This interview was recorded on July 25, 2019, at Milton’s home in Menlo Park, California.Learn more about Catherine Milton
Scarpino: Today is Thursday, July 25, 2019. My name is Philip Scarpino, Professor of History and Director of Oral History for the Tobias Center for Leadership Excellence at Indiana University/Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI). I have the privilege to be interviewing Catherine Milton in her home in Menlo Park, California. This interview is sponsored and paid for by the National Service Archives Project based at IUPUI Special Collections and Archives.
We will be discussing some of the highlights of Catherine Milton’s career during the interview. For present purposes, I will note that she has a had a varied and impactful career, serving as a feature writer for the Boston Globe and a speechwriter for the Chief Executive of the International Association of Chiefs of Police. She worked in the U.S. Department of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, where she played a key role in highlighting the adverse impact of alcohol consumption on fetal development. She moved from Washington, D.C., to Menlo Park, CA, and spent twelve years at Stanford University serving as Special Assistant to the President for Public Policy and Senior Vice Provost for Education.
I am interviewing Catherine Milton because of the key roles she played in National Service. She served as the first Executive Director of the Commission on National and Community Service. The Commission on National and Community Service was created under provisions of the National and Community Service Act, which was signed into law by President George H.W. Bush on November 16, 1990.
In addition, during the presidential administration of Bill Clinton, Catherine Milton served as Senior Vice President of the Corporation for National Service. The Corporation for National Service was created as an independent federal agency by the National and Community Service Trust Act of 1993. In that capacity, she oversaw the development, launching and funding of AmeriCorps and other National Service programs. She was actively engaged in establishing quality standards, training, funding criteria and evaluation.
Catherine Milton has held several other significant positions in the non-profit sector, including but not limited to Vice President and Executive Director of United States programs for Save the Children; President of Friends of the Children, a national program that provides disadvantaged children with mentors. Catherine Milton designed and directed the Presidio Leadership Center. While serving as President of Friends of the Children, she was recognized as the first recipient of the World of Children’s Humanitarian Award. This award is sometimes referred to as the Nobel Prize for child advocates. In 2014, California Volunteers renamed its annual award that recognizes an outstanding California AmeriCorps member as the Catherine Milton California AmeriCorps Member of the Year Award.
She is the author of several publications including: Women in Policing, 1972, by the Police Foundation. She produced a book titled America’s Forgotten Children: Child Poverty in Rural America, in 2002, a report of Save the Children, while serving as Vice President and Executive Director of U.S. programs for Save the Children.
I want to ask your permission to record this interview, to transcribe the interview, to deposit the recording and transcription in the IUPUI Special Collections and Archives where they may be used by patrons, including posting all or part of the recording, transcription and other materials to the website of the IUPUI Collections and Archives. Can I have your permission to record, transcribe and deposit, as described?
Milton: Yes, you do. I have two minor, one minor correction.
Scarpino: Okay, okay.
Milton: I worked at the U.S. Department of Treasury and while there, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms was part of the U.S. Department of Treasury, just to make that clear. I wasn’t clear about how you – I worked for the President of the University of Stanford. I wasn’t sure if that was okay.
Scarpino: Yes. Yeah, and in fact we’re going to talk about that in some detail. Just right here at the beginning, I just wanted to…
Milton: Okay. Yeah, got it. Thank you.
Scarpino: … explain how cool you are.
Milton: Yeah, thank you. That’s good.
Scarpino: I’m going to note again, just for anybody who’s looking at this interview, that you were also interviewed by the Stanford Oral History Project, May 6, 2014. Number one, I’m going to attempt not to duplicate that interview and what was covered, and number two, there will be a URL or a website address for that interview with the transcript of this one. I’m not going to try to get it into the oral record.
As promised, let’s start with some general background on you.
Milton: Okay, terrific.
Scarpino: When and where were you born?
Milton: I was born in New York City in 1943.
Scarpino: Who were your parents?
Milton: Homer Higgs was my father (H-I-G-G-S) and my mother was Josephine Dowdy Higgs. They had met while both graduate school students at Columbia University, but their backgrounds were quite unusual. My mother grew up in a very small town in eastern Tennessee and was the first one in her whole area to go to graduate school. So, that was like a major deal that she…
Scarpino: So, she grew up in coal country in eastern Tennessee.
Milton: Totally, and it’s just like, yeah, and tobacco country. I’ve been back to that town a number of times, but it’s very, it’s I guess I’d say a rural poor town. My father grew up in a very small town in eastern Texas called Sour Lake, which is and was one of the poorest parts of Texas and maybe of the United States. We never quite figured out how this happened, but he was able to get support and help to go to Columbia Graduate School for Business. I think that both of their backgrounds did have a big influence on me because I was quite aware of different parts of the country and how things were very different then. Most of my childhood was in Connecticut, where things were quite different.
Scarpino: Where in Connecticut?
Milton: Milford, Connecticut, which, at the time when I grew up was a very working-class town. Most of my friends’ parents worked at Sikorsky or the post office. Now, I think it’s more of a commuting town – but it was a great place to grow up on Long Island Sound.
Scarpino: I also grew up in Connecticut.
Milton: Did you really?
Scarpino: I usually don’t put that in the record. Okay, so, where did you go to high school?
Milton: I went to high school at a private high school in New Haven. It was called Miss Day’s School and it’s now part of a school called Hopkins; I guess Hopkins is the name of the school. It’s been merged. It was a fantastic schooling that I got. I went from there to Mount Holyoke College and I must say, that was also, in its era, a really first-rate academic institution, and the training I got in high school totally prepared me.
Scarpino: What did you major in in college?
Milton: I majored in English and Political Science. So, the kind of things that no students major in these days.
Scarpino: Well, you put them both to work, didn’t you?
Milton: That’s true. Exactly.
Scarpino: Do you think being an English major helped you with your writing?
Milton: Absolutely. Well, I think it helped me be exposed to people around the world and how they were so different, and the need to really try to dig deep and understand what’s going on in the world. So, I think that was – and it certainly did help with writing, too.
Scarpino: What year, do you remember what year you graduated?
Milton: Oh, yeah. I do remember. You’re being very polite there. 1964.
Scarpino: Okay. Alright. So, a couple of general questions to see where these go.
Scarpino: When you were a young woman attending high school, going to college, were there any individuals who had key roles in influencing the adult that you came, particularly an adult with an interest in service?
Milton: I think that I had such a traditional 1950s upbringing in that I was part of the Girl Scouts, part of the 4-H Club and programs like that, that I think, in fact, the people who were the volunteers running those programs were in some ways role models that they could sort of spend their time and be a role model at a very young age for me. So, I think that that – and when I was doing the work at Save the Children, I talked about creating a new web of support that would be available for kids at all different levels. So, I think that that was certainly one level. I was also, through my church, I was involved with a church group and I was exposed to some outstanding people who were assigned to help youth from Yale Divinity School. A lot of them were quite outstanding people from – actually, most were from the U.S., but some were from other countries. So, I think that also gave me exposure that I wouldn’t have gotten.
Scarpino: What church did you go to?
Milton: It was Congregational Church in Milford, Connecticut.
Scarpino: You mentioned your parents playing a role.
Scarpino: Teachers along the way?
Milton: I had teachers, and one in particular, Mrs. Hitchcock, at high school level, who I think believed in me and wrote good references for me and pushed me to go to a good college. So, I think that really helped me to have
encouragement because – so I would say that she was a key person. I would also say that both of my parents, the values that I grew up with, to this day, are extremely important values. There was the value of education. Both of my parents very much believed in – they did a lot of sacrifices to send me to a private school, and my brothers were going to college and, you know, everybody worked and everybody was like money went towards education. So, that was the first thing. I think that, as I look back on it, they were very involved in their own way in service. My father was on the board of the local hospital in the town. My mother did all sorts of things from Girl Scouts to all sorts of things. So, I think that that was just sort of what I grew up with, thinking that that’s what was normal and a good thing.
Scarpino: Did you ever get a chance to tell Mrs. Hitchcock how much she meant to you?
Milton: You know, it’s so interesting, and she died, but I did see her one time in D.C. and told her thank you. I know it’s so important to do; I know. Yeah.
Scarpino: When you were a young woman growing up attending high school and college, were there any events that took place that had an important role in influencing the person you became, the adult you became?
Milton: Yeah. (PAUSE – person entered room)
Okay, events. I think that, well, yes, there were significant events. At my college, they would have, once a week, a sort of national/international leader. Indira Gandhi came, Martin Luther King came, all sorts of outstanding people, and I would have a chance to talk to them because the college was small and it was all that. So, I think that I had exposure to sort of national leaders. But probably as important, when I look back on the events, was the time I would go to Tennessee as a little girl in the summer, to my mother’s hometown, and for the first time be exposed to Jim Crow, you know, don’t drink out of this water fountain, do use – you know, whites only. And I was very – I mean, I just didn’t understand it and so I started asking questions. So, I think that, like that wasn’t really an event, but it had a big influence on me. Then certainly during the college years, seeing what was going on with the Civil Rights Movement and seeing what was happening with the desegregation of schools and all the problems of the Freedom Riders and watching some of that on TV had a big impact on me in terms of like I don’t understand – you know, this is not good. So, when I graduated from college, my first thing I wanted to do, I did want to be a journalist, and I tried for about four months, with help from my mother, to get a job in the South, to be a reporter there and they wouldn’t touch me for anything. I mean, we used every – you know, they didn’t have any pull, but they used pull in Tennessee. Well, first of all, nobody wanted women then, but second, they just didn’t want anybody
from up North. So, I did give up on that and that’s why right after graduation then I did spend the first probably almost close to a year, a little less than a year, writing a book, History of the American Negro,which was published by Year, Inc. I do have that book. They hired me as somebody to put together photos and to write chapters, and I ended up sort of really helping to put the whole thing together, including writing most of it, and that was during the era…
Scarpino: And you did this right out of college?
Milton: … right out of college. I will tell you one more thing right out of college, is that when I was applying for jobs, because it was in the era where my father would say, “Well, you got out of college, now you’re on your own” kind of thing “and you’ve got to get a job.” So, I went out and applied for 60 jobs and almost every one that I applied for, I had to apply for the men-only jobs because the women jobs were secretaries and I didn’t want to be a secretary. Then I was lucky enough to find this one through another friend who told me that this job was available.
Scarpino: This one being the Boston Globe?
Milton: No, actually this was the first one on that History of the American Negro.
Scarpino: Oh, alright, okay.
Milton: And then I did get the Boston Globe job next. Well, actually, I had another little job at another weekly newspaper in New York City, and that was really good practice. So, you asked where I learned to write, and it was there. I had to learn both there and at the Globe that it doesn’t matter if someone edits your stuff; that’s fine. At first it was like, “How dare you change that word?” I learned not to take any of that personally and to be fast and focus and clear.
Scarpino: I want to ask you a question about Tennessee before we move…
Milton: Yeah, sure, sure.
Scarpino: … ahead and talk about leadership a little bit. So, you said you went to your mother’s hometown for the summer in Tennessee. I assume you were in high school then.
Milton: It was actually when I was younger, younger child, yeah.
Scarpino: And you noticed that Jim Crow was alive and well then, and that you questioned that. What kind of response did you get from the adults around you, the white adults around you?
Milton: Yes, exactly. I think the response was to almost label me a sweet little troublemaker, which then, I guess, is a role that I’ve taken ever since. But what I mean by that is that I don’t think I got into big clashing flights about it, but I would question it and I would try to understand. And I think it became clear to everybody that I didn’t like it, but that I wasn’t going to cause – I wasn’t going to make a real ugly scene so that it would be unpleasant to stay there, if you know what I mean.
Scarpino: Mm-hm. So, I mentioned that even though this particular interview isn’t currently sponsored by the Tobias Center that I do work for them, and it occurs to me that you’ve been a leader for most of your life or an iconoclast and a leader, and you founded and directed the Presidio Leadership Center…
Scarpino: … so, I want to start by asking you, when did you found that Center?
Milton: Well, that was actually, the year, I’ll have to get the year for you, but it was after I had basically launched AmeriCorps. What I realized from the design and how we were operating AmeriCorps that we needed to have some common training across the – because it was a very decentralized program – so we needed to have common training that would instill on everybody, here are key values and here are key things – a language that we all agree upon and understand. I also realized how hard it was because I had had the experience of being a manager and learning the hard way how to do it, that there was a tremendous need for people who were – suddenly we created a whole new field and there were suddenly hundreds, if not almost a thousand new programs out there and being run by people who didn’t have a lot of experience and that there was a drastic need to do it. I had also been a Kellogg Fellow, which I don’t think I mentioned, and that was a very important three years where I had the opportunity – Larraine Matusak was the head of the program and there was a real effort at exposing us to different issues, as well as putting us through a formal leadership training with the Center for Creative Leadership. That was a big eye-opener for me because it was like – well, first of all, part of it, we had the, the 260 or whatever it is, you know, where your people who work for you and everybody evaluates you, 360, yeah. That was the first time I’d ever had that done and it was like “oh, my god, everybody doesn’t love me and what’s wrong?” I learned from that how there were certain things that I was doing, as a leader, that certainly could be – that if I made some minor, you know, made some changes, I could be better and more effective. So, that was my first aha that there is such a thing as leadership training. After going through all the experience I had putting together the commission and the corporation, I learned the hard way. I mean, I think I did a lot of things that were ultimately good, but I certainly didn’t know how to do things as well as I could. So, for example,
running meetings, we had so many meetings at the – actually mostly at what it was the early days of the corporation. Sometimes I would literally be sitting in a meeting and say, “What meeting is this? Who called this meeting?” I mean, and I was like the top person and it’s like so we didn’t have agendas and there was so much going on, and I remember thinking alright, there’s got to be a better way. Then we had people from the Center – oh darn, they were really good at how to put together meetings and I’ll get that name if you want, but it was started by architects in Massachusetts, in Boston, and we had them as key people involved. I’m so sorry I forgot the name of that. But anyway, they helped. I got personal help on how to do that and that’s when I realized, okay, we really do need a leadership center. I will tell you that the other people who were instrumental in encouraging me to do this was Tom Ehrlich, who felt really strongly that leadership was important and that training for leaders was important, and then Jeff Bradach, who understood the fact, you know – talked to me a lot about how decentralized everything was and if it was so decentralized, you had to have values.
Scarpino: Tell me who Jeff Bradach is.
Milton: Okay. Jeff is, because you should know who Jeff is. I mean…
Scarpino: I know who Tom Ehrlich is.
Milton: Oh, okay. Well, Jeff was the founder of Bridgespan. I met him – he graduated right as I came to Stanford and so he helped me in the early days, was my kitchen cabinet for putting together the Haas Center. So, that’s how I first got to know him, and he worked for Bain, and then he became convinced that there was a need to do more for the public service area, and so he created Bridgespan.
Scarpino: And Bain was what? You mentioned he worked for Bain.
Milton: Yeah, Bain is a consulting group like McKinsey.
Milton: Almost as big as McKinsey.
Scarpino: Okay. So, you were a Kellogg Fellow?
Scarpino: Was that before or after you got involved with National Service?
Milton: … and I really think it had a big influence. I’m not sure – well, it really helped me to be able to do the job.
Scarpino: Do you remember how you got nominated for that?
Milton: Yeah. I think it was, I was told about – John Gardner, I think, helped me and actually – I should’ve never said this but, as an aside, he was going to nominate me for MacArthur and I took the job with the government and I never got it. So, that was like too bad. But anyway, there was a friend of mine, I was on his board for the Trauma Foundation – his name is Andrew Maguire – and he had been actually a MacArthur and Kellogg Fellow. So, he’s the one that nominated me.
Scarpino: So, you founded the Presidio Leadership Center…
Milton: Yep, yep.
Scarpino: … and the idea was to train people who were going to be working in like AmeriCorps and places like that.
Milton: Who are running programs. So, it might be somebody who was a head of City Year or head of City Year Boston or the person who was working for Habitat.
Scarpino: Habitat for Humanity?
Milton: Yeah. So, we had literally as well as people running the K-12 programs. We also wanted to train some of the staff at the NOW Corporation. I was fortunate to hire a woman named Lisa Spinelli, who lives in San Francisco now, who had done training for American Express. So, she had a really good idea about how corporations did training and the whole idea that you had to have a few things in common across the board, and so she helped me with developing some of the programs. I would say the other thing that I did with the – basically we merged three different programs together to put together the leadership program for the Presidio. One was the work from CCL, which was focusing on how to understand yourself better and we did that through all sorts of little exercises, and where we’d put all the people with Myers-Briggs who were introverts in one room and the people who were extraverts in another room and give them a challenge and then see what happened and have them understand. So, we did that. And when we used this other group, which the name I’ve forgotten, who helped on how to run meetings and how to develop strategic visions and how to take ideas and even lay it out visually so you could see it and have a plan identifying, which was so important, who were the key stakeholders you’ve got to keep involved and who are the people that are going to really hurt you and you have to also worry about them. And then we also had young people help to do some of the teaching. That was another idea we had, and these were people who had been trained in facilitative leadership – I
don’t do lots of that, so we used them. And I had my friend, Lisa Spinelli who’d gone to Harvard Business School, help with developing some case studies relating to National Service, and then we had those presented and had that sort of the intellectual aspect.
Scarpino: So, you mentioned CCL – what’s that?
Milton: That’s the Center for Creative Leadership.
Scarpino: Okay, got it. Okay. Alright. So, do you consider yourself a leader?
Milton: Yes, a different kind of leader, yes.
Scarpino: Okay, I’ll ask, what is a different kind of leader?
