Newton and Jo Minow Debate Series

Newt and Jo MinowThe Newton and Jo Minow Debate Series was established as part of a generous gift from friends and colleagues of Newton N. Minow (JD '50) to honor his numerous contributions to public and civic life. Minow is the originator of the televised U.S. presidential debates, which inspired the idea to honor his legacy with a permanent debate program at Northwestern Law.

The Minow Debates engage outside experts, law school faculty and students on important and timely legal topics. The series is produced in partnership with Intelligence Squared Debates, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization committed to "restoring civility, reasoned analysis, and constructive public discourse."

Minow received his bachelor's degree in 1949, and his JD in 1950, both from Northwestern University. ​After graduating from the Law School, he served as law clerk to the Honorable Fred M. Vinson, Chief Justice of the United States, and then as assistant counsel to Illinois Governor Adlai Stevenson. Minow first suggested televised presidential debates in a memo to Governor Stevenson in 1955.

Minow served as Federal Communications Commission (FCC) chairman under President John F. Kennedy and became a well-known political figure when he used the phrase "vast​ wasteland" to describe the relatively new medium of television.

Though he returned to Chicago in 1965, joining the law firm of Sidley Austin, he has remained active in Democratic politics and the Commission on Presidential Debates, including co-chairing the 1976 and 1980 presidential debates.

Minow has also maintained a lifelong relationship with Northwestern University. In 1975, he joined the Northwestern University Board of Trustees. In 1987, he became a Life Trustee, and he is currently the Walter Annenberg Professor Emeritus at the University.

The Minow Debates are free and open to the public, and also stream live online. The inaugural Minow Debate was held in late 2015, on the topic "U.S. Prosecutors Have Too Much Power."


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