by Amy Keller
Updated 10 months ago
Janet Reno? [Photo: Brian Smith]
I developed the drug courts in Dade County. We were trying to develop a structure that would apply sentences that worked on a carrot-stick approach and gave the person an opportunity to work with us but letting him know he faces more serious consequences if he didn't stop testing positive.
What I think of when I think of Florida are my memories of Blue Springs in north Florida. Tubing down them. Picking up fossils from the bottom to look at another time, another place. I think of Fisheating Creek and canoeing down through the cypress. I think of the Everglades and getting stuck in the mud and camping on nights when you could see every star that could possibly be seen by the human eye because you didn't have a mix of light and smog from urban areas. I think of walking along the beaches and diving on the Florida Keys in the reefs. To me, Florida is one of the most magical places. You can find such beauty, almost instantly.
The Everglades Restoration Plan provided a blueprint for steps we can take to preserve the Everglades as a healthy wetland, one of the great wetlands of the world, and yet there's not been follow-through on that.
People are awfully nice to me. They'll come up to me and ask a question, and some of them will disagree with me but do so in a thoughtful, positive way. And so many are very encouraging.
One of the things I most enjoy is just laughing, having somebody who's funny crack me up.
With "Saturday Night Live," when I was in Washington, high school students would come to the Justice Department, and I would try to say hello and answer a few questions. And you'd see two guys sitting in the back, and then finally one would raise his hand and say, "What do you think of yourself on 'Saturday Night Live?' " And I hadn't seen it at that point. My staff brought in some tapes and I said, "Oh, my God." But it was a wonderful opportunity, and it reminded me that it's important to laugh at ourselves more often. It's important for America to laugh together.
I haven't read the comics in a long time. But Pogo was just such a wonderful ... I mean, I think Walt Kelly was a genius.
The worst moment is Waco. There's no question about that.
I've been in public service long enough to know if you prevail in one moment, you may be down and out the next moment. You may be on top of the world the next moment. It's important to not let a single issue defeat you.
I think it's important for public officials to look at their job as: What is the right thing to do? And then you've got to figure out how to get it done.
I don't miss the posturing and divisiveness in political discussion. I think we can do a better job of discussing the issues in candid, constructive ways.
Watergate created a tension and a suspicion that won't go away. I think the amount of money spent, not just in elections but on issue advocacy by lobbyists, makes it very hard for the people to be accurately informed, sufficient to make a valid judgment about the issues before them.
When I was in Germany when I was 13, in about 1952, I visited my aunt and uncle. He was a judge with the occupation forces. He took me past Dachau as we rode on one of his judicial circuits, and he told me what happened there. And that night I came home to Regensburg, where we lived, and asked my adult German friends how could they let this happen. And they said, "We just stood by." And I determined that when I saw wrong, I did not want to be accused of just standing by.
I think Ashcroft changed the presumption we had created in favor of openness in the handling of FOIA requests. Again, it's a concern we all must have because how can we have a democracy unless people can understand what the government is doing in the democracy?
When you've worked at the problem for a long time, then you begin to see results -- it is one of the most rewarding experiences you can have, and I cite two examples: One, the drug court. Now there are over 400 drug courts across the country that are providing effective treatment opportunities for a larger number of Americans. And then with child support. We made it a priority, and we developed an effective effort. That's what makes public service so rewarding.
Somebody suggested that the major educational institution in America is the middle-class family, and I think there's probably worlds of truth in that statement. But for the child that doesn't have a middle-class family, how do we give them the opportunity early on when they do not have a voice? How do we give them the opportunity to become strong and self-sufficient and capable of doing far more to live by their own means rather than by government?
The Democratic Party should be talking in terms of these issues, and providing alternatives, not just criticizing, but providing positive alternatives.
The great joy in my life today is the chance to spend time with my great-nieces and nephews.