Milton: Well, I mean, I guess I have a certain style, but I’ve had leadership positions, so for sure I’ve had those positions, but I also think I lead – the biggest thing I’ve learned to do is to focus on where you want to get to and then however, whether you’re in the top position or whether another position or whatever, but you do everything you can to get everybody to go there.
Scarpino: One of the keys to being a successful leader is to persuade other people to follow you.
Milton: That’s right; that’s right.
Scarpino: How would you describe your own style or approach to leadership?
Milton: Okay. I would say that, through the years, I would always say what are we trying to accomplish here? Whether it was with politics, university politics, political politics, if you have to get along with the people you have to get along with in order to accomplish that and you’re not compromising – I mean you have a goal and you want to get there, then you’ve got to work together with people and put aside your differences. So, I would always try to tell staff, if there are fights or whatever with each other, it’s like let’s try to focus on the prize. What’s the prize of what we want and let’s just go there. So, that was one thing. I always worked as a team, you know, trying to get a really good team and hire the absolute best people. I’ve always been told that was my biggest – all my staff people would say, “Your biggest thing you do well is you hire great people.” I’d go, “yeah.” Anyway, so I would try to hire…
Scarpino: That’s a mark of a good leader, isn’t it?
Milton: I know it is, but it’s so funny because they always tell me and I go, “Yeah, I did hire you.” It’s so funny. But I will hire really good people and this is one of the lessons I had to learn – I’d often just sort of give them – make
responsibility clear of what they had to do, and then let them have a lot of responsibility in doing it. I learned through the years that sometimes some people need more help than others. So, I try to adjust that because sometimes I might just say, you know, “Go do it,” and whatever. So, I think that was the second thing. And I always said at Stanford, and I guess at the Commission, never could’ve gotten it done without this incredible staff. I mean, and we all worked really hard and everybody – there was good communication, so people knew what was going on, and…
Scarpino: So, communication is an important quality of a leader?
Milton: Very important quality. Being able to tell people, “Here’s where we want to go, here’s our vision of what we’re going to do, here’s our timeline, and this is why the timeline is as tight as it is.” At the Commission, the timeline was so tight because of the way the legislation – you know, we only had the money for a certain period of time, and if we don’t get this done, the money’s going to be going away; “So, you know, either get on board or I could understand if you don’t want to, but this is what we have to do.” So, I think that was, yeah, another skill. And I suppose something I wasn’t as strong about as other people, but trying to take the personal interest. I guess I used to have a theory of focusing in on the outcomes, which I was always good at, focusing in on the process of how you’re going to get there, and focusing on relationships. So, and I would have that as sort of my – always try to keep that in balance. So, the process was like: Do you have staff meetings on a regular basis? How are they run? And spending time on thinking that one through. Do you have one-on-one meetings or however, however else you want to sort of communicate, and to make sure that you’ve done a good job on that and have feedback to make sure that the whole team feels good about that. Then the third was relationships. And on relationships, I was really good on people who I was close to and getting along with well, but I learned I didn’t like birthday parties and things like that, I wasn’t so go at. So, I actually hired, at the Commission, a secretary who was really good at that and I said, “That’s going to be part of your job, is to make sure we remember birthdays and things like that,” because I was too focused on getting things done.
Scarpino: Do you think there are differences in the ways men and women function as leaders?
Milton: Yeah, I do think so because I think that one of the things I had to learn, and this was actually through the work I did at the Police Foundation, I had to learn how to try to get things done by persuasion, as opposed to like I’m dictating, this is happening. And I think that women have to learn that maybe more than men in the working world. Maybe it’s not so true today, but it was true when I was growing up. Second, I had to learn how to have, in the Corps, what I wanted to get done and not compromise. I’ll
give you the example – the first time this became clear was when I was working on Women in Policing. I had this idea, okay, we’re going to have women do police work. I understood enough about policing at that point to understand that if you didn’t start off on patrol, it was going to be very hard to be part of a real police department. So, the book I did was looking at whether women could do patrol work, and then we did a big study, a controlled study, where we in fact proved they could. A lot of the people I respected and who I worked with who were men, were saying, “Catherine, you don’t have to do that. In fact, just have them become, you know, detectives or other things.” I dug my heels, I wouldn’t change, and I know to this day that that was the right decision because we would never have had the increase and never have the role. I think that’s when it became clear to me is sometimes you’ve got to really know what you want and just going to go fight for it. That’s actually how I was about AmeriCorps and Haas Center. At the Haas Center, I can remember, I realized suddenly I needed money to make this happen, and I can still remember thinking, it’s ridiculous, but I’ll give my right arm if I could get this money because this is what’s going to endow the Center and is going to make it happen. And that was sort of like this is how strongly I feel, like this is worth everything, and I felt that way with doing the Commission work, too.
Scarpino: I’m going to ask you one more question about leadership.
Scarpino: How do you define leadership? How do you know it when you see it?
Milton: One of the things you said I agree with is, is this somebody that people will be willing to follow and will they be able to try to all go in the same direction about getting something done? It’s funny, it’s a hard question because I think Trump is a leader, in his own way, so I’m trying to answer it like he’s a leader and people will follow him and you hope it’s for the good things. Yeah.
Scarpino: Yeah. I’ll just say that when I was preparing for this, I didn’t have a resume, so I may be a little off on some of these dates and I’ll get you to help me with this, but early in your career, not your first job but earlier in your career, you had a three-year stint as the first ever travel writer for the Boston Globe.
Milton: Yeah, that’s right.
Scarpino: Do you remember when you started that job?
Milton: Oh, I definitely do. It was in 1965. One little story is that I – alright, it actually goes back a little bit. When I was in college, I had a serious operation on my arm, a bone graft and all, and I wasn’t able to work in the
summer and I had the opportunity to visit college friends who were living in Japan and Iran and other places as well.
Milton: So, I…
Scarpino: It’s almost worth a bone graft.
Milton: Exactly, exactly, and my godmother had died and left me a thousand dollars. So, I had enough for one of those air tickets and I stayed with friends, and I wrote articles for the New Haven Register to pay for the rest of the expenses.
Milton: So, I wrote like 15 articles about what it was like to be in India and what it was like to be Sri Lanka and stuff like that. So, I had a portfolio and when I heard The Globe was going to start a travel section, I then went and pursued it. I got interviewed first by the Assistant Editor, Joe Dinneen, and then by the top editor. Basically what they said is, “We already have a woman at The Globe.” There were a hundred reporters and they one woman.
Scarpino: They had one woman.
Milton: Then the top guy said, “I don’t want to hire you, you’re going to get pregnant, you’re going to move with your husband, and we just don’t want any women here.” I called, again, I think it was about 50 times, and they finally said, “We’re so sick of hearing from you, we’re going to hire you.” So they hired me and then all the old guys were going, “How did you get this job?” you know, because it was a dream job because I went all over the world for them.
Scarpino: This isn’t the first time you’ve mentioned being in a situation where somebody would say we don’t hire women…
Milton: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, exactly.
Scarpino: … because you’re going to get pregnant…
Milton: Yeah, yeah, got you.
Scarpino: … and leave with your husband or whatever, what did you think about that when you heard it?
Milton: Well, actually my brother told me later a better response is like, “Oh, I know, we wish we could have children, but we can’t.” You know, I
could’ve had other responses. I think the college experience at Mount Holyoke is it never occurred to me that I couldn’t do anything. So, I just drew on that. So, that’s what I have to say, but it was like, but it was tough. I mean, I would just sort of like – when I would go out for these interviews, I mean, it was tough, but I felt like this is unfair and I’m going to – it’s just not right.
Scarpino: Where’s the most interesting place you went as the writer for The Globe?
Milton: I think in the Amazon, yeah. I went to Machu Picchu before they really opened it to tourists. So, that was incredible because we had a whole day to wander around with nobody else there. It was a few travel writers. And then government of Peru arranged for me to go down the Amazon and sleep in hammocks and, yeah, it was unbelievable.
Scarpino: If you went down the Amazon and you started in Peru, you started in the headwaters.
Milton: Yeah, exactly.
Scarpino: That must have been pretty interesting.
Milton: It really was interesting and, you know, the people, the way they were living and all that, I mean, no clothes, and I mean, it was really something. So, that was probably the most interesting, but I also – the bread and butter of The Boston Globe was Florida and Arizona and actually even California. So, I did a lot of, you know, I went to Miami quite a number of times and so it was like – because I wrote a column every week.
Scarpino: What did you learn or take away from that experience that influenced the rest of your career?
Milton: Well, I think the most important thing was how to write, dealt with the writing, how to write under pressure, again, not have people worry about – you know, they had an editor, if they made a change, that’s fine. And I got so that you could write – I knew how many words something was and I could just do it. So, I was very much sure of like the art of doing that kind of work was good. I also felt like there was a lot I didn’t know about the world of The Boston Globe at that time. I remember they were doing numbers and things in the sitting room, you know, collecting, which, of course, is totally illegal and, I mean, it was just like…
Scarpino: They were gambling.
Milton: They were gambling.
Scarpino: My father used to run numbers when he was an immigrant kid in Pittsburgh. I know what that is.
Milton: So, you know what it is and it was like, “What is this?” So, I think that it was a little bit of like wow, another world. But it was also the era of just beginning Vietnam and, you know, lots of things were going on. So, (inaudible) – it was like the beginning of a very difficult period for the whole country.
Scarpino: If I did the math right, in 1968, you moved from Boston to Washington, D.C. …
Milton: Yeah, that’s correct.
Scarpino: … with your husband, so the guys at The Globe were right.
Milton: Yeah, they were, exactly. Well, to make it worse, they hired two other women after me and one was Ella Goodman, who’s pretty famous. I don’t know if you ever heard of her, but she wrote a column. She got pregnant right away. The third woman was a woman named Lally Weymouth who was the daughter of Katharine Graham, the owner of the Washington Post. She got pregnant. So, three of us, the editor was right.
Scarpino: When you moved to Washington, so far as I can tell, you got out of journalism and became a speechwriter…
Milton: That’s right.
Scarpino: … for the Chief Executive of the International Association of Police Chiefs.
Milton: Yeah. Could I tell you why?
Scarpino: Yeah, sure.
Milton: Because I had an offer to go to the Washington Post, but, to tell you the truth, after having been the travel writer – I was going to be a scientist suburban, you know, covering that – I was like I don’t think I want to start all over. I didn’t want to do that. And second, I really cared about what was happening in the country then and I wanted to work on covering urban renewal, civil rights, and that was what my heart was. I started working on police issues, was actually observing one day the demonstrations at the Chicago convention where the police were bashing in the heads of…
Scarpino: You were there?
Milton: No, on TV I was watching. No, I wasn’t there.
Scarpino: That’s 1968…
Milton: Yeah, that was ’68.
Scarpino: … for anybody who’s listening to this.
Milton: Yeah, and I was like this is horrible, and somebody had gotten to me that there was this job available and I didn’t want anything to do with the police. So, then it was basically a decision, I’m going to work on the inside to try to change, and that became a theme of my life afterwards, which is you don’t like something, well then you can try maybe to go on the inside and try to change it.
Scarpino: So, you were a speechwriter for the…
Milton: International Association Chiefs of Police.
Scarpino: … and at the same time, you were spending some of your weekends protesting the war in Vietnam.
Milton: That’s right, exactly.
Scarpino: It occurred to me, when I was thinking about this, that you talked about your speechwriting elsewhere, but here you are writing speeches for the chiefs of police, or the head of that organization, which in many ways, is a symbol of the authority you were protesting against on weekends because the police would sometimes go in there and break those things up, right?
Milton: Exactly, and I had long hair so they would sometimes be after me, but two other things happened. One is that I had the famous iconic picture of the girl at Kent State like this – do you remember that picture?
Scarpino: I do.
Milton: I had it on my desk just like that, a little cutout of the newspaper, and someone from the IACP came to me one day and said, “We’re having some visiting police chiefs coming in and you have to take that picture down.” I said, “I don’t want to take that picture down.” They said, “You take it down or you’re out.” So, they fired me. I mean, I basically lost the job over that because, anyway… But I managed within two days to get a job working for the Presidential Commission on Campus Unrest and I helped to write the section on how the police should respond. I loved it.
Scarpino: The Presidential Commission on Campus Unrest.
Milton: On Campus Unrest – I have a copy of that over there. It was…
Scarpino: I’ve seen that report once upon a time.
Milton: Yeah, yeah, exactly, and I wrote the – I mean, there was somebody else, but I basically wrote a lot of the section on how the police should respond. And then I was involved a little bit with – the Washington, D.C.,
department was actually better than most other ones, in terms of using other people to help, you know, protect the protestors, you know, training them and doing better jobs. So, I helped get a film out on how to do that as a training film for the police.
Scarpino: For the police?
Milton: Yeah, exactly, and I went, the first other time I went to, for the police chiefs, they did send me to People’s Park to sort of observe what I saw there and I was terrified. I mean, I was…
Scarpino: Across from the White House?
Milton: No, I’m sorry, in Berkeley…
Scarpino: Okay, alright, okay.
Milton: … and I was like, I was terrified because the rumors were going around like they’re shooting, they’re shooting, and I’m in this crowd and I was just absolutely terrified. So, I think lessons I learned from there: communication’s good, you have to have other people. And so actually, I was able to help.
Scarpino: So, you started off as a speechwriter for the International Association of Chiefs of Police. Is that the position you were fired from?
Scarpino: Okay, so, but you were also chief exec, you…
Milton: I was there just a year and then I went to the Commission on Campus Unrest and then I went to the Police Foundation.
Scarpino: So, Assistant Police Foundation Director?
Milton: Yeah, the Police Foundation, and that’s where I worked for like eight years and I wrote several co-authored books and all that.
Scarpino: So, they were willing to take you on...
Milton: Oh, yeah.
Scarpino: … even though you’d been fired.
Milton: Well, my, oh, I had somebody at the International Association of Chiefs of Police who knew my work and knew I was good, and he’s the one that got me that job.
Scarpino: You moved to Washington in 1968, you were there for a number of years. It must have been pretty interesting to be in the nation’s capital during that period of social upheaval represented by 1968.
Milton: Oh, it was horrible, totally. Oh, god, it was something. I’m since divorced from my husband. He was working for defense issues, Institute for Defense Analysis, high security clearance and all that, and I’m out protesting. I mean, that marriage didn’t last, by the way. I should just say, it was a very interesting period.
Scarpino: While you were working as Assistant Police Foundation Director, this is when you did the study of women…
Milton: Yeah, women, yeah, yeah.
Scarpino: … on patrol that produced Women and Policing. So, for the benefit of anybody who uses this, the Police Foundation is a privately funded independent nonprofit established by the Ford Foundation in 1970. Why did you decide to conduct this study of police women on patrol?
Milton: Oh, well, well, a combination. First, at the Police Foundation, when they hired me, I was the only woman and I had been the only one in out of a hundred professionals at the International Association of Chiefs of Police, so I was always feeling like a little different. One day, I got a phone call from the police chief, actually at Berkley, Bruce Baker was his name, and he said, “I have this idea that women could do patrol work.” I said, “Really?” And I was like, “Okay, let’s think about it.” They didn’t do it for years, but he had this idea. So, I then put the idea before – I had a very distinguished Board, you know, James Q. Wilson and Jim Vorenberg, I mean, really, really smart people, and they thought it was a neat idea. So, and the Ford Foundation…
Milton: James, Jim Vorenberg, James…
Milton: Yeah, James…
Scarpino: Yeah, I just wanted to be sure I got the full name, yeah.
Milton: I’m sorry, James Q. Wilson was the first one and then Jim Vorenberg, but there were other people, Allen who was Mayor of Atlanta, anyway, very…
Scarpino: So, this was the Foundation Board?
Milton: Yeah, yeah, the Foundation Board.
Milton: They really supported me and thought it was sort of a neat idea, let’s just put it that way. I think it was partly, again, you go back to how my role was, I think I was perceived as a very smart, hardworking person who was willing to do all I could to sort of help change the system, and in a way it was almost cute that they were going to do this. I mean, I don’t even know how to say it, but it was like, it was like, oh, okay, that’s great, yeah let’s try.
Scarpino: What do you think the impact of that study was?
Milton: Oh, I think it was major, absolutely, because what we did was we had this major controlled study. We got the Police Chief of D.C. to hire a hundred women and a hundred men at the same time, putting them in similar areas, and the Urban Institute did this unbelievable survey and all sorts of research, and it became the basis of court cases because I testified. It was like there was – women, they couldn’t discriminate against them.
Scarpino: And I’m assuming, based on what I read that you’ve written that the women performed just fine.
Milton: Absolutely, they did. There were some slight differences, fewer arrests, but fewer citizen complaints and etcetera.
Scarpino: What did you take away from your work with the Police Foundation that influenced the rest of your career?
Milton: Boy, that was probably the biggest influence. And I should just say as an aside, when I was debating whether to go to Stanford, I had a friend say to me, “Well, if you could work with the police, you could work with academics.” There was a lot of truth to it because it was the same kind of style of sort of, again, focusing on what you thought was important, what you wanted to get done, do the hard work, be really nice and try to get along with people and not take a lot of credit. That’s sort of like the key.
Scarpino: I’m wondering how the academics would have felt being compared to the police in those days.
Milton: I know, they probably wouldn’t have liked it too much I have to say, so you’re right.
Scarpino: Jimmy Carter was elected President, November 1976, served ’77 through January of ’81. You came to the attention of the Carter Administration, I assume because of your high-profile role at the International Association of Chiefs of Police…
Milton: That’s right.
