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Robert Sutherland
Professor of Politics

  Faculty Profile  

Widely respected Miami-Dade-area lobbyist Dusty Melton (navy shirt) spent more than five hours with Robert Sutherland (white shirt) and students in Florida.

"Enoughhhhhh … arghhhh … here I am looking up some guy named Rico in a lawyer's manual while two blocks away topless babes are sunning themselves on the beach!"

Some such struggle in one form or another went on in every student who has gone with me to study public corruption in south Florida for the past two years. The course is "Politics 225: Ethics and Public Policy." The struggle is important because it parallels a struggle within public figures facing a choice between public service and one of the many forms of public corruption.

Choosing to study instead of going to the beach, like choosing public service rather than its corruption, involves deliberation and will, an exercise in self-restraint for the sake of a higher, more enduring purpose. The more exercise the easier the choice until one chooses self-restraint and public service almost as a matter of habit. No purpose than this is more important to me throughout 35 years of teaching, and I've never taught it better than in South Beach. Instruction there is reinforced by absorption. Lessons penetrate both head and heart.

The best teachers are the many people we meet. Prosecutors, TV reporters and investigative journalists, lawyers, business leaders, lobbyists, public interest advocates, elected officials, and public ethics bureaucrats have all welcomed us and devoted hours of their time to helping us understand how and why so many public officials abuse their positions in south Florida.

For entirely different reasons, the students share my conviction that the most important person we meet is Sheila Kruse Boyce '85, who opens her house to us and arranged to take the 2002 class sailing in Biscayne Bay on the biggest sailboat many of them will ever board. They look to her for fun. I depend on her for almost everything that is essential to the success of the course-from advice about housing to help in arranging meetings with Dick Gregory, the most celebrated prosecutor of public corruption in south Florida.

Without a McConnell Fellowship in 2000, I would not have attempted to overcome the many obstacles that stood in the way of successfully offering not only this course but also another course taught off-campus on national security policy. For both courses, advance travel was needed to secure safe, affordable housing and transportation plus meet the people essential to the success of these courses. McConnell funds covered these expenses.

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