Commonwealth National Podcast

UC President Janet Napolitano Interviews Professor Geoffrey Cowan on Presidential Politics

Janet Napolitano, President, University of California; Former U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security; Former Governor, Arizona

Geoffrey Cowan, Dean Emeritus, Annenberg School of Communication, University of Southern California; Former Director, Voice of America; Author, Let the People Rule: Theodore Roosevelt and the Birth of the Presidential Primary

At the start of the presidential election year, come hear a fascinating discussion about the birth of the presidential primary, the involvement of Teddy Roosevelt in the process, and the influence of all of this on modern politics. In 1912, Theodore Roosevelt came out of retirement to challenge his close friend and handpicked successor, William Howard Taft, for the Republican Party nomination. To overcome the power of the incumbent, TR seized on the idea of presidential primaries, telling party bosses everywhere to “Let the people rule,” the title of Geoffrey Cowan’s new book.

For more than 30 years, Geoffrey Cowan has been an important force in almost every facet of the communication world, as a public interest lawyer, academic administrator, best-selling author and award-winning teacher, playwright, television producer and government official. From 1996 to 2007, Cowan served as dean of the University of Southern California's Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. In 2010, Cowan was appointed to serve as the first president of The Annenberg Foundation Trust at Sunnylands. In that role, he carries on the Annenbergs’ legacy, creating a world-class venue for important retreats for top government officials and leaders in the fields of law, education, philanthropy, the arts, culture, science and medicine.

Mr. Cowan holds a joint appointment in the USC Gould School of Law, teaching courses in communication and journalism. Before his tenure as dean, Cowan was appointed by President Clinton to serve the United States as director of Voice of America, the international broadcasting service of the U.S. Information Agency. He is a graduate of Harvard College and Yale Law School.