Scarpino: … and the Police Foundation. In your previous interview, I’m going to quote a line from this and then we’re going to talk about it because this was unbelievably modest on your part. You said, “I ended up helping to oversee the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms,” and so for any future user of this, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms is a law enforcement agency in the Department of Justice, so.
Milton: Yeah. Actually Homeland Security now, I believe.
Scarpino: Ah, yes. They (inaudible) last year. Okay. So, do you remember what year you started working for Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms?
Milton: Oh, gosh. When was Carter elected? Was he…?
Milton: So, I think it would have been ’77.
Scarpino: Just to get a rough chronology in here. So, let’s work on defining helping. What was your actual role at the Department of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms?
Milton: Oh, actually, well, my boss was an Assistant Secretary. He had direct line responsibility for that Bureau, Secret Service, Customs and a few other things that don’t matter. He assigned to me the responsibility for overseeing all the work. So, any time they did any regulations, any responses they had to members of Congress, any testimony, I oversaw, but it wasn’t like – he had the line responsibility, so I was his Special Assistant, and I don’t know how else to say it. I would never want to say –I certainly didn’t run it, but I oversaw it.
Scarpino: So, your title was Special Assistant?
Milton: Special Assistant to the Assistant Secretary of Treasury.
Scarpino: What was the Assistant Secretary of Treasury’s name?
Milton: Richard David, Richard J. Davis.
Scarpino: Alright. So, if I did this right, so you’re just generally, your duties were what, to get in one place, the areas that you were overseeing?
Milton: Well, I basically oversaw all of the regulatory issues relating to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. So, that meant all regulations relating to firearms, all regulations relating to alcohol, I had to oversee and approve. In addition, I helped work closely on doing innovative things in those areas, such as label for warning pregnant women to drink and, on
firearms, we did a number of things which did get through, like unique numbers on firearms, although, in the end, the NRA got them out.
Scarpino: So, you were the person who’s largely responsible for calling to women’s attention…
Milton: That’s right.
Scarpino: … the fact that drinking of any alcohol during certain periods of pregnancy is not good for the fetus.
Milton: That’s right, and the way I got involved was, Donald Kennedy, who later became President of Stanford, at that time was head of the Food and Drug Administration. He wrote a letter to the Washington Post, it was on the front page, it was in the Washington Post, saying that there’s new evidence that women should not consume alcoholic beverages and that he was going to ask Treasury to do this. Well, we were, I told them, a little annoyed that we read about this, why didn’t he just tell us, but I got assigned to sort of figure out what to do. So, I worked with the White House science advisor and was given all of the academic documents that related to the issue. I read them carefully and I paid a lot of attention for a variety of reasons, including that I was six months pregnant and that I had been told by my doctor that it was fine to drink. I wasn’t a big drinker, but I was…
Scarpino: I mean, doctors used to tell women in those days take a couple of drinks; it’ll help you relax.
Milton: Exactly, exactly, exactly, a big job, you know. So, I was reading this and going whoa, and we had very – the alcoholic beverage industry was probably as powerful as the NRA in its own way because it was the wine industry, distilled spirits and beer. They had lots of money and lots of power and lots of good lobbyists. So, it was a major – and the Secretary of Treasury himself was called to a number of meetings with lots of people. The industry all said, “We’ll let the doctors do it.” There was one critical meeting where they were saying that and I stood up, and I was seven months pregnant by then, and said basically, “My doctor’s telling me it’s alright to drink. It’s not alright to drink. Here’s the evidence. We’ve got to do something about it.”
Scarpino: So, the fact that every container of alcohol sold in the United States has a warning on it now…
Scarpino: … is due in part to your work.
Milton: In part to me. It was a lot of people. Donald Kennedy was certainly, the head of FDA, played a role, but I worked on that for about a year and a half. I will say that in the end, Strom Thurmond, of all people, got involved and forced them to do it, but we had the language and everything all worked out.
Scarpino: So, thanks in part to Strom Thurmond, the alcohol…
Milton: That’s right.
Scarpino: … beverage industry fell into line.
Milton: That’s right, that’s right.
Scarpino: I mentioned that I’d read the previous interview with you, and I pulled another line out of there. You said, “Both my husband, who has since died, and I were involved as change agents in a variety of issues working in government and non-profits.” I’m wondering if you could tell me where you think you were a change agent.
Milton: Well, I think, certainly the work I did on police, which not only with women, but also trying to get the police to focus on killing fewer civilians and focus on using data to sort of identify rather just a random patrol, but to focus on how do we actually try to reduce homicides. I did a lot of work on that. So I was really trying to change the police world. I also would look at the work I did at the Treasury Department, particularly on what we just talked about, the fetal alcohol syndrome. But third, a lot of work I did on victims of crime was another big area where I felt like I did some significant changes. I’d gotten hired by the Urban Coalition to do some work on victims – how to help older people out. Then from that, I ended up working for Senator Hines, who was head of a committee on…
Scarpino: Pennsylvania Senator Hines, yes.
Milton: Yes, Pennsylvania Senator Hines. So, I worked on the Special Committee on Aging, which he chaired, and I came up with the idea, which is, well one of the things you could do to help the elderly is to help them when they become victims of crime; some simple things like they would keep the TVs and all for five, 10 years and they’d be dead by then, you know. It’s like so try to get better things for getting things back and if they get injured, just a whole range of things. So, it became clear that what had to be done for seniors needed to be done for everybody. So, out of that, I came up with the idea of the victims’ rights and victims’ impact statements so that, for example, in court now when you have someone testifying at sentencing, you’ll have a victim impact statement so that people can sort of speak up say “this is what this crime did to me.” That was an idea that came out of some of the hearings we had where it became clear that we had victims who had actually died and the prosecutor – nobody had ever
even bothered to check because it said, oh, it was just an assault and then the person died. And because no one had checked with any of the relatives or anybody, there was no victim impact statement. So, that’s…
Scarpino: So, the common practice now in courtrooms of victim impact statements…
Milton: Yep, yep, that’s right.
Scarpino: … grew out of your work in a Senate committee?
Milton: That’s right, that’s right, that’s right.
Scarpino: Okay, so the name of the Senate committee was…?
Milton: Special Committee on Aging.
Scarpino: And the chair of the Committee was Senator Hines?
Milton: Senator Hines, yeah, and I had to work closely with Senator Laxalt, who was chair of the Judiciary Committee. Senator Laxalt was a probably Reagan’s biggest supporter in the Senate, very close, he’d been chairman, I think, of his election committee.
Scarpino: Senator Laxalt represented what state?
Milton: Nevada, yeah, and I had to work closely, and that was, I’d tell students sometimes I was undercover because if they’d ever known I was a Democrat, they would’ve not talked to me. So, I just never talked about it.
Scarpino: Do you think that one of the things that accounts for your success over the years is the ability to work with a variety of people…
Scarpino: … including people you don’t agree with?
Milton: Totally, and again, it goes back to like if I believe what we’re doing is the right thing and we all are working towards that, yes.
Scarpino: What was your title, working for the Senate committee?
Milton: Staff, I just…
Scarpino: You were an employee?
Milton: Yeah, I was an employee, yeah.
Scarpino: How did you get that job?
Milton: Through a friend in D.C. Lot’s of people have, you know, friends and I had a friend, John Roberts, who was the General Counsel in charge of the Committee.
Scarpino: Okay, because I don’t have a CV, we’re going to see if this sorts itself. You moved to D.C. to become a speechwriter…
Milton: Yeah, yeah.
Scarpino: … and then what did you do next?
Milton: Okay, well, then I went to the Commission on Campus Unrest, and then I went to the Police Foundation. Then I went to the American Bar Association, where I headed up their first Center on Women in Law Enforcement. I worked mostly on issues relating to women in prisons and trying to improve women in prisons.
Scarpino: From there you went to…?
Milton: From there I went to Treasury Department and then from the Treasury Department…
Scarpino: And that’s Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms?
Milton: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Then from there I went to work at the Senate. I mean, I’d done some consulting at some point for the Urban Coalition, but I basically went to work for the Senate. Then I got put on a national commission run by the Attorney General, appointed by Reagan and all those folks, on family violence. That was another big deal because, another…
Scarpino: A Reagan-appointed commission on family violence…?
Milton: Yes, exactly.
Scarpino: … did they know you were a Democrat?
Milton: Meese found out and said she’s the one (INAUDIBLE) stuff of the NRA, and he tried to get rid of me, but I had another friend who was close…
Scarpino: Meese being the Attorney General?
Milton: …yeah, who was the Assistant Attorney General and she knew my work from victims’ rights and she said, “I want her.” So, I was the Democrat, along with John Ashcroft. It was like oh, boy.
Scarpino: You served with John Ashcroft…?
Milton: Yeah, yeah.
Scarpino: … from Missouri.
Milton: Yeah, yeah.
Scarpino: He was from Missouri in those days.
Milton: That’s right, he was from Missouri. He was the Attorney General of the State in those days, yeah. So, there were about six of us on the Commission, including Meese’s wife. It was quite an interesting…
Scarpino: And the name of the Commission?
Milton: Family Violence, the Attorney General’s Commission on Family Violence.
Scarpino: That’s alright, we can look it up.
Milton: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Scarpino: Okay. So, alright, so…
Milton: So, I did that, and then my husband and I decided that we – he had been Associate Watergate Prosecutor and then had been Inspector General, and Reagan’s first act as President was to fire him. He got rehired, but we said we’ve had it with Washington, at this point so we wanted to leave. So, eventually Stanford heard that we were looking and basically gave my husband a job offer as Associate Dean at the Law School, and then Don Kennedy hired me. So, that was the next job. So, then Don Kennedy hired me as his Special Assistant.
Scarpino: And you stayed at Stanford for about 12 years?
Milton: Yeah, yeah.
Scarpino: So, I think when I talked to you on the phone, the pre-interview, you said your move from Washington to Stanford you said, oh, you said this in your previous oral history interview, and I’m going to quote, “We really needed to do something to reach the younger generation the way I have been called to service by John Kennedy, John F. Kennedy.” I’ll also note that when you served as the Executive Director of the Commission on National Community Service, that that organization’s 1993 report is titled “What can You do for Your Country?” and the first line in the Preface says, quotes that famous Kennedy line “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.”
So, with all that said, talk about how John Kennedy inspired you to think of doing service.
Milton: Ah, well, when I was at college, it was – never had really thought about national service or serving your country because I wasn’t going into the military. Then when the first concept of Peace Corps came out, it was like well, maybe I should do this. So, I thought very seriously about joining Peace Corps, instead did what did on the whole issue of the History of the American Negro and all the rest, but I think it was, basically it was inspirational. That’s all I can say. It was like, it was this call like well, you’ve got to do something and yeah.
Scarpino: I’m going to pull in a question now that I was going to ask you at the end. So, John Kennedy, even though he never knew it, inspired you to think seriously about incorporating service into your life. You were a young person at that point, do you ever pay it forward? Do you work to inspire young people to a life of service?
Milton: Oh, absolutely. Well, I think that that has been – certainly the work I did at the Haas Center at Stanford, that was totally what I was about. Even, I went back for the last couple years, especially after this last election, I went back and I said, “I’m too old to really make a difference, Alan. You guys have got to. So, let me help you. Let me give you all the connections.” And that was certainly the whole idea of what I did with working at Stanford, and I think that that was certainly a call, in terms of why I did the work I did with the National Service.
Scarpino: And we’re going to, we will… So, you go to Stanford, basically you’re a Special Assistant to the President, which must have given you a pretty capacious portfolio.
Milton: Yeah, well, actually it was only focused on public service. He already had a Special Assistant to take care of all the other stuff.
Scarpino: What were you doing in the area of public service?
Milton: Well, my job was to write a report to the Faculty Senate on the status of public service at Stanford and recommendations of what should be done in order to change it. So, once that announcement was given, two things happened. First of all, suddenly people from the community and Foundation started calling me and saying, “This is great; can I talk to you and give you some ideas?” And second, students start to line up literally out the door and say, “I want to get involved.” So, I was there literally I think it was like a week or two and it’s like we now have something that is alive and we don’t even know what we have. So, I did spend the time trying to find out – because history, Stanford did have some things and my current husband – it’s sort of embarrassing to have three husbands but it’s like there are reasons it happened – my current husband actually used to run programs years ago at Stanford that were sort of the early programs during the ‘60s.
Scarpino: Did you know him then?
Milton: I didn’t know him. I met him once, you know, it’s like it’s a little sort of small world. But anyway, so there were programs that had done some things a way back, and Stanford, at one point, had the largest number of young people going to Peace Corps. So, I knew that there was a tradition there, but it really wasn’t very much alive and the students were upset about that and wanted something more done.
Scarpino: You had a program called Stanford in Washington?
Milton: Yes, that was the other…
Scarpino: Talk a little bit about that.
Milton: That was probably, the first email or letter – I can’t remember whether it was – back then to Don Kennedy with recommendations for what Stanford should do, I said they needed to have more of presence in Washington, D.C., and they needed to understand Washington, D.C., better here. I said, “I’ve been here like about a couple of weeks and talked to people in the Political Science Department and all that, and I don’t think people – I think you need an overseas program in Washington, D.C., because the people here really don’t have a good feel for how things actually operate.” I mean, at that point, I’d gotten a bill through, which was almost impossible, and I literally got that bill on victim’s rights through, and I’d done other things. So, I sort of knew then how to get things done and I just didn’t feel like people that I’d run into at Stanford did. So, Don thought it was an interesting idea. He said, “Let’s do other things here first.” So, we did focus on other things, but it was in the back of my mind. Then I had a couple of students only at Stanford when this happened, who happened to be daughters of senators, come to me and say, “We think that we need a program in D.C. and would you help me?” So basically, the three of us worked on sort of seeing what was available, and then I probably spent the next four years trying to get faculty to support it. Now it’s a very popular program, but it was very hard to get a faculty committee, even though, quite frankly, I had already designed what the program should be, but they didn’t want internships to be part of it, and it was like…
Scarpino: Why not?
Milton: Because it’s not academic, and…
Scarpino: So, they were interested in their research?
Milton: They were interested in research and if the students wanted to go there and write papers but not do an internship, “it may be alright, Cath, we’ll give you 10 hours a week.” I said, “No, it’s got to be a full-time substantive
internship.” So, in the end, we got exactly what – absolutely what I wanted and we were lucky to – Don Kennedy did a great job, raised the money and we got a great building and it’s – everybody would say it’s one of Stanford’s best programs.
Scarpino: And the great building is…?
Milton: It’s in Washington, D.C., on Connecticut Avenue right across from Metro, not too far – in Woodley Park.
Scarpino: I know where that is.
Milton: Yeah. It used to be at a Chinese restaurant and they took over two restaurants and a hotel. It’s really nice.
Scarpino: So, at Stanford, you were the founder of the Haas Center?
Scarpino: And we’ve sort of alluded to that a few times, but 1985, is that right?
Milton: Yeah, I think so. I mean, I started working there, we always have trouble sort of figuring out dates because I started working there, I think in ’82, ’81, ’82, and I can’t even get that date straight. I’ll have to do it if you want. But anyway, and it took a couple years to get the endowment, so that’s why we say it was founded in ’85, but in fact, we had started a Public Service Center.
Scarpino: And the purpose of the Haas Center was public service?
Milton: Yeah, yeah.
Scarpino: To train students?
Milton: To instill – we probably have a purpose written out, but it was actually to instill upon students the concept that service was important and to give them the opportunities academically to have experiences woven into their classes, as well as…
Scarpino: So, you were encouraging faculty to incorporate service into…?
Milton: Totally. They now have over 250 classes that do it, and to remove barriers by having fellowships. (PHONE RINGING – PAUSE)
So, we created fellowships so that students could have money to do work in the summer and post-graduation.
Scarpino: Did you design the Center? The work of the Center, not the building?
Milton: Totally, totally, 100%. I mean when I say that, of course students, I was always a partner with the students.
Scarpino: So, the endowment, that was Don Kennedy?
Milton: Yeah, the endowment, I did a lot of work on getting that, but it came from the Haas Family. I got one of the key Haas members to be on my – I set up an Advisory Board. I got John Gardner to agree to be chair and we had several other great people on it, and Mimi Haas agreed to serve and that was for a year or so that we asked her…
Scarpino: Just for the benefit of somebody using this, John Gardner, tell ...
Milton: Oh, John Gardner was the founder of Common Cause, Independent Secretary, former HEW Secretary under Johnson and the War on Poverty. And then he came in during which, basically you would say retirement, came to Stanford and I got him an Endowed Professorship, so he worked here for five years teaching.
Scarpino: So, you’re going to start the Center…
Scarpino: … you had an idea…
Scarpino: … and you obviously were able to sell the idea to the Administration and to the President; whose idea was it to reach out to the Haas Family? Because it’s one thing to have an idea, and it’s another thing to pay for it.
Milton: Oh, I totally understand. I totally understand that. I think it may have been someone in Development Office, but it was a combination. I had lunch early on with one of these Foundation people who said, “You ought to get the Haas’s involved,” at a lunch. So he told me and so I had that in mind, but I think the Development Office, they were doing centennial big fundraising, and Haas’s usually gave to Berkeley, so I think they thought this was something they might give to. So, they worked with Don on that and then I did – Mimi meanwhile, I got her onboard, and then I wrote the proposal. So, but I would say Don Kennedy, it could’ve never happened without him, yeah, in terms of getting the money. I did get our first grant, which was a half-million dollars, which was, you know, from someone who was volunteering for me from the community who I had no idea she had any money. She said, “I love this and I’m going to give you half a million dollars.” So the first year, I probably raised a couple million dollars, and that was one reason, I hate to say it, but that was one reason they said, “Oh, we’ll do this,” – you know what I mean? It’s like the money’s there…
Scarpino: I do know what you mean, yes. But the thing that made it go and created a permanent was that the endowment.
