David Colburn: An award that honors citizens who lead a ‘good life'


Published: Sunday, February 10, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, February 9, 2013 at 12:35 a.m.

The Bob Graham Center for Public Service has established the Bob Graham Center Citizen of the Year Award.

Facts

Citizen of the Year

* To be eligible, an individual must have lived in Florida at least five years, made a substantial contribution to improving the quality of life of Floridians and exhibited a commitment to the common good and a dedication to making the state better.
* Nominations can come from any source, but the candidate should not be self nominated. Nominators should identify their connection, family or otherwise, to the nominee. Nomination materials and more information can be found at www.bobgrahamcenter.ufl.edu.
* A panel of three leading citizens, drawn from various backgrounds in Florida, will select the winner on June 11 in Miami Lakes.

Our purpose in establishing this award is to highlight those individuals in our state who make Florida a better place to live for all of us.

Yes, we believe Bob Graham embodied the characteristics of leadership and service throughout his career, as a state senator, governor and United States senator. But our purpose is not to promote Bob Graham — he does not need that from us.

Our aim is to assist University of Florida students and other young people to realize that life's success is measured not only by educational and economic achievement, but it is also determined by the ways we contribute to the well-being of others and the well-being of our society.

Greek philosopher Plato asserted that human well being is the highest aim of moral thought and conduct.

At UF, the administration, the Office of Student Affairs and faculty have collaborated to help freshman students understand that "a good life" goes well beyond making money.

From the moment students enter campus, academic advisers and student affairs leaders impress on them that we expect more from our students than good grades and a well-paying job. The Good Life course, developed by the faculty, speaks directly to students about what such a life entails.

Bill Strickland, a MacArthur Foundation "genius award" recipient, believes that a successful life is not something one simply pursues. It is rather something each of us creates, moment by moment.

The Bob Graham Center Citizen of the Year Award has been designed to highlight those citizens who understand what it means to lead a "good life," who have done so through service to their state and community and, most notably, to others, and who stand as a model to the rest of us.

There are many individuals in Florida who have quietly contributed in extraordinary ways to help us overcome our disparities and differences and who remind us daily how much we have in common as human beings.

From our perspective, these individuals deserve our attention so that others can see what they have been able to accomplish. We believe their example needs to be known widely, especially, to those of us maturing into adulthood.

So our hope for this award is that it promotes social engagement, the general well-being of our fellow citizens, and the general acknowledgment of what constitutes a good life.

David Colburn is interim director of the University of Florida's Bob Graham Center for Public Service. He was provost and senior vice president at UF from 1999 to 2005, and has been a member of the history faculty since 1972.

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