges. Both his father and brother were attorneys (and both were judges too), so after graduating from City College, he went for his law degree at Columbia. He practiced law both in private practice and for the Waterfront Commission of New York Harbor where he worked on organized crime cases. While still living with his parents at Knickerbocker Village, he engaged in community development work with the local settlement house network, Two Bridges Neighborhood Council. At Two Bridges he was exposed to the work of Episcopal Bishop Bill Wendt, who inspired his burgeoning commitment to social justice.
Given their long and successful careers in business, philanthropy, and marriage, Herb and Marion’s story of how they met has taken on somewhat mythic proportions. Many people interviewed for this project tell the story. Even if the facts don’t all align in these stories, one central feature is shared by all: Marion was a force of nature, self-confident, smart, and, in Herb’s words, “sweet, without pretentions.” Herb, however, always thought of himself as unremarkable, just one of the guys. So when he first met Marion, he wasn’t prepared for this special woman to be actually interested in dating him. The courtship happened reasonably quickly despite some personal issues that needed to be addressed (which Herb discusses in his interview) and introducing one another to their respective families (but, as Herb notes, not to seek approval!).
Within a few years of marriage, Marion was bumping up against the glass ceiling on Wall Street, recognizing that she would not be making partner status any time soon. While working as an analyst, however, she learned that great opportunity for profit existed in the savings and loan sector, which was filled with bloat and inefficiency as well as lack of financial sophistication and incompetence among the executives. They decided to find an investment opportunity in California and, with the help of Marion’s brothers (especially Barney Osher), purchased a tiny two-branch thrift in Oakland, California: Golden West Savings and Loan.
Golden West—which later operated under the retail brand of World Savings—grew by leaps and bounds, in part through acquisition of many regional thrifts and in part through astute research leading to organic expansion into new geographic areas. The remarkable history of Golden West is revealed in great detail in many of the interviews in this project, but most particularly in the interviews with Herb Sandler, Steve Daetz, Russ Kettell, and Mike Roster, all of whom worked at the institution. The savings and loan was marked by key attributes during the forty-three years in which it was run by the Sandlers. Perhaps most important among these is the fact that over that period of time the company was profitable all but two years. This is even more remarkable when considering just how volatile banking was in that era, for there were liquidity crises, deregulation schemes, skyrocketing interest rates, financial recessions, housing recessions, and the savings and loan crisis of the 1980s, in which the entire sector was nearly obliterated through risky or foolish decisions made by Congress, regulators, and managements. Through all of this, however, Golden West delivered consistent returns to their investors. Indeed, the average annual growth in earnings per share over 40 years was 19 percent, a figure that made Golden West second only to Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway, and the second best record in American corporate history.
Golden West is also remembered for making loans to communities that had been subject to racially and economically restrictive redlining practices. Thus, the Sandlers played a role in opening up the dream of home ownership to more Americans. In the offices too, Herb and Marion made a point of opening positions to women, such as branch manager and loan officer, previously held only by men. And, by the mid-1990s, Golden West began appointing more women and people of color to its board of directors, which already was presided over by Marion Sandler, one of the longest-serving female CEOs of a major company in American history. The Sandlers sold Golden West to Wachovia in 2006. The interviews tell the story of the sale, but at least one major reason for the decision was the fact that the Sandlers were spending a greater percentage of their time in philanthropic work.
One of the first real forays by the Sandlers into philanthropic work came in the wake of the passing of Herb’s brother Leonard in 1988. Herb recalls his brother with great respect and fondness and the historical record shows him to be a just and principled attorney and jurist. Leonard was dedicated to human rights, so after his passing, the Sandlers created a fellowship in his honor at Human Rights Watch. After this, the Sandlers giving grew rapidly in their areas of greatest interest: human rights, civil rights, and medical research. They stepped up to become major donors to Human Rights Watch and, after the arrival of Anthony Romero in 2001, to the American Civil Liberties Union.