Milton: The endowment, absolutely, and then getting a building. So, here’s another tiny little story for you, is that I had a former student, an MBA student, who worked for a group called Strategic Decisions Group. It’s a big international organization, and he came back and said, “how can I help you?” and basically, we went through an exercise of what are all, I guess, the SWAT thing, like what are the things that could possibly really hurt the Center, and he said, “Well, Don Kennedy will leave, you’ll leave.” I said, “That’s like, what? Oh, my god.” So, I then really sort of focused on we need real estate because I understood how universities work. I could remember – this was right after we’d gotten the endowment and I remember going to the Provost. He says, “I can’t believe you; you just got the others,” just leave me alone, but I managed – and this was John Gardner telling me – he said, “You should have lunch with this other person, Tom Ford,” who I didn’t know. I told Tom Ford I had a goal of having service as important as athletics and he said, “wow!” and then he gave me a bunch of money right there at the lunch. It turned out that he was on the Board of Trustees, I didn’t know this, head of the Building Committee. So, I ask him to be my chair and the next thing I know, he said, “Alright, here’s how we have to get this building,” because it would’ve never happened without him.
Scarpino: And it’s there now?
Milton: It’s there now.
Scarpino: And the name of the building is?
Milton: It’s the Haas Center, yeah.
Scarpino: Okay, alright.
Milton: Yeah, yeah, they didn’t call it anything else, yeah.
Scarpino: So, you received, I mentioned when I introduced you, a citation from the World of Children’s Humanitarian Award. I read the citation, and one line kind of jumped out at me. It said you “increased student involvement in community service from 40 to 80 percent within five years,” and I assume that meant Stanford.
Milton: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Scarpino: I’m going to assume that it’s true or it wouldn’t be in there. So, how did you do that? I mean, that’s a huge increase.
Milton: Yeah, some of the service was – well, I hired students, including some who recently graduated, to be in charge of volunteer recruitment and we did that. We set up new programs on tutoring. We set up some real institutions, which is sort of what I learned, helped me with the Commission, is you’ve got to have the institutions with trainings and stuff like that in order to make it possible for people to volunteer. So, we set up programs like that, but we also worked hard with, you know, fraternities, sororities and other groups to try to really help them do a better job of what they’re doing and I guess that’s – and Don Kennedy played a major role because he, as President, was always saying “you’ve got to do service, you got to do” – he never gave up an opportunity.
Scarpino: You were involved in the creation of the California Youth Service Corps.
Milton: Yeah, yeah.
Scarpino: What’s that about?
Milton: Well, that was, let’s see. There were two programs I helped to create. One was a youth corps which was actually around this area of like six communities around here, focused on kids in middle school, to try to get them to do community service.
Scarpino: To the Palo Alto area?
Milton: Yeah, Palo Alto, and to do community service. I did this in part because I had kids in middle school and there were no service programs and we wanted them to also work with kids from East Palo Alto. So, we created it jointly and that program has now had it 35th anniversary.
Scarpino: So, you’re a mom with kids in middle school. You felt there wasn’t appropriate opportunities for them and you created it.
Milton: That’s right, exactly, exactly, and it’s a great program to this day. Now, the other one, which was Youth Service California, I believe, I think that’s it. Anyway, I have to get the exact names, if I have it wrong, but that was a program to bring together all of the key elements of service in California and have them work together and we had a conference, annual conference. That basically helped lead to setting up a real service network in the State of California, which is now run by the state, and that helped to provide support for getting AmeriCorps through.
Scarpino: So, it was your work in California with youth service that helped to jump-start AmeriCorps?
Milton: Absolutely, yeah.
Scarpino: In your last couple of years at Stanford, you were on leave?
Milton: The last two years, I was on leave. That’s right.
Scarpino: And you were basically…?
Milton: At the Commission doing this work, yeah.
Scarpino: Okay, and part of what you were doing with the Commission was trying to get AmeriCorps up and running.
Milton: That’s right, exactly. I was given sort of an ultimatum by the new President because my – if it had been Don Kennedy, it wouldn’t have happened – but with the new President, he basically…
Scarpino: Gerhard Casper?
Milton: Casper, yeah. He said, “You either come back or you – you know, you have a two-year leave and we won’t extend it.” And I felt like as much as I didn’t want to leave Stanford that, if I had left AmeriCorps at that point in time, it wouldn’t have been launched.
Scarpino: So, you left Stanford, stayed with AmeriCorps to get it launched.
Milton: Yeah, that’s right.
Scarpino: So, as I’ve been doing background reading, there were some names that popped up over and over again, and I don’t know if I’m putting these in in the right place or not, but Susan Stroud?
Milton: Susan Stroud, yeah, you should definitely…
Scarpino: Talk a little bit about her contributions.
Milton: Okay. Susan Stroud worked at Brown University. She was originally sort of a coordinator of internship programs from five East Coast universities and I met her – one of the things I did when I first came here to Stanford was to go back East to see how could we steal every good idea from Harvard and Yale and Brown. I met Susan then and she was close friends of Frank Newman – I don’t know if you’ve heard that name – but Frank was head of the…
Scarpino: But he’s the next guy I’m going to ask you about.
Milton: Yeah, okay. He was head of the Commission on Education, Commission of the States. He’d been president of the University of Rhode Island. He had the idea – and I should tell you, at the same time I did too, but – of getting college presidents together to promote service.
Scarpino: And that’s the genesis of Campus Compact.
Milton: That’s the genesis of Campus Compact, yeah, yeah, exactly. So, Susan is somebody that is overseeing, is working with Les and…
Scarpino: Les Lenkowsky.
Milton: Les Lenkowsky and Tom Ehrlich on the Archive project because Susan, she was head of Campus Compact and I worked – for a while we were doing it jointly, but then she did it full time. Then when I took over the Commission work, she was still at Campus Compact, but then when I did the Corporation work, she got a job at the White House. So, she worked at the White House on getting community support and things. Long story short is I ran several programs, including Learn and Serve, and when I left, she took over Learn and Serve. She’s now helping with the Archives, so yeah.
Scarpino: Yeah. She’s on our list of people to talk to.
Milton: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Scarpino: So, you played a role in the founding of Campus Compact…?
Scarpino: … as well as California Campus Compact?
Milton: Absolutely, absolutely, yeah.
Scarpino: As you mentioned, a national coalition of university presidents committed to engaging students in community service. I think it was founded in 1985. So, how did that organization come into existence?
Scarpino: Because, you know, it’s one thing to have an idea and it’s another thing to persuade these presidents to do it.
Milton: Exactly. Well, the time was right. My, Don Kennedy, I actually took several graduate students from the School of Education who had come to me independently saying, “If we want to change this nation and if we want to do all this on a bigger scale, we need to have college presidents because there’s no one else” – it was a vacuum of leadership – “and the college presidents are the perfect ones to be the ones to do this call and so you have to convince Don Kennedy that he wants to do that.” So, I said sure. So, I said we’ll take them over and we had a meeting with Don and I think Don was like okay. He didn’t sort of say yes at that point, but he was like, “Well, this is an interesting idea.” Then, sort of simultaneously, Frank Newman approached him at some national meeting of college presidents and said, “I think you and Howard and Father Healy
should get together” – Howard Swearer, President of Brown and Father Healy, President of Georgetown – and I think at that point, Don was like okay, and came back to me and said, “Alright, will you help me with this?” So, we basically then started to think about it and Susan and I worked really closely. And I think it’s fair to say that Frank Newman had the idea well, let’s get a hundred of them together to issue a proclamation that we think this is important. That’s all we wanted to do at that point, it wasn’t any organization. I can’t remember the exact numbers, but we had more wanting to sign up than we thought and we had a meeting at Georgetown University. John Gardner was there and there were some other distinguished media, columnists who I just don’t remember who they were, but we could find that out from the Washington Post. At that meeting, what happened was like we’ve got to stay together, we’ve got to do this, so then we started to fundraise and got money from Ford, Carnegie, Kellogg.
Milton: Yeah. And that’s what did it.
Scarpino: And it’s still in existence.
Milton: It’s still in existence.
Scarpino: And it still has that mission of encouraging students?
Milton: That’s right, absolutely. Like in California, the person who runs it, I’m in touch with a fair amount. She’s doing a great job. I mean, she’s got, you know, they’ve got several, a number of whole states who have, you know, home, independent. I helped with – when I lived in Oregon for a while, I helped with that one, too.
Scarpino: I’m going to ask you one more question and then we’re going to actually talk about the whole National Service in some focused way. Tom Ehrlich was nominated by President George H.W. Bush to be on the Points of Light Commission to figure out what to do about national service. I’m going to actually talk to Tom Ehrlich tomorrow, but former President of Indiana University, Provost University of Pennsylvania, Dean of Stanford Law School, a very distinguished career.
For the benefit of anybody who’s going to use this interview, can you explain what the Points of Light Foundation is about?
Milton: When Bush I think gave his inauguration speech, he talked about how he wanted there to be a thousand points of light out there of people doing good service. It was an idea that captured the imagination of a lot of people, and they decided to try to establish it as an ongoing thing by recognizing, during his presidency, every day a different person who
would be a point of light and that he would meet with them when he was traveling around the country. So, it was like a simple kind of concept. They had to hire, you know, put together a staff and I guess they got private money and a board. Ray Chambers was the first chair of it. I forgot the name of the man who – I can see what he looks like – but he was a very big corporate guy, was the first Director of it. A friend of mine who was head of California Compact, Chuck Supple, went to work for them. He was one of the first staff people. So, I think that it was basically an idea to try to select and recognize people who had done service. Then the idea got a little bigger, in terms of how do we support the nonprofit sector and how do we create more of an infrastructure of support for that field? And there was a whole volunteer, association of volunteer organization, promoted volunteers and that got incorporated. So, that was sort of what it was. My understanding, and this is what Gregg Petersmeyer certainly will know more than I was, but it was one of George Bush’s, he really wanted this to happen, and he needed, wanted more ongoing funding from the Federal Government. That’s when the whole idea of setting up the Commission came about as a compromise. That’s my understanding of what happened.
Scarpino: So, there is a connection then between Points of Light and…
Milton: Oh, yeah, totally, totally. He wanted the money and Kennedy and other Democrats were like, “okay, you give us money for that, you give us money for what we want and we’ll make a deal.” That’s basically what – now, Shirley, who you’re going to talk to, will know much more than I do about that deal, but that’s exactly how I understood it.
Scarpino: So, the deal was the Democrats who were pushing what became the Commission…
Milton: Yes, that’s right.
Scarpino: … wanted support from the Points of Light Foundation and they agreed that they would support appropriations for Points of Light if…
Milton: If we got the Commission.
Milton: Yeah. So, what happened is that the bill got through and signed, but part of the ways of the bill, the way it was designed, was that there was going to be this bipartisan board and it had to be appointed by the President and he didn’t appoint anybody. So, he got his money for the Points of Light,
but didn’t appoint the board at the Commission. The Commission had a timeline on it, which is what led to all the pressure because a whole year went away. I think my understanding is that then he reached out to Tom Ehrlich and others and said – because I think it became clear, Congress says “you’re not going to get any more money. I mean, it’s like you had that and that’s all you’re going to get unless you do this other.”
Scarpino: So, the Commission on National and Community Service goes into law, but the President doesn’t appoint a board.
Milton: That’s right, exactly.
Scarpino: But he was pressured to do that because Tom Ehrlich was on that board and became chair of the board.
Milton: That’s right, exactly, exactly.
Scarpino: Alright, and Tom Ehrlich was also on the Points of Light.
Milton: That’s right. So, he probably – so Tom is a key person to explain that and Shirley would be the other person. I’ll be interested to read that.
Scarpino: Well, I’ll be talking to Tom Ehrlich tomorrow. Alright. So, I want to talk about the National Community Service Act and I’m going to put a little information in the record.
President George H.W. Bush signed the National and Community Service Act, Public Law 101-610, on November 16, 1990. The National and Community Service Act of 1990 authorized the creation of the Commission on National and Community Service, which was intended to be bipartisan, as you mentioned. One of the main purposes of the Commission and Community Service was to make grants to states or local applicants to allow them to carry out national or community service programs.
So, you become Executive Director of the Commission on National and Community Service. How did you end up in that position?
Milton: A couple of reasons, but Tom Ehrlich is the one who didn’t know me except I told him, he asked me the other day, his daughter was one of my students and I really helped her out a lot and she did really well and she got the highest award at Stanford’s Commencement because I nominated her and she got it…
Scarpino: It was his daughter, Elizabeth.
Milton: Elizabeth. Do you know Elizabeth?
Scarpino: No, but I just read – I did a lot of reading. No, I don’t know her.
Milton: His daughter was Elizabeth. So, he knew of my work and he knew that I did good work, but he didn’t – I met him at her graduation for the first time and that was all I knew. But they were trying to figure out who could do this job and I was the only one who had had the Washington, D.C., experience, including Congress, and knew the field and had done startup. The startup of the Haas Center, I mean, I started things from scratch. So, the word got out, well, she may be the only person that we, I mean, we need her at least at first to come and do this.
Scarpino: Did you promote yourself to the job?
Milton: I didn’t even know it was a job.
Milton: I got this phone call and it’s like what? And then I went, I think Tom called me and I was at the office and I went to see, immediately to see Don Kennedy and said, “They want me to do this and it means I have to leave like – it was a Thursday – I have to leave by Monday.” And he said, “Well, you have no choice; you’re going to have to do it.” Then I talked to my husband and all that, so we said okay, but we thought originally it was just for two months, but I found a place to stay, a friend’s going to put me up. Then once I got there, I realized, oh, my god, this is incredible and really hard to do and then I could do it. So I then – they had a national search and I was encouraged by board members to apply and I did and I got selected, but it was a big search.
Scarpino: So, you were initially selected just to fill the seat and then…
Milton: That’s right, exactly.
Scarpino: … you were selected by a national search.
Milton: That’s right.
Scarpino: So, you were commuting from…?
Milton: I was, at my own expense.
Scarpino: … Palo Alto.
Milton: I wanted to make sure because the Inspector General looked at it. Yeah, I was. The only way I could do it was that I had a good friend, who I’d written a book with on police issues, and he and his wife put me up in a house in D.C. so that I could, you know, in their basement. So, yeah. I just, I commuted.
Scarpino: So, the woman who was heading up this Commission was living in somebody’s basement for free?
Milton: That’s right.
Scarpino: Like being a student again.
Milton: Yeah, exactly. I was living in a basement. I remember my…
Scarpino: On Capitol Hill?
Milton: No, it was near Dupont Circle. I remember Shirley came to visit me one day and it was like there was actually no bed, I was on the floor on a mattress and she’s like oh, my god. But I did that so that I’d have enough money to travel back to see my kids. And I flew, the flights actually became important for a variety of reasons, but they were much easier to fly back and forth then and I did it every – I left Friday afternoons and I returned Monday mornings. Monday morning I would get on a really early flight and I’d get to the office at 3:00 and I would work until like 10 PM. So, I felt like well, I’m putting in a full day, so I’m not going to worry about it. I worked on the planes. And I think I mentioned another person too, Julien Phillips, who was so smart and volunteered, he’d been at McKinsey and he volunteered to help me out. He lived somewhere else, I guess not to far from here, like about five miles from here. So, he and I commuted back and forth, and the plane rides were like the time you could really work.
Scarpino: And he was your assistant?
Milton: He was an assistant, but he was a volunteer.
Scarpino: I’m going to put a short legislative history of the Commission on National and Community Service of the Act of 1990 here so that we’ve got it in one place, and then we’re going to talk about it. So, I know you know this stuff, but the listeners don’t.
Milton: No, thank you, and I’m glad to (INAUDIBLE).
Scarpino: So, we start with U.S. Senate. Senate Bill 1430, introduced into the 101st Congress by Massachusetts’ Democratic Senator, Edward Kennedy, on 27 July, 1989. There were 38 co-sponsors in the Senate, three of the co-sponsors were Republicans and 35 were Democrats. The three Republicans were: James Jeffords, Vermont; Arlen Specter, Pennsylvania; and Dave Durenberger, Minnesota. When the Senate
voted on October 6, 1990, the vote was 75 yes, 21 no, and four not voting. Of the 21 no votes, 20 were Republicans.
In the U.S. House, the House voted October 24, 1990. The final vote was 235 to 186. Of the House members who voted yes, there were 213 Democrats and 22 Republicans. Of the House members who voted no, there were 41 Democrats and 145 Republicans.
Now, two things struck me about that. One is that there was a certain amount of bipartisanship that we wouldn’t find today. I mean, there were some Republicans going for this, but it was primarily a Democratic measure.
So, the first question that I have is that a quick look at the sponsorship and votes in the Senate and the House would lead to the conclusion that the National and Community Service Act of 1990 was largely a partisan Democratic initiative in U.S. Congress. Would that be correct?
Milton: I think, by looking at the votes, it was correct, but I felt in those early years that there was still strong Republican support because there was such a thing as liberal Republicans back then.
Scarpino: You said still Republican support, so then I would conclude that that evaporated?
Milton: Yeah. I think now – well, no, because I think now the reason it’s been able to survive, AmeriCorps’ been able to survive is because of Republican support, particularly in the Senate.
