The meeting was held at the Long Key Nature Center in Davie, Florida. The location itself was very interesting. Long Key Nature Center is located just east of I-75 and just north of Griffin Road. It is very close to Flamingo Gardens. It is a Broward County park with a meeting room and a ballroom. While we were there, there was even a wedding! The on-site building also contains a lot of information about the history of the area. In a nutshell, the area was wetlands with some "keys" on them and the wetlands were drained in the 40s. Much of the property in the area is now developed (and we wonder why they have had flooding and sinkhole problems). However, some of the area near the nature center has been returned to a more natural state. The history includes maps from the three time periods and a walk-through history exhibit that has information from when the Indians inhabited the area through the times of development, into present day. Very interesting indeed!
The day was divided into three parts: UM professors who teach ethics in the morning (Dr. Fiore, Anita Cava, and Dr. Goodman), lobbyists at lunch time (Ron Book, Jess McCarty, Crystal Conner, and Steve Marin), and Dr. Watson, an American History professor from Lynn University, in the afternoon, who provided a historical overview of American Government with a focus on decision-making.
While three ethics professors promised to be a "big-yawn," I could not have been more wrong. The professors were interesting and engaging. We discussed not just what was ethical, but how to deal with behavior that is either flat-out unethical or legally ethically but does not pass the smell-test.
The lobbyists were intersting as well. I know Jess McCarty -- his sister is one of my sorority sisters and we lived in the sorority house together. But I did not know the other panelists. Ron Book certainly has a huge reputation, and his passion and personality make it easy to see why.
The last speaker was Dr. Watson from Lynn University. I did not anticipate how interesting or intense he would be. Almost like watching a hurricane move across the Atlantic toward South Florida, you just could not tear yourself away. Another participant in the program commented that he was like a sponge that just kept giving more information. He shared a lot of personal and ancedotal information about American presidents and their inner circles. He also talked about characteristics of great leaders and lessons on leadership that we can learn from history. Toward the end of his talk, someone asked if he thought that the greatest leaders were "great men" or were "ordinary men" that did great things. He said "ordinary men that did great things," but included the caveat that the most minor thing could have set the course of history in another direction. In other words, even those with the greatest skills ended up as those we remember, in part, because of unforeseen circumstance. Another interesting thing he said was that the greatest leaders reveled in criticism and the biggest failures were those that refused to accept criticism. In other words, the great presidents surrounded themselves with people that disagreed with them (and often with each other) and the weakest presidents surrounded themselves with "yes men." Wow!
A great seminar is one that you think about for days after. This was one of those days. I am lucky to have been chosen for the Good Government Initiative. It was an honor and is a privilege. The residents of Miami Springs are lucky too. I am learning a great deal that will benefit our citizens for many years to come.