The Sandlers’ sponsorship of medical research demonstrates their unique, creative, entrepreneurial, and sometimes controversial approach to philanthropic work. With the American Asthma Foundation, which they founded, the goal was to disrupt existing research patterns and to interest scientists beyond the narrow confines of pulmonology to investigate the disease and to produce new basic research about it. Check out the interview with Bill Seaman for more on this initiative. The Program for Breakthrough Biomedical Research at the University of California, San Francisco likewise seeks out highly-qualified researchers who are willing to engage in high-risk research projects. The interview with program director Keith Yamamoto highlights the impacts and the future promise of the research supported by the Sandlers. The Sandler Fellows program at UCSF selects recent graduate school graduates of unusual promise and provides them with a great deal of independence to pursue their own research agenda, rather than serve as assistants in established labs. Joe DeRisi was one of the first Sandler Fellows and, in his interview, he describes the remarkable work he has accomplished while at UCSF as a fellow and, now, as faculty member who heads his own esteemed lab.
The list of projects, programs, and agencies either supported or started by the Sandlers runs too long to list here, but at least two are worth mentioning for these endeavors have produced impacts wide and far: the Center for American Progress and ProPublica. The Center for American Progress had its origins in Herb Sandler’s recognition that there was a need for a liberal policy think tank that could compete in the marketplace of ideas with groups such as the conservative Heritage Foundation and the American Enterprise Institute. The Sandlers researched existing groups and met with many well-connected and highly capable individuals until they forged a partnership with John Podesta, who had served as chief of staff under President Bill Clinton. The Center for American Progress has since grown by leaps and bounds and is now recognized for being just what it set out to be.
The same is also true with ProPublica. The Sandlers had noticed the decline of traditional print journalism in the wake of the internet and lamented what this meant for the state of investigative journalism, which typically requires a meaningful investment of time and money. After spending much time doing due diligence—another Sandler hallmark—and meeting with key players, including Paul Steiger of the Wall Street Journal, they took the leap and established a not-for-profit investigative journalism outfit, which they named ProPublica. ProPublica not only has won several Pulitzer Prizes, it has played a critical role in supporting our democratic institutions by holding leaders accountable to the public. Moreover, the Sandler Foundation is now a minority sponsor of the work of ProPublica, meaning that others have recognized the value of this organization and stepped forward to ensure its continued success. Herb Sandler’s interview as well as several other interviews describe many of the other initiatives created and/or supported by the foundation, including: the Center for Responsible Lending, Oceana, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Learning Policy Institute, and more.
Herb and Marion Sandler also played key roles in the formation and funding of two important research centers here on the UC Berkeley campus which have a global reach: the Berkeley Center for Equitable Growth (CEG) and the Human Rights Center. The CEG is directed by economist Emmanual Saez and has supported the influential work of Thomas Piketty which looks at methods for reducing wealth and income disparities around the globe. The Human Rights Center has for the past 25 years investigated and shed light upon human rights abuses around the globe.
A few interviewees shared the idea that when it comes to Herb and Marion Sandler there are actually three people involved: Marion Sandler, Herb Sandler, and “Herb and Marion.” The later creation is a kind of mind-meld between the two which was capable of expressing opinions, making decisions, and forging a united front in the ambitious projects that they accomplished. I think this makes great sense because I find it difficult to fathom that two individuals alone could do what they did. Because Marion Sandler passed away in 2012, I was not able to interview her, but I am confident in my belief that a very large part of her survives in Herb’s love of “Herb and Marion,” which he summons when it is time to make important decisions. And let us not forget that in the midst of all of this work they raised two accomplished children, each of whom make important contributions to the foundation and beyond. Moreover, the Sandlers have developed many meaningful friendships (see the interviews with Tom Laqueur and Ronnie Caplane), some of which have spanned the decades.
The eighteen interviews of the Herb and Marion Sandler oral history project, then, are several projects in one. It is a personal, life history of a remarkable woman and her mate and life partner; it is a substantive history of banking and of the fate of the savings and loan institution in the United States; and it is an examination of the current world of high-stakes philanthropy in our country at a time when the desire to do good has never been more needed and the importance of doing that job skillfully never more necessary.
