Sen. Bob Graham named Lifetime Achiever
By Marilyn Bowden
For more than four decades of distinguished public service at the local, state and national levels as a state legislator, governor and three-term US senator, Bob Graham is the 2011 Lifetime Achievement honoree, a distinction chosen jointly by Miami Today and Gold Medal dinner sponsor Wells Fargo Bank.
During a political career that saw Florida rise from a predominantly rural Southern backwater to the nation's fourth-largest state, Sen. Graham never lost an election.
"It's been my goal," he says, "to base my actions on understanding the aspirations of the people of Florida and then making an attempt to achieve those goals at the highest level of excellence of which I was capable."
Sen. Graham was raised on a dairy and cattle farm in what was then part of the Everglades and is now the town of Miami Lakes, a community master-planned by The Graham Co.
In a sense, public service was part of his heritage; his father was Florida Sen. Ernest "Cap" Graham. But it was education, he says, that was the original impetus for his own involvement.
"When I was first considering running for the state legislature, my wife and I had two young daughters," Sen. Graham says. "Eventually, we had four girls. I was concerned about their education. We were both graduates of Miami-Dade public schools and felt we had received a quality education. We wanted to be sure that our daughters would have the same opportunity."
It's an area in which he is still actively involved.
"I serve on the board of ACT, which is one of the big testing services," he says. "I have been encouraging ACT to become more involved in developing methods of measuring educational progress.
"I've also established a center at the University of Florida called the Bob Graham Center for Public Service, which has as one of its objectives to increase the amount and quality of understanding of citizenship among all Floridians, but particularly young adults."
A solid background in the rights and responsibilities of citizenship, he says, can no longer be taken for granted. Sen. Graham recalls having at least three civics classes between the seventh and 12th grades. "Today," he says, "a young person graduating from high school would be lucky to have had one semester."
Sen. Graham, a graduate of Harvard Law School, has written a book on the subject called "America: The Owner's Manual."
He's also the author of "Intelligence Matters," disclosing serious faults in the US national security system. It was published in 2004, after he served as chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. He also co-sponsored a bill to create a Director of National Intelligence when he co-chaired a joint inquiry into the intelligence community before and after 9-11.
Recently, Sen. Graham became a novelist, too. His political thriller, "Keys to the Kingdom," revolves around cover-ups at the highest levels of government following 9-11. He calls it "fact augmented by fiction."
He says he is considering several ideas for a sequel.
"I haven't made a final decision as to which option I'm going to pursue," he says, "but with continued good health and renewed personal discipline, I'm confident there are more books still to be written."
Sen Graham also remains active in politics, serving on the Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation and Terrorism in 2008 and currently on the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission.
Most recently, Sen. Graham was appointed co-chair of President Barack Obama's BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling Commission.
"I am a great optimist for the future of Florida," he says. "I'm discouraged that we have been going through a period in which some of the fundamental bases for that optimism — education and the protection of our incomparable environment — have been under assault, but I am confident the people of Florida will take control of their state and redirect it in a direction that will benefit us today and our children and grandchildren in the future."
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