Scarpino: Alright. So, there were two, so far as I can tell, there were two key members of Congress who played key roles in the passage of what became the National and Community Service Act of 1990 and those were Leon Panetta and Ted Kennedy. Most people know who Ted Kennedy was, but Leon Panetta was a Democrat, served in the U.S. House from ‘77-‘93, later held several important positions under Democratic Presidents – Secretary of Defense, Director of CIA, White House Chief of Staff – so, in other words, a pretty well-placed person. And again, I think most people know who Senator Ted Kennedy was.
Let’s start with Panetta. What role did he play in passage of the National and Community Service Act of 1990?
Milton: I’ve heard a story. Well, he developed some legislation early on that had the idea of national service and he’d promoted that and, you’re right that that helped in terms of getting other things through. He hired, as an intern, and this is the story I’ve heard, a young man who was a Harvard Law School student, Michael Brown. Michael got assigned to work on this and called his best friend, whose name is Alan Khazei, and said, “You
won’t believe this idea, but we’ve got to drop everything and this is what we’ve got to work on.” So, the two of them became the founder of City Year.
Milton: I don’t know if you know that, and that’s how – Michael, I’ve heard him give a speech and talked to him, but he said that’s where the idea for City Year came from. It was from working for Panetta. Isn’t that incredible? So, anyway, so all I can say is that I had my students at Stanford, I had a whole little group of them working for free, to write up a summary of all the legislation. There were like 15 different bills that were put in from all different members of House and Senate, including Senator Nunn, and I just don’t remember them all, but Shirley must know, but this became –before Kennedy’s bill, but it was like well, let’s do this and let’s do that. Then I think what happened is that with Shirley’s work and Kennedy’s work it pulled them all together.
Scarpino: Do you have any idea what motivated Senator Edward Kennedy to introduce the National and Community Service Act?
Milton: Shirley will know better than I would, but everything, and I did spend a fair amount of time with him, I think it was…
Scarpino: With Kennedy?
Milton: … with Kennedy. I think it was basically the influence of his brother and wanting to do service. It was deep inside of him and he was, I think it was just a deep will that this was one of the more important things he wanted to do first. And second, he was such a bipartisan player and he wanted to figure out ways to have lots of people work together, and I think he thought this fits some of the values of Republicans too.
Scarpino: When you said you spent a lot of time with him, you encouraged him, help shape the legislation?
Milton: No, I didn’t, at that point. It was when I was head of the Commission. It was afterwards.
Scarpino: Oh, okay.
Milton: Yeah, yeah, I lobbied, but it was with Shirley and not with him directly.
Scarpino: So, beside Panetta and mostly Kennedy, were there other people in Congress who played significant roles in the passage of that?
Milton: Well, I think, in the passage, I can’t speak to that, to tell you the truth.
Scarpino: So, Congress passes the National and Community Service Act of 1990 in the second year of George H.W. Bush’s only term as President. Any idea why he would support this? I mean, many of his Republican colleagues did not.
Milton: Yeah, I think the reason he did was because it had funding in there for the Points of Light Foundation…
Scarpino: Ah, alright.
Milton: … and that’s what, that was the only reason he did, but I would say that he also came out of the tradition – so the liberal Democratic, you know, like supporting nonprofit world and having people work together on behalf of their communities. So, I think that that was, you know, the overall goal, but I don’t think he wanted another government program.
Scarpino: So, he basically gave in to get funding for the Points of Light.
Milton: That’s right, that’s right, but again, Gregg Petersmeyer could also answer that, who I know you’re going to be speaking to.
Scarpino: At some point.
Scarpino: When this National and Community Service Act of 1990 was passed, the United States was in the grip of a recession that officially went from July of 1990 to March of ’91, but unofficially, you know…
Scarpino: One thing that struck me is that during an economic crisis, both houses of Congress pass this act, which is not free. I mean, there’s money attached to it.
Milton: Got you, got you.
Scarpino: So, what do you think it was about – and there was Republican support, not a lot, but what do you think it was about this that would cause Congress to want to spend money in a time of economic hardship?
Milton: Well, okay, I think that – and there was a lot of work, and this is actually where – there was a lot of grass root support. I always look at this as having as much sort of bottom up as top down that this all happened. In several states, there were commissions that had been set up, PennSERVE and Arkansas, to do this kind of, you know, to promote public service as a cause and something worthwhile, and you had what we used to call the Streams of Service and that was like the term we all used. We
had people, the colleges, you know, had Campus Compact and that was a pretty big force in terms of, you know, reaching at least the liberal press in terms of getting articles about why this would be important, you know, fighting the Me Generation, which was the big push at that time where you didn’t go out and get money. And you had a national movement that was supporting work in K through 12, and that one also had a lot of activity. There were people, Jim Kielsmeier and others, who were doing a lot of work on that nationally.
Milton: And then there was, in addition to that, the tradition of Youth Corps, and you had several governors, Governor Locke in Washington and even Governor Brown here in California, promoting Youth Corps and there were Youth Corps in cities, certain cities, and that was a way of getting young people who were mostly disadvantaged into doing some kind of service. So, that was what was the other stream of service. Then you had a national organization called Youth Service America which had been formed, YSA. Susan Stroud has all of their works in her living room now because the people have died who started it, Frank Slobig and I forgot the other person’s name, I’m sorry to say. But anyway, that was an organization which believed in having young people do service. There were several things that happened. So, young people to do service – they had a national conference, which I didn’t go to, but I met other people who did…
Scarpino: Youth Service America had this conference?
Milton: … yes, and that was apparently an incredible happening where people’s lives, you know, an idea happened. One of the people who went was a man by the name of Nick Bollman and Nick Bollman then worked for the Hewlett Foundation, which was out here, and he was funding me for other things. He then asked me to have a lunch with him and several other people in the Bay Area who were working on these different Streams of Service. He got us together and he said, “This is something, you guys have got to work together, it’s bigger than just half of what you’re doing here at Stanford, its bigger than, you know, what you’re doing in the Youth Corps in Oakland,” and so that’s how we actually started this organization. That was the idea for starting the organization statewide in California. So, that…
Scarpino: The service California organization, yeah.
Milton: … that’s right, and that had all happened in probably two years. So, we had, you know, all this was sort of happening at, sort of bubbling up – and I think it was part of the times that people were upset with the values that were being – that we were told that young people had, but in fact, when we gave the call to service, I could speak for Stanford, then they would come and respond and say, “we’re not like that, we’re different.”
Scarpino: I was going to say, these young people who apparently had these bad values were lining up to participate.
Milton: Totally. Exactly. And then I would also mention that there was a book written by some people I knew, Richard Danzig and Peter Zanten from the Ford Foundation, had sponsored this on National Service and I had another friend who was helping them out, who has since died, but through that, I had a lot of contact and was aware that they were trying to look at the whole concept of National Service. I met with Richard Danzig before I decided to come out to Stanford and he actually said, “We need models; we have great ideas, but we need models, so there’s hard work to be done,” and that sort of encouraged me.
Scarpino: Did you take that as a call to action?
Milton: Yeah, yeah, it took me as a call to action.
Scarpino: The National and Community Service Act of 1990, that had an expiration date, right?
Milton: It did, and I would just say, let me just add to the train of thought I had before was to say there were all these people who were out lobbying and supporting and really believed in it. So, that’s why, I think, the bill, in part, got through, but Shirley could answer better, but I think there was a lot of support. And going back to your question, it did have an expiration, which is why when I finally got appointed, I had the most incredible deadline I’ve ever lived under, like you have to sort of be able to get these grants out, which meant getting regulations written and approved and all that process, which I knew from my work at Treasury, I knew how to do that and I knew this is a big job. I had to hire staff, I had to do, had to sort of figure out what do we really want to accomplish in this two-year period.
Scarpino: So, it was a two-year lifespan on this thing?
Milton: Yeah, yeah, at this point, yeah.
Scarpino: I thought it was three.
Milton: Well, it was. I mean, we ended up getting the extension of a year, but we didn’t start early enough. In fact, yeah, I don’t know, do you have someplace when we started?
Scarpino: I actually don’t know. I may know when the legislation was passed, but I don’t know the start date.
Milton: I think there was a whole year delay and that’s why it was like oh, my god.
Scarpino: So, you weren’t even appointed.
Scarpino: Okay, alright.
Milton: I can find that out. That’s an important one, getting the date of when I started.
Scarpino: Well, I can look that up too.
Milton: Well, I don’t even know where to look it up.
Scarpino: It’s probably in the Archives. Alright. So, I want to talk about your role…
Milton: Okay, okay.
Scarpino: … and which we’ve kind of transitioned to. So, again, I read the citation for the Humanitarian Award you got from the World of Children and it says “She was the architect and first director of the Commission on National and Community Service, one of the most far-reaching youth community service initiatives in U.S. history.” Did you see yourself as the architect?
Milton: I asked Shirley at one point, “how could I describe myself?” and she said, “you could say you were an architect or, you know – I mean now one person, when you or anybody does this, it’s not one person does it” – and I couldn’t say I was the founder of it because there were so many people involved, but she said “you were certainly an architect.”
Scarpino: So, what did the architect do? What made you the architect?
Milton: Yeah, I think had the understanding of how to do the plans of where we wanted to go, like you want a building, like generally, what kind of building you want, and what are the steps to get there and what are the plans? And I think I, actually I was, you know, I wrote down to prepare for you, I was thinking how I would put it, but I wouldn’t have put it like as an architect, but I think I took the concept from a general idea into concrete programs that could be expanded. That’s what I did. It was sort of like oh, okay, we have this general idea and let’s try to get it concrete so it is a reality that people can see, feel and touch and grow.
Scarpino: What were the concrete elements that you put into place?
Milton: Okay, alright. I think I helped and very much encouraged new programs, like City Year, and I think that was out of my experience at the Haas Center of creating something new that I knew – Teach For America, all of these sort of newer concepts were something that were important contributions and that we should definitely do everything we could to encourage them. I also think that I figured out a way that you could have other programs like traditional programs like the Red Cross, the Y and all that – Habitat was a perfect example – where you needed to have roles for people. A lot of those programs would benefit by having more volunteers, but you had to have someone who was there who could train those volunteers and who could make sure that they were doing good work. So, I always called that like volunteer generator role and that that was another sort of design which wasn’t like an obvious design. Then I think also it became clear that there were ways of helping the nonprofit sector out that we hadn’t thought of. So, for example, I think of one program in this, it took place in California, which was called Bay Act or something like that. It was focused on how to help youth, at-risk youth in the Bay area. So, rather than have a new program, we figured out okay, the programs that already do that work get together and what do they need? And so they designed like, alright, we need one person here, one person here and all that, and those people could be AmeriCorps or could be full-time members working for youth, but helping out this particular organization that’s doing work. So, that was sort of another whole approach which hadn’t existed before. So, that was sort of like the models. Then I think the other thing that I realized is that we needed to do what we could to support the whole field of service, and that was going to be through leadership and through some very specific hard work to do on evaluation, training clearing houses, all those sort of obvious things, but it was all about creating a field. So, I always think, in some ways I think my biggest accomplishment was that I created new jobs, hundreds of, hundreds, you know, hundreds of new jobs and got high-quality people to help create the structures for those jobs, lead those jobs, and make it possible for other people. So, that was another sort of part of being an architect is sort of realizing this is bigger than one program or 20 programs. We have to sort of make sure that we share the information, get the best information, have people have the best chance of doing it and we have to have standards. This was a big thing that I did on evaluation was – and I knew this from my work at the Police Foundation where I did controlled studies – that in order to have really good evaluation, you have to know what the outcomes are. Frances Hesselbein was great in terms of helping on this one, but you have to …
Scarpino: She helped you design the evaluative tools?
Milton: Yeah, yeah. So, you had to know what are the outcomes you want and how are you going to measure it. If you can’t figure out how you’re going to measure it, then maybe you have the wrong outcomes. You’ve got to
make it simple enough that people could understand. Later on, I will tell you that one of the most important things I think I contributed in that regard was I had another really great person working for me, Sue Lehmann, and she’d been at McKinsey also. She said, “If you’re going to have outcomes, you better make sure that the people who are going to make decisions on what this program is going to do like your outcomes.” In other words, there’s no point in doing outcomes – there was a big fight. Actually, Tom Ehrlich was sort of on the side that lost on this one, which was do we want this to be a program to help the young people and the students, which is like Peace Corps. If you look at Peace Corps, you always say well, Peace Corps really was about, in a way, of changing the lives of people who go through it. We found out from the members of Congress I went to talk to that that wasn’t – if you did that, that program would not get funded. It had to be one getting things done, on the outcomes in the community, that no one wanted to – there just wasn’t the kind of money to go out to support good things for young people. So, instead, you’ve got to focus on getting things done. So, that was one of the big things I really realized and tried to – therefore, all of the selection criteria, well, that was the other thing I knew because I’d done work with the Police Foundation. I knew about writing grant applications and that whole process, and I knew that you had to sort of figure out what the criteria, what you wanted before you issue the applications. So, I was able to sort of think through the end of, you know, and what we wanted to do. I think, ah, let’s see we were learning that way, but I also thought, as I look back on it, that probably one of the biggest things I did was to attract some high-quality people to be in this field and to contribute, and their whole careers are now in it. I could think of the dozen people that this is all they do full time, I mean, probably more than that, but…
Scarpino: Can you name a few?
Milton: Yeah, I could. Well, one is Lisa Spinelli. Lisa helped me, she was the one that helped me at the Presidio…
Milton: … and she now has had other jobs, but she has a full-time consulting business working with council foundations and other people on nothing but related to service. Of course, Shirley is another one. Another person who did – well, Jeff Bradach did a lot because his whole thing with Bridgespan, most of the work they did was with helping service programs and entrepreneurial programs. And even Jamie Merisotis – do you know Jamie?
Scarpino: I don’t, no.
Milton: Jamie, the reason I thought is because he lives in Indianapolis. So, he’s head of the, he’s head of a big foundation there, Lumina…
Scarpino: Oh, okay.
Milton: … yeah, and he was an early person. He did some work for us, too.
Scarpino: He’s presently the head of Lumina Foundation?
Milton: Yeah, yeah. He’s terrific. Anyway, that another side.
Scarpino: When the push for the legislation to pass the National and Community Service Act was beginning to gather some steam, there was a meeting at the White House and you were nominated to attend this meeting by Tom Ehrlich. Do you remember what happened at that meeting?
Milton: I wasn’t there. What happened at the meeting is when Tom Ehrlich picked up the phone and called me.
Scarpino: Oh, alright. He told, well…
Milton: He told you differently.
Scarpino: We won’t record that.
Milton: No, that’s okay.
Scarpino: Alright, so he was at the meeting.
Milton: He was at the meeting and I had one of my students who’d gotten appointed to the – I got a student of mine appointed the Board of the Points of Light Foundation.
Milton: Yeah, and she was actually the one who helped organize Youth Service California and then became a Rhodes Scholar.
Scarpino: And her name is…?
Milton: Her name is Kim Grosse, G-R-O-S-S-E, and she’s married with the last name of Moore. She lives around here.
Scarpino: As you’ve been talking, and talking about the various things that you did in California and other places related to service before the National and Community Service Act was passed, and then I thought about some of the things that I read in that other oral history interview you did and a few things that you said on the phone when we talked, it seems to me that the
National and Community Service Act is like an example of somebody testing a good idea for service…
Scarpino: … at the local level, which could be California or the Bay Area, and then figuring out a way to upgrade it to the nation.
Milton: That’s right, yeah.
Scarpino: Were you thinking that way, or am I overinterpreting?
Milton: Oh, no. I think that I always felt I could have never done the job at the national level if I hadn’t had the experience working both at, doing the Haas Center in particular, and with trying to organize it at the state level. I felt like, well, we did all of our – I had to go all over the nation hiring in I don’t know how many places, doing presentations on here’s what the money is for blah, blah, blah, and I always emphasized the fact that I’ve had to do this work, so I understand it and here are some suggestions about how to go about putting together applications.
Scarpino: So, Democratic governors, there is something called democratic leadership…?
Milton: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Scarpino: … which, as I understand, was to promote their agenda, but one of their agenda items was National Service.
Milton: That’s right.
Scarpino: Did they play a role in the passage of that Act?
Milton: Yes, they definitely did. They, and, in fact, I think Susan Stroud actually got for the Archives a lot of the materials done by the – they had a couple people who worked as I guess full-time on the staff who came up with this idea and Bill Clinton liked – that’s how Bill Clinton got exposed to it.
Scarpino: That was my next question, was he involved in it?
Milton: Yeah, he was involved, and they did hearings at two college campuses. They did one hearing at Stanford. I still remember this day, where they had Mikulski and actually Kathleen Kennedy came representing Ted Kennedy and there was some Republican. Oh, gosh, I just don’t remember; sorry. But they came and they got the reaction from the students. There were probably 500 students there with questions and trying to shape what the legislation would be. I will just say as an aside, one of the things that we were worried about was that you’ll have this
legislation that would be top down and it wouldn’t be something that would help support and give – encourage the creative energy from the bottom. So, that’s what I fought hard for.
Scarpino: To encourage the creative energy from the bottom.
Milton: That’s right, and Shirley will sometimes say Catherine was the worst lobbyist because she was trying to get through something that was like this. And I’m saying, “Well, I’m not sure I like that because if it’s going to hurt us and take away creative energy, I don’t want a program like the Peace Corps that says you have to do it this way.”
Scarpino: I’m going to pull another line out of that oral history interview you did earlier. You said “I felt as though we were sort of on the ground floor as part of this movement to help re-vision the future and that the students here” – by here, I assume you mean Stanford – “here played a really important role of helping to craft it.”