Martin Meeker, Charles B. Faulhaber Director, Oral History Center, UC Berkeley
List of Interviews of the Marion and Herbert Sandler Oral History Project
Captured in part through the Oral History Center’s interview of Sickler, the labor activist’s winning personality and creative intelligence is evident throughout all the essays.
By Lisa Rubens, Oral History Center Historian and Academic Specialist, Emerita
At 19 David Sickler, with ambitions to run his own horse ranch, went to work for Coors Brewing Company. It was the best-paying job he could find in his hometown of Golden, Colorado. But the working conditions there were so deplorable, the control William and Joseph Coors had over the lives of their workers so complete—and as Dave would learn over the government of Colorado and some of the most powerful right-wing institutions in the nation—that David committed himself to the labor movement, first as a union shop steward and then as head of the Brewery Workers Local 336. He led a strike against Coors in l977 and organized a national boycott of the beer that lasted ten years. This catapulted him into the leadership of the AFL-CIO and some of the most critical labor struggles from the l970s through his retirement in 2015.
Newly published by UCLA’s Center for Labor Research and Education, From Coors to California: David Sickler and The New Working Class is a collection of six essays written by scholars and labor activists that focus on key industries and constituencies Sickler targeted and the strategies he employed during his nearly fifty year career as a labor organizer and leader. The book is based substantially on an oral history that I conducted for the Oral History Center in 2014: David Sickler: A Lifetime as Labor Organizer, AFL-CIO Leader and Champion of Immigrant Workers.
An essay on the Coors strike discusses how Sickler became close friends with the San Francisco gay-rights activist Howard Wallace, having determined that gay bars in the City—and Latinx communities in Los Angeles—had the highest consumption of Coors beer in the country. They were able to stop the sale of Coors in most bars and kept distributors from handling Coors—a strategy replicated throughout the country. Another essay on immigrant worker organizing shows how Sickler brought those who most trade unions considered threats to their movement, and who had been excluded, into unions and ultimately into the political mainstream of California. This took a lot of commitment, courage, and finesse. A new generation of Latinx leaders emerged from campaigns against California’s rabid anti-immigrant and labor Propositions l87 and 226. When longtime labor activist and California state assemblyman Antonio Villaraigosa was elected mayor of Los Angeles in 2005—the first Latino mayor—he appointed Sickler as his senior labor advisor and commissioner for the powerful public works department. Other essays examine the role Sickler played coordinating political strategies of various unions and establishing labor think tanks and educational programs.
Sickler’s winning personality and creative intelligence is evident throughout all the essays. The book will serve as a case study for labor organizing: already at book parties held at several labor centers around the country, a separate session has been convened for union representatives. There is also a useful bibliography and photographs that chronicle the narratives. As William Coors often repeated, one of the biggest mistakes he made was hiring David Sickler. As the oral history and this new book demonstrate, David Sickler was the better for it and so has been the history of the labor movement and social justice.
For an office that does not offer catalog-listed courses, the Oral History Center is still deeply invested in — and engaged with — the teaching mission of the university.
For over 15 years, our signature educational program has been our annual Advanced Oral History Summer Institute. Started by OHC interviewer emeritus Lisa Rubens in 2002 and now headed up by staff historian Shanna Farrell, this week-long seminar attracts about 40 scholars every year. Past attendees have come from most states in the union and internationally too — from Ireland and South Korea, Argentina and Japan, Australia and Finland. The Summer Institute, applications for which are now being accepted, follows the life cycle of the interview, with individual days devoted to topics such as “Project Planning” and “Analysis and Interpretation.”
In 2015 we launched the Introduction to Oral History Workshop, which was created with the novice oral historian in mind, or individuals who simply wanted to learn a bit more about the methodology but didn’t necessarily have a big project to undertake. Since then, a diverse group of undergraduate students, attorneys, authors, psychologists, genealogists, park rangers, and more have attended the annual workshop. This year’s workshop will be held on Saturday February 3rd and registration is now open.
In addition to these formal, regularly scheduled events, OHC historians and staff often speak to community organizations, local historical societies, student groups, and undergraduate and graduate research seminars. If you’d like to learn more about what we do at the Center and about oral history in general, please drop us a note!
