Miller Center

Russell Riley

Portrait of Russell Riley

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Russell Riley, associate professor and co-chair of the Miller Center’s Presidential Oral History Program, is one of the nation’s foremost authorities on elite oral history interviewing and on the contemporary American presidency. In his time at the Center, he has logged more than 1,000 hours of in-depth, confidential interviews with cabinet officers and senior members of the White House staff reaching back to the Carter and Reagan administrations. Since 2003, he has led the William J. Clinton Presidential History Project, interviewing more than 100 former Clinton-era officials, including leading members of Congress and foreign heads of state. He has lectured extensively on American politics and oral history methods across the United States, as well as in China, the United Kingdom, Germany, Italy, Austria, the Netherlands, and (by videoconference) the West Bank.

Professor Riley studied at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and then received his Ph.D. from the University of Virginia, where he was a research assistant at the Miller Center. He subsequently taught at the University of Pennsylvania and Georgetown. He helped found Penn’s Washington Semester Program and from 1994 to 1998 was its resident director and a lecturer in American politics. From 1998 to 2000, he was a program director with the Salzburg Seminar in American Studies in Salzburg, Austria, and he continues on an adjunct basis to help direct occasional programs for the Seminar. He returned to the Miller Center from Austria in January 2001.
View his curriculum vitae.

Miller Center Projects

At the Miller Center, Russell Riley chairs the Presidential Oral History Program, which also includes the Center’s special project on the life and public career of Senator Edward M. Kennedy. In 2003, Riley led the Center’s biographical oral history of Washington lawyer Lloyd N. Cutler.  He organized and directed, also in 2003, a symposium of former leaders of the White House Congressional Affairs operation, and he helped to organize and carry out, in 2008, a symposium of former White House speechwriters, which was nationally televised on C-SPAN.

Selected Publications

Bridging the Constitutional Divide: Inside the White House Office of Legislative Affairs, edited, with commentary (forthcoming, Texas A&M University Press)

President’s Words: Speeches and Speechwriting in the Modern White House, co-edited with Michael Nelson (forthcoming, University Press of Kansas)

The Presidency and the Politics of Racial Inequality: Nation-keeping from 1831-1965 (Columbia University Press, 1999). Cited by the Neustadt Award Committee of the Presidency Research Group (APSA) as one of four outstanding books on the presidency published in 1999.

Authored Articles
“The White House as a Black Box: Oral History and the Problem of Evidence in Presidential Studies.” Political Studies (vol. 57, 2009)

“Presidential Oral History: The Clinton Presidential History Project.” Oral History Review (Summer/Fall 2007).

“Looking for Europe’s George Washington.” PRG Report: Newsletter of the Presidency Research Group of the American Political Science Association (Spring 2008).

“Europe’s Flickering Philadelphia Moment.” Brown Journal of World Affairs (Spring/Summer 2007)

Still Editing? A Few Words of Advice. Washington Post (January 18, 2009)

Divided We Stand. The Politico (January 31, 2007).

For History’s Sake, Nothing Like a Paper Trail. Washington Post (November 6, 2005).

“The Presidency, Leadership, and Race,” in Stanley Renshon, ed., One America? Leadership, National Identity, and the Dilemmas of Diversity (Georgetown University Press, 2001).

“The Limits of the Transformational Presidency,” in Kumar, Jacobs, and Shapiro, eds., Presidential Power: Forging the Presidency for the 21st Century (Columbia University Press, 2000).

“Party Government and the Contract with America,” PS: Political Science and Politics (December 1995).

Other Published Work
When There’s Nothing Left to Do but Wait, Washington Post, November 2, 2008.

What Kind of Temperament Is Best?, TIME magazine interview, October 16, 2008.

The Temperament Factor: Who’s Best Suited to the Job?, TIME cover story, October 15, 2008.

Hey, What Could Go Wrong?, Washington Post, September 21, 2008.

They’re No. 2! And Here’s How They Got There, Washington Post, June 1, 2008.

Hamilton Jordan: Reflections on politics, Politico, May 22, 2008.

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