Christopher Inguanzo, 14, is an 8th grader at Bob Graham Education Center in Miami Lakes.
In Christopher’s role as the school’s Student Council historian, earlier this year he interviewed former U.S. Sen. and Fla. Gov. Bob Graham, 84, for whom the school is named.
They discussed the importance of civic engagement and Graham’s legacy, among other topics.
Q: You have accomplished so much throughout your life in public
service, as a Florida state representative and senator, two-term governor of Florida and three-term U.S. senator. Yet you called the dedication of Bob Graham Education Center in 2002 one of the greatest honors of your life.
A: The naming of the school is important because it recognized a way of life honoring the significance of education and my life-long devotion to public education.
Q: Your family was instrumental in developing Miami Lakes – how significant is it for you that Bob Graham Education Center is located in the town?
A: Miami Lakes is the result of memories established from green pastures to now a beautiful city. As a boy this land was where I lived and worked. I think of my dad and how proud he would be to have a school named after his son be located on his dairy pastureland.
Q: Do you recall when you were first told that a school would be named after you?
A: I was honored that Miami-Dade County Public Schools Chairperson Perla Tabares Hantman felt it appropriate to name the school for me. This endorsement is one of my greatest honors, and I am eternally grateful to Mrs. Tabares Hantman for this.
Q: As Bob Graham Education Center gets ready to celebrate its 20th anniversary next year, can you share some of your favorite memories about our school?
A: I was especially pleased that five of my grandchildren attended this school. I was honored by the detailed inscriptions painted on the walls which outlined my philosophy of education and government. I have admired the many fine teachers and the curriculum devoted to civic education.
Q: You have written several books on civic engagement and founded the Bob Graham Center for Public Service at the University of Florida, which is devoted to revitalizing the civic culture in this country. How important do you think civic engagement is for elementary and middle school students?
A: Civic education is the foundation of American democracy in our nation. These lessons must be learned early and their application appreciated. I am proud of the work that the students have made at the BGEC and the University of Florida’s Bob Graham Center for Public Service. Both have excelled way beyond anything I had ever hoped for and I have much faith that they will continue to do so well into the future.
Q: In 2006, the Civics Engagement Academy (CEA) was established at Bob Graham Education Center – created to honor your commitment to public service and civic engagement and to educate and develop the future leaders. What advice do you have for the students who are currently in the academy?
A: The fundamental lesson is that application of civic action to solve political problems is the essence of good government. And never, ever give up!
Q: The CEA has won several district, state and national student competitions which promote civic competence and responsibility.
A: There could be no better documentation of the outstanding civic program established at BGEC than these successes. It makes me very proud. This confirms my judgement of the fine program there. And I am very appreciative of all the wonderful teachers who dedicate so much time to educating the CEA students such as Jackie Hernandez Ramos and John Brady.
Q: In 2009, you wrote a book called “America, The Owner’s Manual,” which teaches people how to interact directly with their government and make it respond to their concerns. Our CEA class uses this book. What are the most important lessons that you can share from it?
A: Good government is not a “spectator sport.” Educated and participatory citizens are essential for our democracy, so don’t simply stand on the sidelines, get on the field and play!
Q: You have written several books, some fiction, some non-fiction, and most recently a children’s book. Which is your favorite book, and why?
A: I like all of the books I have written. My first and still favorite is “Workdays: Finding Florida on the Job.” This experience of these workdays not only taught me a great deal about so many people and the work that they do, but it also illustrated the application of specific knowledge about Florida to solving its problems and challenges. I will always remember the lessons I learned from these experiences.
Q: As we celebrate our school’s 20th anniversary next year, is there any special way you would celebrate this milestone?
A: Select a specific subject that a student(s) would like to reform or emulate. Study the
issues and then select the most important details to be presented, reviewed, and honored by the school. And somehow also highlight the many significant accomplishments from the past 20 years.
Q: Thirty years from now, when Bob Graham Education Center celebrates its 50th anniversary, what do you hope your legacy and the legacy of the school will be?
A: That Bob Graham
Education Center continues to be recognized for its high academic excellence, while also highlighting student civic engagement and participation.