In recent years we have had the opportunity to work closely with a small group of Berkeley undergrads: our student employees. Although the Center has employed students for many decades, only in the past few years have they come to play such an integral role in and make such important contributions to our core activities. Students assist with the production of transcripts, including entering narrator corrections and writing tables of contents; they work alongside David Dunham, our lead technologist, in creating metadata for interviews and editing oral history audio and video; and they partner with interviewers to conduct background research into our narrators and the topics we interview them about. With these contributions, students have helped the Center in very real, measurable ways, most importantly by enabling an increase in productivity: the past few years have been some of the most productive in terms of hours of interviews conducted in the Center’s history. We also like to think that by providing students with intellectually challenging, real-world assignments, we are contributing to their overall educational experience too.
As 2017 draws to a close, I join my Oral History Center colleagues Paul Burnett, David Dunham, Shanna Farrell, and Todd Holmes in thanking our amazing student employees: Aamna Haq, Carla Palassian, Hailie O’Bryan, Maggie Deng (who wrote her first contribution to our newsletter this issue), Nidah Khalid, Pilar Montenegro, Vincent Tran, and Marisa Uribe!
Martin Meeker, Charles B. Faulhaber Director of the Oral History Center
Now available online, an oral history with Patricia Greene: Recombinant DNA Technology in Herb Boyer’s UCSF Lab in the 1970s. Interviewed by Sally Smith Hughes in 2006, this interview in the series on bioscience and biotechnology in Northern California documents Greene’s contributions in the Boyer lab to making recombinant DNA technology in the 1970s more efficient and productive.
Today we are thrilled to release our substantial life history interview with George Halvorson, a former Chair and CEO of Kaiser Permanente, one of the nation’s largest providers of health care. Halvorson has been listed several times on Modern Healthcare‘s “Most Influential People in Healthcare” roll call, reaching the #6 position in 2012. Halvorson headed up the Kaiser Foundation Health Plan and Hospitals from 2002 through 2013. Before that, he served as founding CEO of HealthPartners in Minnesota. Since his retirement from Kaiser, Halvorson has devoted his time to promoting the benefits of early childhood education through California’s First Five initiative and to addressing social difference and tensions through his own Institute for Intergroup Understanding.
In 2016, Karen Ignagni, herself one of the Most Influential People in Healthcare and former CEO of America’s Health Insurance Plans, wrote this of Halvorson:
George Halvorson has led an extraordinary life that is filled with accomplishment, introspection and leadership. These tapes beautifully capture what he did, but what’s especially riveting is how he did it. In listening to the complete set, you come away with nothing but admiration for the sheer magnitude of what this curious, big thinking, self-aware but personally modest man has accomplished.
I’ve known George for approximately 25 years and believe leaders from different stakeholder communities will find these interviews both inspiring and challenging. While all of us know how successful George has been, these interviews explain how his career unfolded, what drove him, and how he created the circumstances that allowed him to lead very different organizations.
As listeners, we have a front row seat for his thought process, his choices and his perseverance. We learn what a formative experience it was for George not to become the CEO of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota, how it made him available for the leadership role at HealthPartners, and how he forged new relationships with physician groups and hospitals long before health policy leaders were suggesting this was the path to the future.
We learn how George worked with Key employers in Minnesota to attack rising healthcare costs, create product transparency and pave the way for a pathbreaking buying cooperative. At the same time, we learn how a busy and successful executive constructed and implemented a plan to bring healthcare coverage to the people of Uganda and teach leaders from the World Bank how to achieve that objective efficiently and effectively.
Even though I had the pleasure of watching George’s transition to Kaiser Permanente, I enjoyed listening to him describe why he made the change and what he set out to accomplish in that key delivery system. At that point in their careers many CEOs might have chosen to simply enjoy the ride. Not George Halvorson. He chose to make Kaiser a leader on safety long before it was top of mind for others in large health systems. We learn about his quest to attack sepsis and reorient his hospitals’ processes to make that possible. We also learn about what it took to form a strong partnership with the Permanente medical group and exactly what made that work over time.
