Creating an informed citizenry

Published: June 24th, 2008

Category: Spotlights

Bob Graham

Bob Graham

UF Alumnus
Bob Graham Center for Public Service

Bob Graham isn’t happy with the current state of citizenship in America.

As a former U.S. senator, a former Florida governor, and a one-time U.S. presidential candidate, the UF graduate has long been a major figure in public service. Not surprisingly, he said he believes fully engaged citizens are vital to the country’s survival. Current American society, however, seems to have made active participation in the political process a thing of the past.

The solution, he says, is education. To that end, on March 5, UF will celebrate the grand opening of the Bob Graham Center for Public Service, which is designed to provide students with the knowledge and skills needed to understand and participate in government.

“Our educational institutions are not putting the creative emphasis on young people to be active citizens,” Graham said. “The fundamental purpose of this center is to assist the current and future civic leaders of Florida to be able to serve effectively and honorably.”

Currently, UF students can pursue a certificate in public and civic leadership. By the 2009-10 school year, the center hopes to offer a master’s degree in public policy. The next step would be a bachelor’s degree program.

Study at the center will include classes in ethics, communication, economics and history, and experience-based learning such as internships and apprenticeships.

UF has agreed to fund the Graham Center for its first four years, after which time it expects the center to have secured an endowment to cover its operational costs.

Like Graham himself, the UF center actually has some Ivy League roots. Graham spent a year as a fellow at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government to learn as much as possible about how a public policy education center operates. He is applying those lessons now to the Graham Center.

Aside from the fact that it is his alma mater and that 17 members of his family have attended the university, Graham said UF is the right place for the center because it has been a primary source of leadership in Florida.

“Historically, Florida has been a state made up of city-states – individual communities that were focused inward with relatively little concern for other parts of Florida,” Graham said. “UF has taken people from these insular communities and converted them into Floridians.”

Photo credit: Ray Carson — University Photography

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