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SAGE Publications

Cover Image: America, the Owner's Manual: Making Government Work for You
  • Date: 03/31/2009
  • Format: Print Paperback
  • Price: $31.00
  • ISBN: 978-1-60426-476-0
  • Pages: 258
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America, the Owner's Manual: Making Government Work for You
Senator Bob Graham, Bob Graham Center for Public Service, University of Florida
with Chris Hand

 Watch Senator Graham on The Colbert Report!

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
She Said, CIA Said - Bob Graham


Click here to preview chapter 1.

Professors: Order your exam copy today by clicking on the "Request an Exam Copy" link above.

Would you teach someone to play basketball using just chalkboard diagrams? Or would you get them on the court and have them play? In basketball, the answer is easy—you do both. So why teach politics only as a spectator sport?

Senator Bob Graham believes that students should expand on their classroom learning about the political system: he spurs them to hit the court and actually play the game. If students work on an issue they care about, politics will become a meaningful and positive experience. This short, how-to guide takes students out of theoretical discussions of policy and into a world where they can affect change. Graham’s goal is to have students identify a problem, and then walk them through each step from researching the issue, to getting others involved, to engaging the media. Each chapter starts with a real case, showing citizens tackling a step in the process, and ends with a summary checklist and a series of questions that help students put Graham’s game plan in action. By offering students concrete guidance, an array of resources, and advice for troubleshooting and overcoming barriers, this compact user’s guide gets students way beyond textbook learning.

Thirty-five years ago, as a member of the Florida Legislature, Bob Graham took on the challenge of civic education for eighteen weeks at a Miami-area high school. His time as both a governor and a senator has only strengthened his resolve to pique students’ curiosity about politics and teach them to get what they want from government.

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Table of Contents

Prologue: Student Government
The District of Columbia and Neighborhood Democracy
Town vs. Gown
Campaign Georgetown
A Permanent Campaign 

Introduction: In the Arena

1. What’s Your Problem? Defining the Challenge that Active Citizenship Can Solve
Case in Point: A Road through the Mountains
How to Define the Problem
Checklist for Action

2. Just the Facts, Ma’am: Gathering Information to Sway Policymakers
Case in Point: Stormy Weather
The Information-Gathering Process
Why Research?
Effective Research: A Step-By-Step Guide
Final Thoughts
Checklist for Action

3. The Buck Stops Where? Identifying Who in Government Can Fix Your Problem
Case in Point: Putting the “Be” in South Beach
You Know the Problem--Who Has the Solution?
Aiming at the Right Target
Checklist for Action

4. Testing the Waters: Gauging and Building Public Support for Your Cause
Case in Point: Reversal of Fortune in Steamboat Springs
Why Does Public Opinion Matter?
How Do I Determine what Public Opinion is?
Conclusion: Putting Public Opinion Data to Good Use
Checklist for Action

5. Winning Friends and Influencing People: How to Persuade the Decision Maker
Case in Point: Getting MADD at Drunk Drivers
Influencing and Persuading the Decision Maker
Checklist for Action

6. Timing is Everything: Using the Calendar to Achieve Your Goals
Case in Point: A Lesson from the United States Senate
Manage the Clock 
Take Advantage of Trends, Cycles, and Deadlines
Checklist for Action

7. All for One, and One for All: Coalitions for Citizen Success
Case in Point: The Orange Hats of Fairlawn
The Fairlawn Coalition: Getting Started
On Patrol
Building Your Own Coalition: A Step-by-Step Guide to Forging an Effective Alliance
Checklist for Action

8. All Your News is Fit to Print: Engaging the Media
Case in Point: Max Rameau’s Mission
Getting to Know the Media
Persuading the Press: Designing and Implementing Your Media Plan
Checklist for Action

9. The Price of Progress: Finding the Resources to Support Your Initiative
Case in Point: Nothing but Nets
The Most Popular Labor-Saving Device
Paying for Your Initiative: A Users’ Guide to Successful Financing
Checklist for Action

10. You’ve Won! You’ve Lost: Preserving Victory and Learning from Defeat
Case in Point: A Victory Born in East L.A.
If You Have Won: Capitalizing on Victories
If You Have Lost: Recovering from Defeats
Checklist for Action


“If you want to be a part of the political action instead of sitting in the grandstands, then Bob Graham’s America, The Owner’s Manual is for you. Not only has he been one of America’s most effective political leaders, along the way he became a first-rate teacher of his art.”

