Columbia University Rolls Out First Installment of Obama Presidency Oral History Project

Researchers at Columbia University are capturing the legacy of Barack Obama’s presidency.

The first installment of a new Obama Presidency Oral History project was recently announced. CNN reported that panelists discussed climate change and the environment throughout Obama’s presidency, starting from the former Illinois senator’s initial campaign up to the 2008 presidential election.

The project involves research dating back to 2019, conducted by Columbia University’s Incite institute, which gathered 470 interviews and nearly 1,100 hours of audio and video featuring officials, activists, organizers, and others involved with the Obama administration.

The project’s mission is to “decenter the experience of the president and center the study around the experiences and interactions of people both inside and outside of the administration,” according to Incite director Peter Bearman.

“We pushed very hard during the campaign to raise the climate issue,” environmental activist Frances Beinecke said. “And we raised it during the primaries, and then when he was the candidate we raised it. During that period, we also worked on the platform, on the Democratic platform, making sure that climate was a main feature of the platform.”

Climate narratives in the first installment discuss issues that include the Keystone Pipeline, food security, and international climate negotiations, such as the Paris Agreement.

The overall project will tackle nearly 40 issues including health care and Black politics. Interviews pertaining to the additional topics are planned to be released over the remainder of the year and into 2024.

According to Incite at Columbia University, the special preview of the study features 17 interviews with White House official Carol Browner, Energy Secretary Steven Chu, school teacher Sarah Holway, EPA administrator Lisa Jackson, and farmers Art and Helen Tanderup.

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