Former Florida senator discusses security issues

The next president of the United States will bear the responsibility of redefining America’s place in the world, said former Florida Senator Bob Graham to nearly 150 students in Storer Auditorium on Tuesday night.

The National Security Network, an independent, faculty-based project at the University of Miami, sponsored Graham’s lecture, which addressed how the U.S. should use its foreign and domestic power.

Graham, who was a presidential candidate in 2003, illustrated how the future leader of the free world should draw important lessons from March 1947, when President Harry Truman committed the U.S. to containing the spread of communism in Europe after World War II.

“Truman recognized that U.S. ability to strengthen the world begins with American strength at home,” Graham said. He expressed his concern that the narrow, immediate interests of partisanship in Washington are to blame for the U.S.’s failed policy in unstable regions of the world, such as Iraq.

“The biggest challenge for the next president will be to have the wisdom, skill and fortitude to attack this problem of domestic division,” Graham said.

Graham, who served for 10 years on the Senate Intelligence Committee, penned the insider’s report “Intelligence Matters,” which outlines the White House, CIA and FBI’s failures on national security, including the decision-making faults leading to Iraq. However, the former three-term senator said the U.S.’s most critical intelligence gap is its lack of understanding of the history, culture and language of the regions of the world where it is most likely to be challenged in the next 25 years. For example, only four percent of those employed in the CIA are proficient in languages, such as Chinese and Arabic, which benefit the intelligence community most.

“We have lost sight of our long-term security in an increasingly globalized world,” said Bruce Bagley, chair of the Department of International Studies, in regards to Graham’s assessment.

After his address, Graham also answered questions from members of the audience on a variety of issues, including education and immigration reform.

“I thought the senator’s presentation was a good way to engage people from different parts of the UM community,” said Elaine Fenna, a junior. “It was a good discussion of realistic expectations for many concerns.”

Despite his strong criticisms of the Bush administration, Graham remains optimistic about the U.S. redefining its image abroad. He also encouraged students to use their education to serve the U.S. in diplomacy and other agencies.

“I think the best days in America are ahead of us,” said Graham. “Youth have the power to change things.”

Joanna Suarez may be contacted at