Arms control, Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, Dole, Robert J., Health care, U.S. Senate retirement
Harris Llewellyn Wofford was born April 9, 1926, in New York City. He attended the University of Chicago and both Yale and Howard University Law Schools. During World War II he served in the Air Force. From 1954 to 1958 he served as an attorney for the Commission on Civil Rights, then in 1959 began teaching law at Notre Dame. He was an unofficial advisor to Martin Luther King, Jr. and an advisor to John F. Kennedy’s 1960 presidential campaign. He became Kennedy’s special assistant on civil rights and helped form the Peace Corps, serving as the Peace Corps’ special representative to Africa and director of operations for Ethiopia; from 1962 to 1966 he was the associate director of the Peace Corps. In 1966 he became president of the State University of New York at Old Westbury; then, from 1970 to 1978 he was president of Bryn Mawr College. For a year he was Pennsylvania state chairman of the Democratic Party, and in 1987 he was appointed to be Pennsylvania’s secretary of labor and industry. When Pennsylvania Senator John Heinz died in 1991, Governor Casey appointed Wofford to the vacant Senate seat, and Wofford proceeded to win the special election for the seat the following November. He lost reelection in 1994 to Rick Santorum. Since leaving public office, Wofford has served as CEO of the Corporation for National and Community Service, which runs AmeriCorps; been on the boards of America’s Promise, Youth Service America, and the Points of Light Foundation; served on the boards of the Center for Citizen Leadership and Malaria No More; and taught at the University of Maryland at College Park. In 2002 he received the John W. Gardner Leadership Award. At the time of this interview, he was a senior fellow at the Case Foundation and a spokesperson for Experience Wave.
Interview includes discussion of: how Wofford came to be appointed to the Senate; the Pennsylvania special election of 1991; how Senator Mitchell helped fund Wofford’s campaign through the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC); first impressions of Mitchell; the Senate prayer breakfast; the story of how Mitchell listened to an opera before going to Ireland to work on the peace agreement; supporting Senator Daschle’s bid to become leader; Senator Moynihan’s role in health care reform; the failure of the Clinton health care reform legislation; Wofford’s and James Carville’s strategy to make health care central to the 1991 campaign; the “Kurks and Turds” story; health care as a more fundamental right than the right to a lawyer; Wofford’s relationship with Carville; factors leading to Wofford’s defeat when he sought reelection; the assault weapon ban; Mitchell’s relationship with Senator Dole; how the Clinton health care plan was formulated; Daschle’s alternative health care plan; the first National Service Act and the Hatch-Kennedy Serve America Bill; Wofford’s reaction to Mitchell’s retirement from the Senate; Mitchell’s career after leaving the Senate; Newt Gingrich’s leadership of the House; the need for the Senate to look at a longer-term strategy; the missed opportunities at the end of the Cold War; Mitchell’s dedication to the search for common ground and to serving the common good; and Mitchell as a statesman.
This recording and transcription are © 2011 Bowdoin College and are presented for private study, scholarship, or research only. For all other uses, including publication, reproduction, and quotation beyond “fair use” (Title 17, United States Code) permission must be obtained in writing from the George J. Mitchell Dept. of Special Collections & Archives, Bowdoin College Library, 3000 College Station, Brunswick, Maine 04011-8421, USA.