American Umpire

American Umpire is a 56-minute documentary targeted for PBS that examines why the United States became the world’s policeman and asks how long we must play this role. Narrated by renowned journalist Jim Lehrer, the film explores the historical foundation of American foreign intervention from George Washington to Barack Obama. The film combines unusual archival footage with candid interviews of three former secretaries of state (Shultz, Albright, and Rice), two American generals (Mattis and Eikenberry), winners of the Nobel and Pulitzer prizes (Spence and Kennedy), and eight scholars from around the world. American Umpire is filmed in a compelling, cinematic style. It helps voters understand the critical debates about American foreign policy in time for the 2016 presidential election, when they must decide who leads the country going forward.

Jim Lehrer, Narrator, brings outstanding credentials to the role. He has worked in journalism since 1959, and co-hosted "The MacNeil/Lehrer News Hour" for twenty years. Lehrer has been honored with numerous awards, including the Chairman’s Award at the 2010 National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences News & Documentary Emmy Awards, the 1999 National Humanities Medal presented by President Bill Clinton and First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, and the National Press Club “Fourth Estate Award” in October 2011. He has won two Emmys, the Fred Friendly First Amendment Award, the George Foster Peabody Broadcast Award, the William Allen White Foundation Award for Journalistic Merit, and the University of Missouri School of Journalism’s Medal of Honor. In 1991, he was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He has hosted twelve presidential debates.

Elizabeth Cobbs, Producer and Writer, earned a Ph.D. in American History at Stanford University and currently holds the Melbern Glasscock Chair in American History at Texas A&M University. Her books have won four prizes in American history. Elizabeth has been a Fulbright scholar in Ireland, a Fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington D.C., and a Research Fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution. From 1999 to 2005, she served on the Historical Advisory Committee of the U.S. State Department. Aside from her award-winning scholarship, Elizabeth has appeared in such national broadcast venues as Morning Joe, The Today Show, and NPR. Her op-eds have appeared in the New York Times, Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times, Jerusalem Post, Reuters and other distinguished publications. She has a lively, dynamic style and lectures extensively on the role of the U.S. in the world.


Major Interviews

Madeleine Albright was the first female Secretary of State. She was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2012 and is currently a professor of International Relations at Georgetown University.

George Shultz has held four different cabinet posts: Secretary of State, Secretary ofTreasury, Secretary of Labor, and the first Director of the Office of Management and Budget. He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1989.

Condoleezza Rice is a former Secretary of State, National Security Advisor, and provost of Stanford University. She is author of numerous books and a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

David Kennedy, Professor of History, Stanford University, is a winner of the Pulitzer Prize, specialist on the history in the 20th Century, and frequent commentator on American affairs.

Michael Spence was awarded the Nobel Prize in Economics in 2001. He is William R. Berkley Professor at the Stern School of Business, New York University.

Meena Bose holds the Kalikow Chair in Presidential Studies at Hofstra University and is the Director of Hofstra’s Center for the Study of the American Presidency.

Gen. Jim Mattis is a former Commander of US Central Command, leading more than 200,000 US troops in Afghanistan, Iraq, and 18 other countries.

Barry Posen, Director of Security Studies at MIT, is a Fellow of the Council on Foreign Relations, Guest Scholar at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, and Woodrow Wilson Fellow.

Nicole Bacharan is a journalist and frequent commentator on French media, as well as a Fellow at the Fondation Nationale des Sciences Politique. She was awarded the French Legion of Honor in 2008.

Karl Eikenberry is a former U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan, Deputy Chairman of NATO, and Director for Strategic Planning & Policy for US Pacific Command. He has won the Defense Distinguished and Superior Service Medals.

Michael Cohen is a Fellow at The Century Foundation and a columnist for the Boston Globe. He is a frequent contirbutor to The Guardian, New York Times, and Foreign Affairs.

Josef Joffe is Publisher/Editor of the German magazine Die Zeit. He is also a Senior Fellow at the Freeman-Spogli Institute, Stanford University.

David Brady is Professor of Political Science at Stanford University Graduate School of Business.

Christopher Preble is the Vice President for Defense and Foreign Policy at the Cato Institute. His most recent book is The Power Problem: How American Military Dominance Makes Us Less Safe, Less Prosperous, and Less Free.

Morris Fiorina is Professor of Political Science at Stanford University specializing in political partisanship and voter opinion.

Eric Hanushek is a Senior Fellow at Hoover Institution, the former chair of the Board of Directors of the National Board for Education Sciences, Deputy Director of the Congressional Budget Office, and Senior Economist on the Council of Economic Advisors.

Key Personnel and Credits

James Shelley, Director and Producer, is owner of Shell Studios, a San Diego based company specializing in documentaries and commercial videos.

Joanne Elgart Jennings, Executive Producer, launched KQED Newsroom in 2013. Before this, she worked for PBS NEWSHOUR for ten years, producing hundreds of features including two Emmy-award-winning documentaries. 

Glenn Takakjian, Editor
Elizabeth Maddrey, Archival Research
Original Score by Elizabeth Lim
Sound Design & Mix by Skywalker Sound
Graphics by Pixeldust Studios
Color/Conforming by Shapeshifter Studios

Board of Advisors

Fredrik Logevall is the Laurence D. Belfer Professor of International Affairs at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. Mr. Logevall has lectured widely on diplomatic history and contemporary U.S. foreign policy. He was awarded the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for Embers of War: The Fall of an Empire and the Making of America’s Vietnam.

Jack Rakove is the W.R. Coe Professor of History and American Studies, Stanford University. He was awarded the1997 Pulitzer Prize for Original Meanings: Politics and Ideas in the Making of the Constitution.