But that’s not all. George was a leader in helping to pass the Affordable Care Act. Here he gives us an inside look at what that responsibility meant to him and how it impacted the country. George has been an actor on the national stage, but what is particularly fascinating is his ability to explain what he was thinking, why and how that crafted his strategy. As a listener, you are transported back in time as he recounts his experience.
George’s introspection as a prolific author makes him a skilled raconteur. You root for him, you admire him and you are delighted that you listened. Many CEOs have experiences worth sharing but few have the ability to teach. George Halvorson has that gift, and these tapes make it possible for us to learn, to admire and to respect this unique individual who dared to dream and had the courage and skills to lead.
We are pleased to announce the completion of our oral history with Ian S. E. Carmichael. Carmichael, who passed away in 2011, was a professor of earth and planetary science at the University of California, Berkeley, and an expert on volcanoes and the underground processes that shape them. Carmichael was the chair of the UC Berkeley Department of Geology and Geophysics from 1972-1976 and 1980-1982. He was associate dean for research in the Office of Provost for Research (1986-2000), associate dean for academic affairs in the Graduate Division (1985-2000), and acting director of the UC Botanical Garden (1997-1998). He was director of UC Berkeley?s Lawrence Hall of Science from 1996 to 2003.was a Professor of Earth and Planetary Science at UC Berkeley. Read his obituary here.
We are proud to announce the arrival of a new interviewer at the Oral History Center, Todd Holmes. Todd is joining us from the Bill Lane Center for the American West at Stanford University, where he was a researcher and Affiliated Scholar. Todd completed his PhD from Yale University, where he studied the political history of California and its impact on national politics in the late-20th century. His book manuscript is called The Fruits of Fracture: The Corporate West, The United Farm Workers Movement, and the Rise of Reaganism in American Politics. We were intrigued by Todd’s interests, skills, and promise as an oral historian, and thought he would be a great addition to our group, helping us with our series on Politics and Government; Business; Food and Wine; Natural Resources, Land Use, and the Environment; and Social Movements.
We thought it would be appropriate to conduct an oral history interview with Dr. Holmes to learn a bit more about him and to share what we learned with you. Although Todd’s doctorate in history was from back East, he in fact hails from California. He grew up in Roseville, northeast of Sacramento, with both sides of his family farming in the Central Valley. As a child, Todd showed a passion for history, especially the history of US presidents. But unlike many, he persisted in his passion by earning a B.A. and M.A. in history from Sacramento State, resulting in a comparison amongst some of his relatives between him and the Forrest Gump: “Well, Todd just kept going to school because no one told him he had to stop.” At Yale, Todd broadened his interests in subfields of history, and other disciplines as well, including political science and anthropology, which was particularly facilitated by his four years as coordinator of the interdisciplinary Agrarian Studies Program.
In this interview, Todd also discusses the evolution of his dissertation/ book project, which views the rise of Reagan’s brand of politics through the lens of the struggle between the California farmworkers movement and what he calls the Corporate West, a unified front in California that coalesced partly in response to labor organization in California’s farms and fields in the 1960s. Todd’s extensive archival research ranged from politicians to corporate ledgers to the documents of the United Farmworkers. But it was the oral history collection here at the Bancroft Library that he feels helped him to understand what was going on beyond the documentary record:
… there’s no archival material that could give you this type of insight. Reagan’s business advisors, Holmes Tuttle, Henry Salvatori, the kind of influence and relationships and how that worked. There is no paper trail. Holmes Tuttle didn’t write letters with Ronald Reagan; he talked to him on the phone every single day.
Todd then went out on his own to interview housewives who made the consumer choices that supported the boycott, labor activists whose views revealed a range of perspectives on the farmworker movement, and larger growers who stood to lose from the UFW grape boycott. In these interviews, Todd realized the extent to which political identity in his story failed to cleave neatly along lines of party affiliation, occupation, socioeconomic status, race, or ethnicity. As one example, Todd recounts his interview with a self-identified conservative housewife who supported the grape boycott.