So, talk about, I mean, it’s one thing to encourage people to do service because it does good work in the world or whatever, it makes them better people, but you seem to have this idea that by encouraging local community, state and national service that you were creating a different future. You were imagining and creating a different future.
Milton: I think that’s absolutely true.
Scarpino: What did you think that future was going to be? What did you hope it would be?
Milton: Well, I first of all thought that there would be a way for all of us, no matter what stage in life we are, to be able to figure out a way to contribute and do something very positive that would be a good feeling for yourself, as well as good impact on the community and that we would be able to unleash having thousands more people be involved in that and that that would be a good thing for the country and that we would also be able to focus on a few of the most important issues, which at the time I thought were – I think I still do – education, and particularly focusing on how we can help with elementary school education and preschool, and focusing in on environmental issues. At that time, we didn’t really have this big understanding of climate change and all that, but we did know enough about environmental changes that that was one of big things I pushed really hard for.
Scarpino: How do you get people who care about the water that comes out of their tap…
Milton: Yep, yep.
Scarpino: … or where the sewage goes when flush the toilet…
Milton: Yep, yep.
Scarpino: … or who can’t stand next to the river that flows through the community because it smells too bad, you can’t take a deep breath outside on cloudy days – how do you get people who were worried about local issues to care about things like climate change or, you know, the big picture things that affect all of us?
Milton: Well, that was certainly one of the things I thought a lot about at Stanford. So when I tried to encourage the students at Stanford, which is a different, doesn’t answer your question, but I’ll say that I had a student in particular I remember who cared about the homeless and so she was out there serving soup and sleep-ins and doing all that thing. I told her that she had to have experience of understanding the policy aspects of how you’re going to make bigger changes than just the change of helping one person or another, and so that you had to approach it from both directions and that to really be able to be successful, that’s what you were going to do. So, that was my goal at Stanford. I think now the Haas Center has this formal thing of pathways and saying you’re supposed to do that, but at the time I was just sort of saying that to the students. I feel as though if people see things first-hand the problems and can see what is – put themselves in the shoes of other people, they will be more likely to develop empathy to want to change. I mean, that’s the assumption, to want to help change the situation and that the best way to get people to want to change the situation is to see – well, for example, I will talk about, one of the things that I pushed hard for was cleaning the rivers so that we could get salmon to grow back in. Until you’ve gone out there and see that some of the stuff is like trees and tires and all that stuff there, and if you want salmon, you’re going to have to clean that river, that once you understand that, then you have the possibility of maybe understanding why you need some laws changed. It’s a little optimistic on my part.
Scarpino: Did it work?
Milton: Well, we do have some things that have changed. I do think one of the things that has worked, which is for AmeriCorps on the whole, is that I will run into people who are in fairly big jobs now, and say, “Yes, I started off as AmeriCorps and that’s where I got this idea.” So, I think it did work for some people.
Scarpino: You told me when we first started talking that you lived in Connecticut for a while.
Milton: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Scarpino: The salmon now go up the Connecticut River all the way above Hartford.
Milton: There you go. There you go. I didn’t know that and that’s so incredible.
Scarpino: My brother lives on a tributary of the Connecticut River in Western Connecticut and the salmon are back.
Milton: And that’s one of the things I push so hard for, and community gardens. It was like, oh, another one, but those were the – I mean, I pushed really hard for the salmon. They used to laugh at me.
Scarpino: So, we’ve been talking for two hours…
Scarpino: … I think that maybe 45 minutes to an hour – do you want to take a break here?
Milton: Sure, well, it’s up to you. I mean, if you want to…
Scarpino: Well, I think we both need a little stretcher, if wanted to break for five minutes. Let me turn this thing off here so…
Milton: I think that’s a good idea.
Scarpino: … we don’t have live mic…
(END OF RECORDING)
Scarpino: I’m Philip Scarpino. I’m interviewing Catherine Milton in her home in Palo Alto, California, and this is a second part of the interview that I’ve done with her today. The first two hours will be in a separate file.
When we took a break, we were talking about the Commission on National and Community Service. What I’d like to do is talk specifically about your role as Executive Director.
You told me, when I did the pre-interview with you, that you were basically commuting from California when you served as Executive Director of the Commission on National and Community Service, you had two small children at home and I just have to ask you, how did you do that? It’s not like you were commuting to San Francisco. I mean, you were commuting to Washington.
Milton: Well, I think the way I was able to do it is I took a plane, a nonstop plane, and I had a routine and I was able to work on the plane, so I didn’t really lose any time from there. And when I got home, I learned that I had to be totally focused on the family and that I couldn’t work. I just had to because otherwise it was bad. The worst part was the time difference, that I would get home and I would be so tired. So that was another thing I had to learn to adjust to, but I had a terrific husband and my two kids, I think they all thought it was great…
Milton: … because before, we used to have sort of dinner was, you know, at the dining table and it was sort of like – I even made them have a little grace and all that. Then when I was gone, they watched TV and watched Seinfeld and these programs I wouldn’t let them watch. So, they had a great time, yeah. After a year, the whole family moved back to D.C. and that was probably harder for the kids in a way than my commute.
Scarpino: You, as Executive Director, oversaw the development, launching, and funding of AmeriCorps and other National Service programs. You established quality standards, training, funding criteria and evaluation. We’re going to talk about those things in a few minutes, but it occurs to me that most boards of directors have one employee and that employee is the executive director, or whatever that person’s title happens to be. The executive director works for the board, everyone else works for the executive director. So, how did you manage board relations as their sole employee, and you had a pretty interesting high-powered…
Milton: Very interesting, high-powered Board…
Scarpino: … politically diverse board?
Milton: Exactly. Actually, Tom Ehrlich gave me tips which I didn’t do was well as he did, but he said that I should have a list of all the board members and a tickler system and make sure that with certain ones I was in touch with weekly, other ones every month or something like that. I tried that to some degree, but I think the reality is there are about four or five board members who were really intimately involved and I was in touch with them a lot and they gave a lot of help and were great. So, that’s probably, maybe not the best way, but that’s how I did it.
Scarpino: What kind of help did you get from the board members who were willing to help?
Milton: Okay, at different stages, Tom Ehrlich, was actually not my original Chair, but then he became the Chair and when he was Chair…
Scarpino: It was Pete McCloskey who was your interim Chair.
Milton: … Pete McCloskey, yeah. Tom and I were working, at that point, on the report, to get the report out, and then later on with designing a lot of the programs, training, evaluation. He knew how to do that himself, so he was very helpful. Strategic planning was the other one that he felt strongly about, and I think that I was able to bounce off ideas, this is how I’d do it. I feel like these were my areas of strength too, so it was more like as opposed to him ordering me “do it this way,” it more like “this is what I’m going to do, what do you think?” and giving suggestions. I would say that Les Lenkowsky was another board member who was very helpful in a lot of regards, in addition to chairing, doing this report, which I think is a really good report.
Scarpino: I’m going to say that the report to which you’re referring is the “Report of the Commission on National and Community Service,” January 1993.
Milton: Thank you. He was also helpful as a Republican, one of the Republicans, but a Republican who was willing to be involved with helping for me to build ties to other groups like the Cato organization and other organizations in Washington. So, he gave me names and encouraged me, “make sure you reach out to this group or that group,” and that was extremely helpful. Frances Hesselbein was helpful in terms of, especially on evaluation, anything important, measure or measure what’s important and all that. She also, as did Digger, who was…
Scarpino: Notre Dame?
Milton: … Notre Dame…
Milton: … Phelps, Digger Phelps…
Scarpino: So, you got Notre Dame’s basketball coach to serve…
Milton: Oh, god, I know.
Scarpino: … how did you sell that?
Milton: Oh, he was a character. That’s all I can say.
Scarpino: But, I mean, he must have had a thousand offers a week to do things.
Milton: Yeah, yeah, that’s right, but he was very excited to do that, and Dan Quayle was his person who got him appointed to it. He came to all the meetings. He was very involved and he, in particular – I can still remember him saying, “you’ve got to have a logo and you’ve got to have some branding and, you know, I go to the airport and everybody knows I’m from Notre Dame because I have a little pin and you’ve got to get some pins.” And it was like, I mean, I’m going like – at this point, I’m trying to get the regulations out. But we, in fact, did spend time and I can’t remember how we did it, but we did get a logo which then actually because the logo – I’m showing the cover of the book, this is the logo we had and that became basically the basis when we did the logo for AmeriCorps and all that. So, Digger contributed that as something that was – and then we had the woman, Maria, from the – let me tell her full name – who was, I’m sorry; it’ll just take me a second here. Maria Ferrier – F-E-R-R-I-E-R – who was there because she had been at Points of Light. So, she was somebody who helped us to understand that whole movement and gave me a lot of contacts there. I’m looking back at the names. Of course, Shirley Sagawa, who was Vice Chair, was extremely helpful and she helped me on nitty-gritty things which you wouldn’t think of. But when I first started, the first day I was there, there was no way to get mail and there was no phone. I had an office, so Shirley set up a Post Office Box and would collect the mail, and then we would have lunch and she’d give me the mail and help me sort of like, okay, you’re here and, because she knew the law so well, was able to sort of give me a sense of the priorities and what was, from her perspective…
Scarpino: Her background was what?
Milton: Her background, she had been working for Senator Kennedy, was hired out of – she had been out of graduate school at Harvard Law School, and was a young staff member then. So, she was able to really help and actually, I will say, the other time that she became very involved was when I had to write the first set of regulations, and there was a real time pressure to get it done. The person I’d hired as a general counsel was sick and was not available, so Shirley and someone, another lawyer who worked at the White House, came and the three of us basically sat down at different typewriters and wrote the regulations that went out. It was just
like – and they were both very, both of them were really smart and were able to make sure that they were high quality.
Scarpino: Do you remember the name of that White House lawyer?
Milton: Yeah. It’ll, yeah, it’ll have to come to me.
Milton: It’ll come to me. He worked for Gregg Petersmeyer. I will, yeah. So, I would say that those were the – and Pete McCloskey had a lot of ideas about how to do things and some of his ideas were great, like he believed very strongly in having hearings and using the hearing process. He got the Commission members to talk and say what they wanted to have done, which was great, and then we had hearings all over the country and that built public support. He was not one, however, to believe in strategic plans or sort of that, and so I had clashes with him about how to get things done, but in the end, we managed. George Romney was the other person I had a lot of contact with. He was…
Scarpino: From Michigan?
Milton: … Michigan…
Milton: … former Governor of Michigan, and his main thing he pushed hard on was bipartisanship. He talked about it all the time how we’ve really got to do that well, and I had visits on the Hill with him with different people. He also very strongly believed in the volunteer centers and the movement of volunteer centers.
I just remembered the name of the lawyer – Russell George. Sorry.
Scarpino: And George Romney was Republican…
Milton: George Romney was Republican…
Scarpino: … for anybody listening to this or reading the transcript.
Milton: Yes, yeah, and I probably talked to him about once a week on the phone because he was always calling with another idea or offering of help. So, anyway.
Scarpino: So, you’re the one employee of the Board, but everyone else in that organization works for you, so how did you go about building your staff?
Milton: That is another story. I knew enough from my experience in Washington that for a federal agency, the single first person I had to hire was the general counsel because we had so many regulations to write, and I also knew enough to know that I didn’t want to make any mistakes. So, I had to have an experienced general counsel. I knew somebody from the work I’d done on victims who had been head of a presidential commission working for Reagan. His name is Terry Russell and I also knew that he had been a prosecutor. He had a very good, solid law background, and I called and got references for him and then I found out that he was interested, and he was willing to come immediately. So, that was like my first hire. Then, after that, I think I decided that I really needed to figure out what we were going to do because you don’t know what kind of people you want to hire, and that’s when I was fortunate enough to have this volunteer approach me, Julien Phillips, who was a senior partner in McKinsey and had written several books and was a very smart man, and he had, I think, a nine-month leave of absence from McKinsey and decided that he wanted to volunteer and would I take him, and I was like yes. So, I worked with his help in terms of what kind of staff did I need. I think it became – our first thing we did was the strategic plan because we said, alright, we’ve got to have a plan. And out of that we realized that we were going to create models in certain areas and the legislation provided for funding in certain areas. So, I was going to need somebody who could oversee those different areas. So, that was about four different staff positions. The law only gave me 10 at first, which was unbelievable.
Scarpino: Ten positions?
Milton: Ten positions and it was in law and that was how they got it through. So, by the time I’d done that, I was down to almost, well almost, I only had very few left and I did hire someone who was going to help with press and public relations and then someone else was going to help with grant contracts. So, that was, you know, at first. I think the other thing that went into hiring is that we didn’t have to follow Civil Service rules. It was in the law that we didn’t, which was like unbelievable. So, it meant that I could hire, I did hire, young people who were really smart. At this point, there’s no time for anybody who doesn’t want to work hard and who isn’t really smart. So, I was able in the positions – some of the positions I was able to hire people who, you know, recently out of – well, at least they had four- or five-years’ experience, but they weren’t really old-timer “bureaucrats” quote/unquote. The other thing I knew from my experience at Stanford was that I had to have a diverse staff, diverse racially, because with these kinds of programs, if you didn’t, you’re going to run into trouble, uh-huh, and I was so right. So, I hired, you know, I made a real effort of hiring, you know, someone African-American, someone Hispanic, somebody Asian, and it was like the range of it. It turned out that that was one of the smarter things I’d ever done because we had hearings where there would be a thousand people in the room and people would start
saying things about like the government shouldn’t be doing this or we should be doing that, and I could have a display, I mean, that was part of the vision of like “the programs that we want you to create, everyone out there, are programs that are going to help the entire community and figure out how to do it.” And the various people I hired were diverse in other ways. I had someone who was a Harvard lawyer, African-American, who had had a very big job at HUD and so she knew the federal grant system. I had another person who had done a lot of work with K-12, another person who had been one of my former students who had since worked for Ted Koppel and she headed up the higher ed stuff. Then I hired a young man who was – we wanted to have somebody who was Hispanic and we really – Julien and I did a lot of searching and we found this guy who now is like a, he’s a superstar. He’s on the Board of Trustees at Stanford and all this.
Scarpino: And his name is…
Milton: … Michael Camuñez, and he turned out to be an incredibly bright, hard-working, brilliant young man. He’s since gone to law school and all that. So, I think that as the staff – and then I ended up fairly early-on hiring – whose name is not in the report – but a man named Richard Staufenberger, who I had known from previous work, who really knew the government and how to work it because I needed someone who was more experienced who could help me and some of the younger people and who knew all the government contracts and all, how you do that, because there’s just like nothing but nightmares if you did something wrong. He had had a senior job at the Labor Department and other places.
Scarpino: So, his job was to keep you out of trouble?
Milton: Yeah, and I sort of made him as the deputy and everybody, the whole Board loved him and he was the budget man. He did all that stuff.
Scarpino: Okay. So, we talked about developing a strategic plan. How did you go about developing and launching and paying for AmeriCorps?
Milton: Well, I think that the work that the Commission did was to develop some models. When we first started, and the way the legislation for the Commission, which is different than later on, was looking at…
Scarpino: Different from the Corporation later on, yeah, after 1993.
Milton: … yeah, thank you. We looked at Youth Corps as full-time programs that were mainly focused on at-risk kids and they mainly did works working on trails and other things like that. Then we had these other programs which were called Subtitle D, and this is what my young man, Michael Camuñez, was in charge of, where we had space for innovative programs like City Year. I think what we realized from the experience of doing all this that, in
fact, those all should be merged into one kind of full-time program. So, I think that the first thing to launching it was to have like here are the best kind of components of the program and this is what you needed to have in it, and you needed to have some of the concepts that were tied in with AmeriCorps, which is the college credit, money for credit. I think what the Commission did was to not only give the models and have a report which spelled out the models, we had hearings all over the country where we were able to promote this idea. They were televised hearings, and a lot of people came out. I think, by that point, people thought aha, this is a good thing. Then we did one more thing which is we had a Summer of Service – I think I mentioned this to you – and Summer of Service took place in the summer before the bill actually went up to be voted on. It involved about 1500 people from around the country who were doing service, all being trained together, and there were some good and bad things about what happened, but I think one of the good things was that it was on TV every day. It was on Good Morning America, Today Show, etcetera, every morning and apparently Clinton was like thrilled beyond belief, like “oh, my god, there it is again.”
Scarpino: Summer of Service was during the tenure of the Commission on National and Community Service leading up to the 1993 Act that created the Corporation?
Milton: That’s right, exactly, exactly. And I was in charge of it because, at that point, even though Clinton had been elected, we were the only mechanism for doing things. That was another time when I sort of dug, you know, it’s like I kept my standards of how we were going to do things because there was a little bit of, I don’t know if I would say influence from the White House, but I think the White House was like well, you know, they could not influence how we did our work, yeah, I mean legally. I mean, yeah, they maybe tried, but it was like – and I’m not saying that they really tried to make us do things that went really good, but we basically, we had our way we’re supposed to do it and we kept to that.
Scarpino: So, Clinton’s running for President, the legislation that created the Commission on National and Community Service has a sunset provision in it, it’s going to go away…
Milton: Yep, yep.
Scarpino: … so you’re looking to get new legislation through Congress to bring this program…
Milton: That’s right.
Scarpino: … to breathe new life into this program…
Milton: That’s right.
Scarpino: … and Clinton had been talking good things about service.
Milton: Exactly, but so had Bush at that point. It was interesting.
Scarpino: But Bush, well, you didn’t know who was going to win.
