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A new center at UF aims for students interested in public service and political leadership.
By Curtis Kruger, Times Staff Writer
Published March 3, 2008
Five Florida governors, two U.S. senators and a Pulitzer Prize-winning historian will gather this week at a new University of Florida center that is designed to teach students a rare skill: How to serve the public.
The Bob Graham Center for Public Service was created in part by a $1.5-million gift from its namesake, who is a former U.S. senator and governor, and from family members. Students already are taking courses and working toward a "certificate in public service."
"This is the educational training ground for a great number of people who are going to be in leadership in the state," said interim center director Walter Rosenbaum, referring to the University of Florida.
The new center is designed to teach those students about the ethics, communications skills and historical background they will need if they choose careers in elected office or other public service. Through teaching and research, the center will focus on leadership, North American and Latin American affairs, and homeland security.
Beginning today and continuing through Wednesday, the grand opening will feature two-time Pulitzer winner David McCullough, author of Truman and John Adams; Harvard University professor Joseph S. Nye; former governors Graham, Claude Kirk, Reuben Askew, Buddy McKay and Wayne Mixson; and U.S. Sens. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb. and Jay Rockefeller, D-West Va.
Rosenbaum said the center has developed undergraduate and master's degree programs in public policy and hopes to obtain funding to offer them soon.
It also has worked with other departments to fashion courses teaching such topics as the ethics of public life and how to prepare a briefing on an important issue for a member of Congress.
"We want to make a difference in the quality of life in Florida," said Rosenbaum, who also is professor emeritus of political science.
Would a Young Republican be welcomed at this center named after a loyal Democrat?
Absolutely, said Rosenbaum. If the center became partisan, "our credibility would very quickly disappear."
"That's a little different from saying we shouldn't be controversial," he added.
Graham, 71, was governor from 1979 to 1986, a U.S. senator from 1986 through 2005, and he ran for president in 2004.
Go to www.graham.centers.ufl.edu/ for a schedule of the events this week at the University of Florida.
[Last modified March 2, 2008, 19:37:59]