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Retired Senator: Leaders Ill Prepared to Solve Problems

At the event at SDSU to promote his new book, former Sen. Bob Graham blamed the situation on a lack of civics education and interest.
Retired Sen. Bob Graham signed copies of his book following his presentation.
Retired Sen. Bob Graham signed copies of his book following his presentation.

Public leaders are poorly equipped to succeed at a time when the nation is facing some of the most critical issues in its history, said former Sen. Bob Graham.

“We are in a period of significant decline both in citizenship and in educating citizenship responsibilities,” Graham said during a presentation to more than 100 students, faculty, staff and alumni during yesterday's event to promote his new book, America, the Owner’s Manual: Making Government Work for You.

"You're now dealing with a generation of public leaders who themselves weren't very well prepared or educated to be effective citizens," he said.

Graham's book is not about the theories behind policy, and instead teaches Americans the steps they can take to change policies in this democracy. His SDSU visit is part of a California State University-wide tour to promote his book.

Bringing democracy to the public

During his presentation that was held in the Aztec Athletics Auditorium, Graham discussed the issues covered in his book, mainly concerning the decrease in the teaching of civics.

“From the very beginning of our nation, the recognition of our active involvement has been a keystone in our democracy,” Graham said.

According to Graham, the reduction in civics classes has led to a less informed youth who have become a less informed general public.

Writing the book

Graham talked about how teaching a civics class to civically illiterate Harvard University undergraduates inspired him to write his book.

Graham said he wrote this book to “bring democracy to future generations of America.” He calls it an owner’s manual because the book helps citizens deal with problems in American democracy.

“The same as when the red light comes on your dash board and you go in your glove compartment to pull out the owner’s manual and determine the problem and what to do about it; that is what this book is intended to do,” Graham said.

SDSU is on board

Graham commended SDSU for accepting the institutional challenge to “be part of this effort to save democracy for future generations of America.”

“I have been impressed at the degree that this university understands its role in preparing people not only for their economic and personal futures, but also for their important role as a citizen of this democracy,” Graham said.

Graham is a retired Democratic senator from Florida. He served as governor of Florida from 1979 to 1987 and was senator from 1987 to 2005. He now works for the Bob Graham Center for Public Service at the University of Florida. He is also one of the ten members on the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission that was established earlier this year by Congress.

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