Milton: We didn’t know who was going to win and we were working with both transitions. Honestly, we thought that if Bush got in that the Commission would be expanded and it would be – the money would go. We were almost positive of that. And we knew if Clinton got in that something would happen, but we weren’t quite sure, but – because the idea, the name AmeriCorps didn’t exist then. It was like something happen, but we don’t know what. So, it was in some ways…
Scarpino: During the period of the Commission on National and Community Service, there was no entity called AmeriCorps?
Scarpino: There were just programs that eventually would coalesce into AmeriCorps?
Milton: Exactly, exactly…
Milton: … and I can still remember after the election, one of the people who went to work at the White House was a man named Rick Allen, and he was a Special Assistant to President Clinton, and he called me and he said, “okay, we’re going to create this into a program, what name do you want?” One of the Board members was Wayne Meisel, who’s another interesting person.
Scarpino: Wayne Meisel?
Milton: Yeah, Wayne Meisel, who at that point was from Princeton, he came up with the idea of AmeriCorps as the name and I think all of us felt like it’s not perfect, we don’t really like it, but we couldn’t come up with anything better. We wanted something corps, like Peace Corps, but wanted something with U.S. and all that. So, I could remember is that we were, at that point, still thinking about the way the program might be and the way the legislation might have it…
Scarpino: And this would have been to legislation that went through Congress in 1993?
Milton: Yep, that’s right.
Milton: That’s right.
Scarpino: And it went through with AmeriCorps in there as one of the elements?
Milton: That’s right, I believe that it did have the name by then, but that’s how we – the Commission basically picked the name.
Scarpino: So, the Commission on National and Community Service, one of the things it did was to give money to local organizations.
Milton: Yes, yes.
Scarpino: So, number one, how much money did you have? What was the budget?
Milton: We had $75 million to give away, which sounds like a lot but it was, and we did manage to get more money from matching funds. It had a lot of matching funds.
Scarpino: Part of your job was to establish funding criteria?
Scarpino: Okay, and so how did you do that? How did you decide what the criteria were going to be?
Milton: Yeah, well, part of the criteria – I mean, the law did have some specification of, you know, like this is going to be a program that will focus on school-age kids or whatever. So, there was quite a bit in law, but I think this is probably where – I hired some consultants to come in and help me, but I think this is one of the areas where I felt like all of my years of experience really paid off because I would sort of say what do we want it to look like, how do we write that into what the criteria of what we want? And I’m pretty sure that I probably worked with the Board on that. I mean, I think there might have, I mean, I just don’t remember, but I can’t, it’s so important, I can’t believe that they wouldn’t have sort of said yes or no. The things I remember was like I was doing this over Thanksgiving when I’d taken my family to Florida for a vacation and I worked the whole time. That’s what I remember, the phone calls, and my friend, Terry Russell, everybody worked over the holidays. I remember Terry Russell – we just had – there were a number of very smart people.
Scarpino: And Terry Russell is?
Milton: He was the General Counsel.
Scarpino: Yeah, okay. Okay. So, criteria, clearly you played a major role in those criteria, and criteria obviously are going to shape the nature of the funding mechanisms and what you’re going to spend the money on.
Milton: Absolutely, and you had to have those in regulations and you had to have them out for comment so people could comment on them, and then we’d review them and sort of make changes based on the comments, and then the applications had to be based on the regulations.
Scarpino: How long did it take you to get those criteria?
Milton: Wow, you know what, I don’t remember, but I think I had a total of, to get from start to finish, three months. It was just like, I mean, literally, I lost 15 pounds.
Scarpino: But you weren’t appointed for most of the first year.
Milton: Oh, I’m saying after I came on, yeah.
Scarpino: Yeah. So, alright, so you established criteria, but having listened to you talk now for a while, there must have been some evaluation system in the system as well.
Milton: Yeah, we had evaluation systems and I’m just trying to think whether executive selector ’91, first Board meeting, technical assistance meetings in January, first regulations – okay, first regulations came out February 13, final regulations. So, it took me from the time I was appointed in October to February.
Scarpino: So, you were appointed in October of 1990?
Scarpino: And the first regulations came in February of…
Milton: February 13th.
Scarpino: … 1992.
Milton: … yeah, and this was the final ones. So, when I say the, you know, we had to go through a draft of congressional, yeah, and we also, meanwhile, had these technical assistance meetings around the country. Those were big things.
Scarpino: So, the legislation is passed in 1990, you’re not in the job until 1991…
Milton: That’s right and you can look at the, yeah…
Scarpino: … so part of what was going on here then was the Bush Administration dragging its feet because they wanted money for Points of Light and they weren’t really interested in funding this.
Milton: That’s right, and they didn’t really want to have this, yeah.
Scarpino: Okay. So, how about training? Did you have to set up training programs?
Milton: Absolutely. I think that that was – I would say that the training we did was a lot of through more standard conferences and things like that where we would tell people this is what they have to do. So, those, in this early stage, were more straightforward than some of the training we did later on when we really launched AmeriCorps. By the time we launched AmeriCorps, we had enough money so that we had contracts for large clearinghouses and a whole sort of training – a whole group to help with some of the…
Scarpino: And AmeriCorps was officially launched when?
Scarpino: It’s not on here.
Milton: … it’s not on here. So, let’s see. It was in the September date. It was the year later than this, yeah.
Scarpino: So, September of ’91?
Milton: No, it would have been, no, it would have been, (INAUDIBLE), I think it was ’93.
Scarpino: So, AmeriCorps was really at the tail end of…
Milton: Yeah, oh, totally.
Scarpino: … or the beginning of the Corporation.
Milton: Yeah, yeah, exactly.
Scarpino: Okay. So, you developed it during the period of the Commission and rolled it out after the corporation.
Milton: That’s right, because we didn’t have the money until we got the law through. What’s the date for having the law, the AmeriCorps law, the Corporation?
Scarpino: Alright, I’ve got that date here and I should know that by now off the top of my head. National and Community Service Trust Act in 1993 and somewhere in here I’ve got the month, but…
Milton: Yeah, it’s September. So, that is yeah, yeah.
Scarpino: Okay, so you set up training; how about quality standards? I mean, how did you decide if people were doing what they’re supposed to be doing and in an appropriate way?
Milton: Yeah, well, first of all, we had, there was a lot – I will just back up for a second, and say the selection process became another big deal. Originally, the way we did it was through panels, we brought in a lot of people who were selected, and we did it in person as opposed to…
Scarpino: You’re talking about selection for who gets money?
Milton: Yeah, and we had to train those people and had criteria for how we did the selection. So, that was like a big, that whole selection process was…
Scarpino: That looks like a model for academic grants.
Milton: That’s right, that’s right, exactly. I did it that way in part because it was all so new, so I thought people, we really needed to be together, and I’m actually, in retrospect, really glad I did it that way because I sat in some of the meetings and had other people, and sometimes I didn’t like the way the decisions were being made, “we don’t want to do this because it’ll be competition for us” and blah, blah, blah. So, I learned, I actually, I’m not sure, I don’t think they have to do that now, but I think then in the beginning it was good. Okay, so once they got selected, we did have very big standards, and this is one of the things that we learned the hard way in terms of what we originally, in terms of what kind of reports they had to give in and what kind of stages we had. I think that that’s something fair to say that during the Commission, we worked on that and I had a person I brought in from NSF to help out because it…
Scarpino: National Science Foundation?
Milton: … yeah, yeah, yeah, because we needed more help on that. I think that we learned and so had pretty strict criteria. And what I would say is that, I don’t know what it’s like now, but I know when I was at Save the Children, I actually did run some programs and it was too much paperwork. I always tried to have not as much paperwork, but they had a lot.
Scarpino: You mentioned the Summer of Service and we talked about that, but which summer?
Milton: That would have been the summer of ’93.
Scarpino: Did you have in mind that – I mean, I assume that you wanted people to do good work and have a good experience, but did you have in mind that
you were really also lobbying for a new legislation when you did this? Trying to show we’re really doing good things and…?
Milton: Yeah, I think it was basically – I talked to Tom Ehrlich about this the other day. Some of the things that we did with Summer of Service were not as well-done as maybe it could have been, but in fact, it gave us an incredible experience to learn how to do AmeriCorps better. So, I learned how the selection – when we were first doing Summer of Service, I realized oh, my gosh, most of these programs, we picked almost people of color, hardly any whites here. Is this how we want AmeriCorps to look like? If we don’t want it to look like that, then we’ve got to be much more careful when we select programs trying to figure out what kind of people they’re bringing in because I had a belief in having diversity in programs. So, that was one thing I learned from that. I also learned, boy, you’d better have a shaking-out period when you bring people onto these full-time programs and it’s almost like a probationary period, like a month from then. We should have done the training a month after they’d been in the program, but instead we did it earlier on and it’s like whoa.
Scarpino: They didn’t know enough to be trained?
Milton: They didn’t know enough to be – and we had gang members and oh, we really had some, I mean, we didn’t have any really big problems, they were all behind the scenes, but it was like yikes, this is much worse than we thought. And we learned about training and how difficult it was to do training and we trained – we had probably close to 50 people who were doing training and they all had to get trained and those are people, many of whom, again, have gone on in the field and they run programs now, but that was their first exposure.
Scarpino: So, I’m looking at the cheat sheet we’ve been passing back and forth here. So, Commission members, which I assume are the Board…
Scarpino: … were nominated by President Bush, confirmed by the Senate, so that would have included Tom Ehrlich, whom I’m going to talk to tomorrow. They were sworn in at the White House September 25, 1991. The first Executive Director was selected and that was Pete McCloskey, who we’ve already…
Milton: No, he was the first Chair.
Scarpino: Chair, I’m sorry, yes, Chair, that’s right. Well, wrong title, right guy. So, you talked about him a little bit, but, I mean, for people who know who he was, and a really interesting man…
Milton: Yeah, he is.
Scarpino: … he served from September of ’91 to December of ’92 as, let’s see here, yeah, as a member of the Commission on National and Community Service on the Board, but he was a Republican representative from Congress and Congressman from California from ’67 to ’83. We already used this word, but he was the architect of the Endangered Species Act, which shows how much the world has changed.
Scarpino: You know, well, Richard Nixon signed the Environmental Protection Agency legislation.
Milton: Well, it’s true, but I just hadn’t realized that Pete had done that.
Scarpino: He was in the Marine Corps as a platoon leader, decorated…
Milton: He was a total Marine.
Scarpino: … combat veteran, ran unsuccessfully for President in 1972, beaten out by Richard Nixon, but he ran as an opponent to the war in Vietnam…
Milton: That’s right, exactly.
Scarpino: … even though he was a combat veteran from Korea…
Scarpino: … so, he seemed like a really interesting guy. You mentioned some of the things that he did while he was Chair of the Board of Directors, is there anything that you want to add?
Milton: Well, I would just say that he was an eccentric person. Being a Marine was so important to his essence of who he was and he was always proud of that. I used to have him come and teach – I taught a class at Stanford on students going back and doing pubic service, and he would come in and he would say to the students, “I want to tell you what it’s really like; don’t ever work late for any of these guys, never be in the room alone because they were a bunch of scoundrels.” So, he was somebody who was outspoken and would just say whatever he thinks. And as I say, he did a really good job in terms of helping to build the support for service through a whole variety of people. For example, when there were riots in – the Rodney King riots in Los Angeles, he said, “Alright, we’re going to go there and we’re going to try to do something for Los Angeles and we’re going to have a hearing and all that.” And he brought in Ron, a football hero, Brown, I can’t remember. Anyway, he brought in people he knew who were sort of in touch with the community. So, that was the kind of thing he would do, sort of like okay, we’re going to do this or we’re going to do that. And as I say, the issue that, the reason he and I – I mean,
clash is too strong a word – but I was sort of more like okay, we’ve got to really do this and we’ve got to be systematic, we’ve got to have a plan and all that; and he was more like okay we’re going to go this direction or that direction.
Scarpino: How did he get appointed to the Board and then become Chair?
Milton: I know, Tom Ehrlich told me the day; you’ll have to ask him how he became Chair, but apparently Tom said that – Tom was supposed to be Chair and that was the way it was done and they voted between Tom and it was tied between Tom and Pete, and Tom didn’t vote and he said, “I’m going to give my vote to Pete because I think it’s better to have a Republican.” So, that’s how he became Chair. Tom told me like – well, I won’t say any more. But that’s what he told me.
Scarpino: Well, I’m going to ask him, but…
Milton: Yeah, you could ask him. I think that…
Scarpino: Did you know McCloskey? I mean, he’s got a Menlo Park home address.
Milton: Yeah, yeah, exactly. No, I didn’t know him except for, I guess I did know him when he spoke to my class. So, I’d had him in two or three times to give lectures to my kids who were going back to D.C.
Scarpino: So, he steps down at the end of 1992?
Milton: He did, and the reason, I think, is at that point it became clear that if this was going to grow into something big, he was not the right person to be the leader and then he just dropped out. I think he was…
Scarpino: Off the Board?
Milton: I don’t even know if he came any more. When Tom became Chair, he just sort of like, I think he took it as a little bit of a snub, I don’t know.
Scarpino: December of 1992, Thomas Ehrlich, who you at this point known for two years…
Milton: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Scarpino: … becomes Chair of the Board of the Commission on National and Community Service. We already talked about how he ended up with that position, but talk about his impact on the Commission.
Milton: Oh, I think Tom was, because he’d had the experience and I’m not sure if you’re, you probably are aware of this, that he had help set up the legal services and AID. So, he had real experience to start up and knew how to
do all this as well as anybody, so he probably was able to make sure I was not making any big mistakes and doing it right, let’s put it that way, and helped all along the line, and especially with the Report. He understood the work. He could have done this himself, so let’s put it that way. I don’t think, with the exception of Shirley, there was probably nobody else on that Board who could’ve done it, maybe Les.
Scarpino: Could have done it – you mean run the organization?
Milton: Yeah, run the whole thing, gotten it going. But I don’t think this would have been Les’s strength getting it going; it would’ve been Tom’s strength getting it going, and Shirley didn’t really have the experience.
Scarpino: As you look back on the Commission on National and Community Service, how do you assess its significance?
Milton: Michael Camuñez, who wrote me when I asked him to see if he had any material, said “I’m so glad you’re working on this because no one has ever appreciated the significance of the work we did,” and that’s how I feel, is that it’s an under-told story. I think that we not only created the models that made AmeriCorps possible, but that we created the infrastructure and made all of that possible to do high-quality work. I really think that the way we did evaluation and all that meant that this program has survived because it was set up originally like what does Congress want? Congress wants results that you can prove. So, I feel as if that was one important thing we did. We also helped to create a stronger field and more leaders in that field by a whole range of things we did, including the Summer of Service, but including all the work we did with training. And what I mean by training is meetings and bringing people together and setting standards.
Scarpino: You talked a while back about creating service as a field. In order to create a field, is one of the elements of doing that creating leaders?
Milton: Yeah, you can’t have, you can’t have, I think, I think what I…
Scarpino: I’m going to ask this question differently because I feel like I’m leading the witness here.
Milton: Yeah, got you.
Scarpino: When you created the leadership program, and you’ve used the work leadership several times, you were in a relatively new area when you talk about elevating service to a field…
Scarpino: … were you conscious of the fact that you don’t have a field unless you’ve got people in positions of authority who know what they’re doing?
Milton: Absolutely, and I think that I became aware of that with the Summer of Service, first of all, when I suddenly realized oh yeah, we’re doing all this and we’re learning as we do it, but we’re not as good as we should be. That’s one of the reasons that I think I did the Presidio leadership later on because I actually basically – when I created the leadership, I demoted myself because I was in charge at that point of all the AmeriCorps and all the programs and I said no, this is the one thing that has to be done and I’m probably the best person to do it.
Scarpino: And the one thing that had to be done was…
Milton: With the leadership…
Scarpino: … the leadership.
Milton: … setting up a leadership.
Scarpino: Okay. So, as you look back on it, are there any areas in which the Commission on National and Community Service came up short?
Milton: Ah, hmm, wow, that’s a good question. I guess, I think that we probably could have done a better job in – one of the questions you asked about how we went about contracts, how to have less paperwork – because I think we didn’t have so much, but if we’d sort of nailed that better, we might have had a program that was a little less bureaucratic now than it is.
Scarpino: It’s next incarnation, the Corporation remained bureaucratic?
Milton: Yeah, and I don’t think it was so bad honestly when I was there, but I think it got bad afterwards, and that shouldn’t have happened.
Scarpino: We’re going to transition to talk about the Corporation for National and Community Service, the Trust Act of 1993. I’m going to do what I did before and just put a little bit of background in here for anybody who uses this.
Milton: And one other program I want to make sure you talk about, which sort of was part of that, was the NCCC, which we talked about one the phone briefly. That’s the National Community Civilian Core Act, or something, and I will tell you a little story about that.
Scarpino: Please do.
Milton: Okay, fine, but I’ll do that when you want.
Scarpino: Well, why don’t we do it right now? Just give us a little context and that way we won’t forget.
Milton: Okay, fine. So, one of the other things I think was very important during the Commission era was that we worked bipartisan. I think that is something that was hard to maintain, but we were able to do it. I have an example of that, was one of the days, and this was during the time when it was, ’93, I think in like the spring of ’93, after Clinton was in office. I was told by this Russell George at the White House that Senator Dole, who he used to work for, was interested in doing something for National Service and would I meet with him? It turned out that Senator Dole wanted to have something that reminded him of what his father did with the CCC and that he thought that this would be a good thing to have. So, I went into a meeting where it was Senator Dole, Senator Kennedy, Mikulski, Harris Wofford and Boren from Kentucky, and there were no staff people, which just like never happens. And I heard what the idea was and I was told can I help have that put it into writing or something, it was like okay, and I actually had written up this little part, which I can email you, but basically what happened is I went back to Terry Russell and we came back at five o’clock and said here’s the criteria of how to do it blah, blah, blah. They said great, we love it. They sent it to legislative counsel and the next day it was into legislation and within a week it got passed. I mean, it was just like this never happens.