- Senator Lamar Alexander, Former U.S. Education Secretary and Former Governor of Tennessee

“Bob Graham is a true statesman who has spent a lifetime developing future leaders and encouraging the youth of our country to participate in public service—we are a nation incredibly grateful for all of his gifts. This is an extremely important book and a crucial undertaking that will teach generations of Americans about our government and the very special impact of their contributions.”

- Senator John D. (Jay) Rockefeller IV

“At a time when the United States needs an engaged citizenry more than ever, America, the Owner’s Manual gives a road map on what it takes to be involved and how individuals can actually influence the political system. Calling on a long and distinguished career in public service, Senator Bob Graham illustrates each of his chapters with real-world examples of success, failure, and the stops in between. It’s a must read for anyone who cares about what is going on around them and the future of our country.”

- Christine Todd Whitman, Former EPA administrator and Governor of New Jersey

“Graham’s book is compelling and timely. It should inspire Americans to get involved to help our country during these challenging times. His insights and suggestions explain to citizens how to be effective and make a difference. All Americans need to read this book.”

- Senator David L. Boren, President of the University of Oklahoma and Former Governor of Oklahoma

“This is a civics text unlike any you have read. Instead of presenting long, dry discussions on the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, Bob Graham has written a trenchant primer on how to get involved in making government work effectively to solve problems that affect the lives of ordinary people. This book should be must reading for all those who need to know why politics matter and how they can become effective citizen advocates to make their voices heard in the right way, by the right people, at the right time.”

- Derek Bok, Former President of Harvard University

“While Americans have a growing interest in the subject of civics, sustaining that interest and making it work is often lost in the language of bureaucracy. Bob Graham shares with us lessons learned through years of experience. He uses the situations and language of average people who are struggling with everyday problems. Through them, Graham proves to be a great teacher. He makes ‘civics’ an exciting action word—be a player, not just a spectator; work to effect improvements, not just settle for the status quo or change for change’s sake. And, most importantly, he provides a roadmap—a how-to guide—to help each of us do a better job of making our democracy work for all people.”

- Richard W. Riley, Former U. S. Secretary of Education and Former Governor of South Carolina
Senator Bob Graham, Bob Graham Center for Public Service, University of Florida

Bob Graham was elected governor of Florida in 1978 and served two successful terms. He was nationally recognized for reforms in education, environmental protection, and economic diversification. Graham was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1986, serving three consecutive terms. As a member of the Senate Finance Committee, he was a leader on health, trade, and tax issues. One of his most important contributions came during his last term, when he was named chairman on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. He cosponsored the bill to create the Director of National Intelligence position and cochaired the “Joint Inquiry into Intelligence Community Activities before and after the Terrorist Attacks on September 11, 2001.” Graham later authored 2004’s Intelligence Matters, revealing serious faults in the U.S. national security system.

After retiring from public office in early 2005, Graham spent the 2005–2006 academic year at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government as a senior fellow. He is focusing his efforts on training the next generation of public leaders by mobilizing the academic resources of the University of Florida to solve public policy challenges facing Florida, the nation, and the Americas.

with Chris Hand

Chris Hand is an attorney at the law firm of Terrell Hogan in Jacksonville, Florida and has a long history of public service. He previously served as Press Secretary, Speechwriter, and Campaign Press Secretary for U.S. Senator Bob Graham and as Campaign Manager for Florida’s statewide elected Chief Financial Officer, Alex Sink. A graduate of Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs and the University of Florida’s Levin College of Law, Hand is active in a variety of local and state civic issues.