Past episodes
About Uncommon Knowledge

For more than a decade the Hoover Institution has been producing Uncommon Knowledge with Peter Robinson, a series hosted by Hoover fellow Peter Robinson as an outlet for political leaders, scholars, journalists, and today’s big thinkers to share their views with the world. Guests have included a host of famous figures, including Paul Ryan, Henry Kissinger, Antonin Scalia, Rupert Murdoch, Newt Gingrich, and Christopher Hitchens, along with Hoover fellows such as Condoleezza Rice and George Shultz.

Uncommon Knowledge takes fascinating, accomplished guests, then sits them down with me to talk about the issues of the day,” says Robinson, an author and former speechwriter for President Reagan. “Unhurried, civil, thoughtful, and informed conversation– that’s what we produce. And there isn’t all that much of it around these days.”

The show started life as a television series in 1997 and is now distributed exclusively on the web over a growing network of the largest political websites and channels. To stay tuned for the latest updates on and episodes related to Uncommon Knowledge, follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Uncommon Knowledge by topic: History and Philosophy

August 23, 2013 | Recorded on May 21, 2013

Amity Shlaes on Coolidge’s life, ideas, and success in bringing about low taxes and small government

Hoover fellow Peter Robinson (left) and author Amity Shlaes discuss her book Coo

This week on Uncommon Knowledge, Amity Shlaes sheds light on the life of Calvin Coolidge, the thirtieth president of the United States. The harsh conditions of Coolidge’s childhood shaped his political ideas and led to his deep understanding of life and helping people succeed, especially in business. Believing in small government and low taxes, he thought government needed to get out of the way so individuals and businesses could prosper. His supply-side economics were a resounding success, with an unemployment rate of 5 percent or even 3 percent, as the economy grew and the government shrank.

August 6, 2013 | Recorded on May 21, 2013

Hoover fellow Victor Davis Hanson on the type of men who become savior generals

Victor Davis Hanson

This week on Uncommon Knowledge, Hoover fellow and author Victor Davis Hanson discusses his book The Savior Generals: How Five Great Commanders Saved Wars That Were Lost—From Ancient Greece to Iraq. Hanson notes that savior generals are eccentrics, iconoclasts, and visionaries who see things others do not. A great general peels the veneer of invulnerability from a winning enemy, convincing his own men that victory is entirely within their purview. (42:46)

July 4, 2013 | Recorded on July 4, 2013

Crisis Management: Kissinger, McNamara, and Rice

Condoleezza Rice (left), the Thomas and Barbara Stephenson Senior Fellow on Publ
Image credit: Steve Gladfelter, Stanford Visual Arts

This week Uncommon Knowledge brings us interview excerpts from two former secretaries of state and Hoover fellows Henry Kissinger and Condoleezza Rice, and former secretary of defense Robert McNamara. All three have influenced American foreign policy through the years and through different crises, and all three believe that the United States possesses a particular responsibility in the world. (25:47)

May 31, 2013 | Recorded on January 30, 2013

Joseph Epstein and Andrew Ferguson discuss the state of liberal arts education on Uncommon Knowledge

Clockwise from left: Hoover fellow Peter Robinson, Andrew Ferguson, and Joseph E

This week on Uncommon Knowledge, authors Joseph Epstein and Andrew Ferguson discuss where liberal arts came from and what has happened to them. Liberal arts, they say, emerged from an ancient stream of thought, learning, and belief about what is important in life, yet liberal arts degrees are not held in high regard today. (30:57)

May 17, 2013 | Recorded on April 23, 2013

Thomas Sowell discusses his newest book, Intellectuals and Race

Thomas Sowell discusses Intellectuals and Society on Uncommon Knowledge.

This week on Uncommon Knowledge, Hoover fellow and author Thomas Sowell discusses his newest book, Intellectuals and Race, which argues that the impact of intellectuals' ideas and crusades on the larger society, both past and present, is the ultimate concern. (38:27)
“The intellectuals have told them [African Americans] that the world is unjust, that other people are keeping them down, that the fact that they don't have what other people have, is somebody else's fault.”

May 1, 2013 | Recorded on April 22, 2013

Former Florida governor Jeb Bush offers his outlook on immigration

Jeb Bush

This week on Uncommon Knowledge, former Florida governor Jeb Bush offers his outlook on immigration into the United States and discusses the policies he believes would improve the issue. (47:16)
“I think we've [the Republican Party] become too reactionary. We have not been as positive, offering concrete proposals that are based on this principle that the future is incredibly bright. If we believed it, we would be advocating across-the-board principles and policies that would advance that notion.”

April 18, 2013 | Recorded on April 16, 2013

John O'Sullivan remembers Margaret Thatcher on Uncommon Knowledge

John O'Sullivan

This week on Uncommon Knowledge, journalist and author John O'Sullivan discusses the unique and memorable career of the late Margaret Thatcher, former prime minister of the United Kingdom. (44:12)
“Mrs. Thatcher loved people who argued with her. She loved debate. She loved rhetorical combat. That was all important to her. People who argued with her went up in her estimation and she tended to like them.”

October 31, 2012 | Recorded on October 19, 2012

Uncommon Knowledge with Justice Antonin Scalia

Justice Antonin Scalia discusses the premise of his book, Making Your Case: The Art of Persuading Judges.

This week on Uncommon Knowledge, Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia visits for a wide-ranging interview on subjects including the living Constitution, Roe v. Wade, Congress’s relationship to the Court, and his new book, Reading Law: The Interpretation of Legal Texts. “I think it took the American people a while to figure out what was going on, maybe 30 years. Once they have figured out that the Supreme Court is essentially rewriting the Constitution term by term, the old criteria for appointing and confirming judges no longer applies.” (48:47)

September 5, 2012 | Recorded on July 17, 2012

Wheel of Fortune host Pat Sajak discusses his upbringing, career, Hollywood, and politics

Pat Sajak on Uncommon Knowledge

This week on Uncommon Knowledge, Wheel of Fortune host Pat Sajak discusses his modest upbringing in Chicago, joining Armed Forces Radio in Vietnam, working in small markets before finally landing in Hollywood, and politics.
“What is changing I think is, other than the money, which can help a campaign, people are tuning out celebrity endorsements. Everyone has an opinion, especially now in this Internet age where everyone is blogging. You do not have to be a celebrity to talk to the world.” (48:53)

August 27, 2012 | Recorded on September 27, 2011

Vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan presents some of his ideas for fixing government in his September 2011 interview on Uncommon Knowledge

Congressman Paul Ryan

In a wide-ranging 2011 interview, US member of Congress and Republican vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan of Wisconsin discusses the need to repeal and replace President Obama’s health care law, his ideas for fixing Medicare and Medicaid, and new concepts to reduce the debt and fix the federal budget.