Scarpino: You got that for the funding?
Milton: Yes, well, didn’t have funding. Okay. So, then I went with Senator – I was Senator – well, Bill Clinton was doing his first announcement of AmeriCorps at Rutgers University, and he was announcing it. I was there, and at the end I went in a car back with Senator Kennedy and a few other senators, I don’t remember who they were. We got stuck because we were not on Air Force One, you know, a shuttle on the way back, and it took forever because of Air Force One. So, I was there with Senator Kennedy a long time. He said, “Okay, I got the idea of how to fund your Civilian Conservation Corps. We will do it through a defense” – and I will give you this paper so you have the right bill – “Defense Authorization Act.” I’m sorry, I can’t – it was like a bill that was being passed by Congress to shut down lots of military bases. He said, “We can have that money go towards this because part of the idea that Senator Dole had was that we would use the military to help do some of the training and that we might use military bases.” So, we were able to then take the money and Senator Kennedy gave me that idea. He said go to Mikulski, so I did that when I got back and then it got through and we had the whole thing.
Scarpino: And that’s what happened?
Milton: That’s what happened, and that’s still going today. I told this story at the 25th Anniversary of it a few months ago. So, I will send you that little piece.
Scarpino: So, the Commission for National and Community Service was superseded by the Corporation for National and Community Service…
Milton: Yeah, yeah.
Scarpino: … under provisions of the National and Community Service Trust Act of 1993. The Corporation for National Service merged two existing agencies – ACTION, all in caps, and the Commission on National and Community Service that we talked about. So, ACTION included VISTA, the retired senior volunteer program, Senior Companion and Foster Grandparents.
Scarpino: The Commission on National and Community Service came with a new program, which was AmeriCorps. It had an annual budget of $1 billion, which is a big step up from what you’d been doing.
Milton: You’re not kidding.
Scarpino: The Corporation for National Service was a government agency that acted like a foundation, became the nation’s largest annual grant maker supporting service and volunteers. Once it was up and running, the Corporation for National Service operated three programs under AmeriCorps – AmeriCorps State and National, AmeriCorps VISTA, and AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps, which we just talked about.
Milton: Yeah, yeah.
Scarpino: Okay. These programs received most of the available funding, but the Corporation also operated Learn and Serve America and National Senior Service Corps that got some money.
I put that in there so that people know what we’re talking about.
Milton: Yep, no, that’s great. That’s helpful.
Scarpino: What role did you play in the drafting of legislation that created the National and Community Service Trust Act?
Scarpino: I mean, obviously, you were angling for this – Summer of Service – I mean, you had something in mind.
Milton: Yeah, no, I think that I played the role in terms of helping to show which models worked and how the models should be shaped that were in the programs, both for the full-time programs, AmeriCorps, as well as Learn and Serve. So, I think that, you know, I mean, we reviewed all the legislation and, you know, would say “change this, change that.” So, at that point, Shirley and Jack Liu (SPELLING???) were the ones writing the legislation and they shared drafts with us and…
Scarpino: And you commented on the drafts.
Milton: … we commented on the drafts, but the main work was being done mostly by Shirley and Jack. So, the other thing I did, which was with Tom Ehrlich, is that they didn’t have in their draft to have a board, and Tom and I felt that that was actually a good thing and that the Board had really helped, helped build support and all that. So, he and I went out on our own and lobbied to, I can’t remember how many congressmen, but we went door-to-door to a whole bunch of people, and that got put in the Act.
Scarpino: And, of course, he became a member of the Board.
Milton: Yeah, he became a member of the Board.
Scarpino: And you became Senior Vice President.
Milton: Yeah, in charge of all the National Service programs like AmeriCorps and Learn and Serve.
Scarpino: Your title, Senior Vice President of the Corporation for National and Community Service, your portfolio was all the National Programs.
Milton: Yeah, and I think the title actually had Senior Vice President for National Service Programs, yeah.
Scarpino: And, so you must have started in 1993, right after the legislation passed?
Milton: Yeah, yeah. I mean, I was basically, how do I say it? We were all, I guess we did move, I mean, I can’t remember if we’d moved or if I’d been in – I honestly, isn’t that terrible?
Scarpino: Do you remember how long you stayed in that position?
Milton: I think it was about a year and a half. I did the launching and then I thought, I mean, I was just working all the time and that’s when I said I want to go back and do the Presidio.
Scarpino: So, you got this Senior Vice President…
Scarpino: … wasn’t the CEO Eli Segal at that point?
Milton: Eli Segal was the CEO.
Scarpino: And did he appoint you or how did you end up with that position?
Milton: He appointed me. I mean, I don’t think he really – he considered me a holdover because it’s like “you worked for those other people.” So, but I think he, I mean, a lot of people, including, I think, Hillary Clinton’s staff, said that he couldn’t do it without me, which I think is true. I mean, honestly, at that point, I knew how to do this.
Scarpino: You’d been working with Hillary Clinton’s staff?
Milton: No, but one of the people who was her Chief of Staff knew of my work. I didn’t really work – Melanne Verveer – and Shirley had worked there. So, I think what I was told is Melanne says “no, you have to keep her; she’s doing the best job.” So, I think, I think I had honestly, how do I say this, I had really done what – people considered I was doing a really great job and they had, I just don’t think he could have done it. That’s why I actually decided not to go back. I could have gone back to Stanford, but it was like, I felt like it wouldn’t happen.
Scarpino: So, one more time…
Scarpino: … you are starting something. I mean, there…
Milton: That’s right.
Scarpino: … there had been the Commission, but now you’ve got the Corporation for National Service, it’s got a billion-dollar budget, so how did you go about starting?
Milton: Again, smart people. One guy, Don Gibbs, who now is head of another foundation – in fact, I need to tell them this; this is terrible I can’t remember; it’ll come to me. Anyway, I hired him for several months to help me figure out how to organize it because that was my biggest thing; what kind of staff, how many we’re going to have and all that. I think we somehow came that I had to hire like a hundred people, and I had to hire them because we had a deadline of what Clinton wanted to do and it was like okay, we’re going to do this, of doing all this within a matter of just months and all.
Scarpino: You had to figure out what to do with that money and you had to figure out a way to do it that was fair and honest and would keep you out of prison.
Milton: Exactly, exactly. Because my husband had been Inspector General, I was very much aware of that. So, I think that we had, one of the people who had been my deputy before Dick Staufenberger, he became the CFO. Actually, I think that’s one of the key things that all the top people I had had hired took the top positions at the Corporation. So, the General Counsel was Terry Russell, the CFO and basically ran the place…
Scarpino: Basically, the leadership from the Commission moved to the Corporation…
Milton: That’s right, exactly.
Scarpino: … and so did you.
Milton: Exactly, so did I. The other thing is that Shirley was there because Shirley had come from Hillary’s office and writing the legislation, and Eli, I think it’s fair to say, trusted and liked Shirley a lot, probably in a way that he didn’t trust or like me because Shirley came from the Clintons and all that. But Shirley and I knew each other and trusted each other, and we basically made a pact that we’re never going to fight and we’re going to get this done. So, I think if there was a miracle, it was that because Eli didn’t foster any of us really to work well together. He was just, he had his guy Rick Allen, who was his right-hand person who came from the campaign and they were like – actually, I worked well with Rick and liked him, but Eli didn’t. In some ways he understood what we’re doing, but in other ways he didn’t. So, all I can say is that Shirley and I worked really closely together and figured out – I figured out okay, this is how we’re going to divide – the money was sort of divided up – some’s going to the state, some’s going to national and all that, we’re going to need some staff people to help run those and we’re going to need a whole training, a whole evaluation. I brought in people like Jamie Merisotis and like Jeff Bradach, people I’d known who were really, really smart and they helped design different programs, and Dick Staufenberger helped oversee how we would do evaluation, and again, we knew Tom Ehrlich. So, in a way, we were all prepared because we knew how to do this on a smaller thing, so it wasn’t all that hard to go bigger.
Scarpino: Would it be reasonable for somebody looking back on that to conclude that for many of you, the work you did with the term-limited Commission was like Spring Training for the Corporation?
Milton: Exactly, totally, totally. I would even say that the Summer of Service was the final Spring Training where we learned a lot like oh, wow, we’ll never to that again, never ever do anything like that again. Yeah, and we came up with ideas including leadership, we had some leadership training programs and things like that, and we had those ideas from all of the work
we did. Yeah, we could’ve, I don’t think it could’ve ever happened – in fact, it was like the best way to launch a federal agency.
Scarpino: The Corporation for Nation and Community Service had its own leadership training programs?
Milton: It had a very small one until we had the Presidio and actually it was like Shirley’s baby. It’s in the legislation and it was bringing in people who had served in AmeriCorps, I guess, you know, already served one year or two years and they could serve as AmeriCorps leaders to try to help. I don’t even know if that ever became much of anything, but it was the idea out there, we’ve got to do something for leadership.
Scarpino: So, the first CEO was Eli Segal.
Scarpino: The second one was Harris Wofford…
Scarpino: … served from 1995 to 2001. So, he was there for a while. He was also a Clinton appointee. Talk about his impact.
Milton: Well, I guess I would say the big impact he was on building bipartisanship because Eli had been head of the campaign and so he was a democrat all the way. One other thing, and I may have said this to you before, but Clinton wanted this as his program and Eli wanted to please Clinton, so that they didn’t pay attention to the Republican support and it was in serious trouble and Harris Wofford understood that. I think everybody would give him credit for really working the halls of Congress and really working on that. Harris also, because he’d been a college president and had a good understanding for the service thing, it was somebody I always could sort of feel I could talk to. When he became CEO, I had moved to the Presidio, so I basically saw him not all that often, but I always felt like I had a good time with him and could really talk to him and he understood everything.
Scarpino: When Wofford finally stepped down in 2001, he was replaced by Les Lenkowsky from Indiana.
Milton: Yeah, yeah.
Scarpino: Les Lenkowsky is a Republican. He was appointed by George Bush. Any change in the way the Corporation functioned?
Milton: Well, I wasn’t aware, because I wasn’t involved, so I’m speaking from what I observed, but I think Les had a hard time, that he didn’t get the kind
of support from the White House and that that was hard. We had a reunion, like a 10-year reunion of the Commission, and I was the emcee. I remember being in this hotel sort of ballroom and there may have been like 200 people there or something, I don’t know how much people, and Les was sitting alone. I went over, I sat with him and I said, “Hi, how are you doing?” and all this stuff. He said, “Aren’t you afraid to be seen with me?” I said, “Why is that?” He said, “I’m the most unpopular person here.” I don’t know what happened. So, I think that the staff, I think he ran into problems that were political issues. So, he’ll tell you firsthand, but I don’t think it was a happy time for him. And I like Les a lot, so I don’t have any – we could have never done the Commission work without him, so I have no idea what happened.
Scarpino: I’ll ask him. I mean, I know him, not well, but I know him.
Milton: Yeah, yeah.
Scarpino: What were your main duties and responsibilities as Senior Vice President?
Milton: AmeriCorps was the big one, and I was in charge of all of, again, the whole thing again, how are we going to select these programs, the applications, and here we had thousands of applications and that whole process.
Scarpino: And a lot more money.
Milton: And a lot more money. State commissions, we had to set up state commissions in all the states, and we had to have the criteria and do training for all those people too, and again, the evaluation. We had big contracts and, you know, now it was getting big-time. And Learn and Serve, same thing. Let’s see what else. I think the other big thing I haven’t talked about was hiring staff. I had to hire a hundred people, so I basically had almost like a search firm. I hired a full-time staff person, Mariam Parel, who was very smart and she was an assistant we interviewed. I mean, we had 3,000 people apply for jobs.
Scarpino: You didn’t use an employment agency, you did it yourself.
Milton: No, we did it ourselves and we had about 3,000 people apply. So, we had to go through all these. I was interviewing all the time and she, you know, she was very good. And then, I think when it came down to – one of the other things that’s coming to my mind is that when we were actually putting together the final selection of the first AmeriCorps grantees, I had really bright young people working for me, who could do Excel spreadsheets, which now seem like nothing, but back then it was like oh, wow.
Scarpino: It used to be magic, didn’t it?
Milton: Yeah, it was like magic. So, I can still remember looking and saying, “Is this what we want it to look like?” And I had Eli then because he was like the big boss, so I would say, “This is the choices,” and I would do all that. He pretty much – I don’t think he ever interfered. I did all the selection. I don’t think once. He did ask me to hire three people of his, which all turned out just fine, but that was – otherwise “you do the selection.” There was no pressure from the White House. I’m just trying to think were there any exceptions, I don’t think so, to fund this one versus that one.
Scarpino: The Corporation for National and Community Service listed three Corporation goals in a report entitled “National and Community Service; Making the Vision Succeed in the 21st Century,” presented to the Board of Directors as a report. I’m going to tell you what they were just to remind you and then I’m going to ask you to summarize.
Number one, help address the nation’s unmet needs, generally defined as education, environment, and public safety.
Number two, strengthen communities through service, generally defined as joining people from different backgrounds together and leveraging human resources by recruiting volunteers, and
Number three, is improve the lives of those who serve through their service experience.
Okay, so that’s great, but it also sounds like…
Scarpino: … like motherhood is good…
Scarpino: … and it probably is. Now, with the benefit of hindsight, how would you explain what you believe are the accomplishments?
Milton: Of AmeriCorps?
Scarpino: No, of the Corporation.
Milton: Corporation. Well, I think the biggest accomplishment was launching and getting AmeriCorps out there and getting it all to work. It wasn’t easy and I think that is a major accomplishment. I run into people all the time. There are over a million people who have served in AmeriCorps.
Scarpino: It’s still alive and well.
Milton: It’s still alive and well, and is surviving…
Scarpino: My brother ran an AmeriCorps corps.
Milton: There you are, there you are. So, I run into them all the time and I think that the decisions – I feel strongly the decisions we made that first year, in terms of the quality of the programs and outcomes and all the training, all that, I think that all helped it survive. We also looked at Peace Corps and how Peace Corps had had – their alums were very involved in lobbying and stuff like, so we tried, and Shirley did a lot of this work, of setting up, you know, so that we have a way of even keeping tabs. I learned this from Stanford. I had all these students go through in the first five years and I have no idea who they are. Then somebody said, “Well, let’s just put their names down and get our email.” So, that’s the kind of thing that we started to do, which was looking towards the future.
Scarpino: Are there any areas where you think the Corporation for National Service came up short in your tenure?
Milton: Well, I think, obviously, you know, making sure it has solid bipartisan support was a problem, which I think they’ve certainly worked on now. I’ll say one more thing about how they’ve worked on that is they try to get members of Congress out to see the programs and all that. I think the paperwork is another problem. I say that from my experience at Save the Children where we had a whole bunch of AmeriCorps. At the end, after I left, they stopped. They wouldn’t do the program anymore.
Scarpino: Too much paperwork?
Milton: Too much paperwork. It’s just not worth the money to do it.
Scarpino: So, I’m going to wrap this up.
Milton: Okay, fine.
Scarpino: I don’t know, what time is it?
Milton: I have no idea either. Here we’re at five of five. Wow!
Scarpino: So, you need to leave. So, alright.
Milton: That’s okay.
Scarpino: There’s some of these questions that I’m just not going to ask you. As you look back on your career, particularly as it relates to service, what are you the proudest of? Where did you really make a difference?
Milton: Wow. I think creating AmeriCorps is probably my proudest accomplishment and creating the Haas Center. I feel that those are the two things I feel really proud about. I mean, it’s hard because I also feel
great when I look at women in police. I go, “Well, I had something to do with that,” but that might have happened otherwise. I don’t know.
Scarpino: Again, as you look back on your career, particularly as it relates to service, is there anything you wish you could do over?
Milton: Well, I guess if I could totally do it over, I might have done some different things. I was never really mean to staff, but I may be a little nicer at times. So, that’s the honest truth. I have a story – one of my former students told me that I was taking them on a trip and we got out of a taxi and somehow they had to pay, which is fine because it got reimbursed, and I said, “I’ll see you,” and I just walked on the plane and I left them, and they were like who is she. I was just so totally tunnel focused.
Scarpino: Is there anything you still want to accomplish?
Milton: I’d like to write up all this and have it – that’s one of the big things I want to do.
Scarpino: I’m going to ask you the last two questions I ask everybody I interview.
Scarpino: Is there anything I should have asked you that I didn’t?
Milton: Aha, I don’t think so. I think I want to send you the stuff about the NCCC. That’s the only thing I didn’t go into as much, yeah.
Scarpino: Is there anything that you wanted to say that I didn’t give you a chance to say?
Milton: No, no. You were wonderful. You’re great! This is wonderful.
Scarpino: Well, I really appreciate you taking time to visit with me…
Milton: Oh, I tell you.
Scarpino: … and we ended up talking for three hours and nine minutes. I knew when I talked to you on the phone that we weren’t going to get this done in two hours.
Milton: I know, I’m sorry, but it was like…
Scarpino: No, it’s fine. This has been great and this will end up in the Archives with the archival material and I hope that this would put some of this into context. So, I’m going to turn these things off, and make sure we don’t have any more live mics.
(END OF RECORDING)