Notwithstanding this political complexity on the ground, Todd argues that the farmworkers’ bid for social justice ultimately produced a better organized, more broadly based conservative movement in California and, later, in the entire United States.
So at the end of the day you could say that the movement did this, this, and this. The unintended consequence is you just strengthened and galvanized and politically mobilized the very corporate entity that you thought you were challenging… And that kind of insight, what really pushed me to look at that, came from talking to a number of growers who had been in agriculture for a very long time.
It is from this conclusion that the interview turns to a discussion of the purpose of oral history, which is usually understood as a practice of social justice in itself, of redressing an imbalance in the documentary record that favors, well, the record keepers, the winners of history. While this is an important goal of oral history, Todd recalls that oral history is essential to understanding how people make sense of their world in every conceivable context, including the governance of the state of California.
After Todd completed his PhD, he took a post-doctoral fellowship at the Bill Lane Center for the American West at Stanford University, where he again immersed himself in an interdisciplinary environment that was devoted to historical scholarship, policy research and educational outreach about the region he knows best. At the Bill Lane Center, Todd became intrigued by the possibilities of working in a para-academic environment, one that is devoted to public history and making use of new technological platforms to reach more people: researchers, policymakers, students, and a curious public.
We are delighted to have Todd join us, and we look forward to collaborating with him on large oral history projects and on new ways to present our work online, using the latest tools to do so. Watch these pages for Todd’s contributions to the Oral History Center!
Paul Burnett, Oral History Center
The 2015-2016 school year recently wrapped up at the Oral History Center with what has become a new and thriving tradition: the annual Oral History Graduation! In late April or early May over the past four years, we have hosted our commencement ceremony in which we celebrate the oral histories completed over the past year. This special event gives us an opportunity to thank our interviewees for the often considerable time they give to our projects and to the sponsors who make those projects possible.
This year we were especially honored to have many of our interviewees in attendance, including: former head of the Bay Conservation and Development Commission Will Travis, labor leaders Dave and Carole Sickler, former California Supreme Court Justice Cruz Reynoso, Emeritus Vice President for Health Affairs for the University of California Cornelius Hopper, jazz pianist Gildo Mahones, former City College of San Francisco president Del Anderson Handy, St. George Spirits founder Jorg Rupf, Berkeley legal scholar Jack Coons, winemaker Zelma Long, paleontologist Bill Clemens, and, last but not least, Bernice Grimes, Kay Morrison, Mary Torres, and Marian Wynn, who were interviewed for our Rosie the Riveter World War II Home Front oral history project. We also were honored by attendance of Howard Friesen, who along with his late wife Carmel provided OHC with a substantial endowment that will allow us to develop ever more important projects in the years to come.
At this year’s Oral History Class of 2016 event I had the privilege of introducing our excellent staff members to the attendees. It is always a special occasion when we add a new person to our team and this year I was thrilled to introduce Todd Holmes as a member of our staff for the first time. Todd started with us in mid-April and in just six weeks time has already started to make important contributions to the intellectual life of the office. I encourage you to check out the “From the Archives” piece Todd wrote on our 1978 oral history with former California Secretary of State March Fong Eu. You’ll also want to see the excellent profile on Todd written by our now seasoned oral historian Paul Burnett.
Charles B. Faulhaber Director
We are proud to announce eleven new interviews for the Global Mining and Materials Research Project, which focuses on key transitions in technology, policy, and geopolitics that have brought mining to its current state worldwide. These eleven new interviews feature leading metallurgists, software engineers, experts in mine health and safety, executives in the fields of industrial minerals, coal mining, and hard-rock mining, and an executive director of a mining association. We are most grateful to these narrators for taking time out of a busy schedule to speak to us about the evolution of the mining industry over the past forty years.
These interviews were funded with support from the American Institute of Mining Engineers, Metallurgists, and Petroleum Engineers (AIME), the Society for Mining, Metallurgy, and Exploration (SME), the Association for Iron & Steel Technology (AIST), The Minerals, Metals, & Materials Society (TMS), and the Society of Petroleum Engineers (SPE).