Robert Graham Bob Graham Center for Public Service, University of Florida
Following 12 years of service in the Florida Legislature, Bob Graham was elected governor of Florida in 1978. During two successful terms as governor, Graham was nationally recognized for reforms in education, environmental protection, and economic diversification. Upon concluding his two terms as governor, Graham had an 83 percent approval rating from the people of Florida.
Graham was elected to the United States Senate in 1986, serving three consecutive terms. As a member of the Senate Finance, Environment and Public Works, and Veterans Affairs Committees, he was a leader on health, trade, tax, water and infrastructure issues.
One of Graham’s most important contributions came during his last Senate term, when he was named chairman of the Select Committee on Intelligence. As Senator he cosponsored the bill to create the Director of National Intelligence position and co-chaired the Joint Inquiry into Intelligence Community Activities Before and After the Terrorist Attacks on September 11, 2001. In 2016, Graham received international attention for urging President Obama to declassify and make public 28 pages redacted from the final Joint Inquiry report. Graham also authored the 2004 book Intelligence Matters and the 2011 novel Keys to the Kingdom, both revealing serious faults in the U.S. national security system.
Graham may be best known for his workdays. During the nearly 30 years that he campaigned for or served as Florida’s Governor and U.S. Senator, Graham worked at more than 400 jobs alongside Floridians. His first workday was teaching citizenship at Carol City High School in Miami Gardens, Florida. Graham wrote of these experiences in his first book Workdays: Finding Florida on the Job.
Since leaving the Senate in early 2005, Graham has led national commissions on weapons of mass destruction, the BP oil spill, and financing public higher educations. He spent the 2005–2006 academic year at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government as a senior fellow. Graham continues his work in environmental protection as chair of the Florida Conservation Coalition. The former Governor and U.S. Senator leads efforts to enhance citizen engagement and train the next generation of public leaders through the Bob Graham Center for Public Service at the University of Florida.
One of the biggest roadblocks to participation in democracy is the perception that privileged citizens and special interests command the levers of power and that everyday Americans can’t fight City Hall. That perception is undoubtedly why a 2015 Pew Charitable Trusts survey found that 74 percent of those Americans surveyed believed that most elected officials didn’t care what people like them thought. Authors Graham and Chris Hand, in America, the Owner’s Manual:You Can Fight City Hall – and Win, show citizens how to flex their citizenship muscles, that citizen participation is the lifeblood of America.