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The sisters came to hire me the next session. These guys were going to steal their hospital. Can you imagine stealing a hospital from the nuns? So we devised a strategy, and part of that strategy was, “take it to ‘em.” But in my agreement was a provision that specifically excluded any other social issues, including choice. I’m a (pro-) choice guy and I didn’t need to be in that issue, not my issue.

Ron Book (far right) celebrates with his daughter, Lauren Book, after she is sworn in as a new Florida senator representing South Florida’s District 32 during the Organizational Session.

proper perspective of how close we were, when I worked for Bob Graham in 1978, I brought him up here to be our outside-contract executive director of the governor’s council of physical fitness and sports. He stayed through Graham’s eight years. He stayed through Bob Martinez’s four years. He stayed through Lawton (Chiles) and stayed through most of Jeb (Bush). The Sunshine State Games was something he and I helped create; the U.S. Olympic license plate was his idea. His life’s ambition was to be head coach for the U.S. Olympic Team for track and field. He got that opportunity in 1980. What happened in 1980? We didn’t go. [The U.S. boycotted those Games, held in Moscow, over the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in late 1979.] He never got another opportunity. So I always remembered about the importance of seizing opportunity. But my whole drive of winning and my focus and my determination and never quitting and the work ethic and the hours working, it all came from that guy.

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ON POLITICS VERSUS POLICY: I’ve been an NPA (no party affiliation) since it wasn’t popular. I dropped my party affiliation, which was Democrat, and became an NPA because I tried to stay out of [politics]. It doesn’t mean I don’t take on divisive issues because I certainly do. But I otherwise stay out of those issues that are of a politically charged nature. I’ll give you an example: Some people will remember that a lot of years ago, for 60 days, I had between 12 and 18 nuns walking around the Capitol with me. The nuns followed me everywhere I went, and part of the agreement of representation is that the nuns needed to send a contingent up every week for the nine weeks of the session. We were dealing with an issue with the Sisters of Mercy, who owned Holy Cross Hospital in Fort Lauderdale. And they had an advisory board that decided they didn’t like the full mission of the nuns. So they sneakily came to Tallahassee and changed a corporate law that allowed that advisory board to basically take control of the sisters’ hospital.

you bring your child or children into this world, you can’t go check out a textbook, can’t go down to your local Blockbuster store, as they used to say, and check out a video to understand how to raise them, how to teach them, how to protect them. You draw on things your parents taught you, the way your parents raised you. And then what you yourself thought was good, bad, and indifferent; what you saw around you. ... When investigators come into your home to investigate child abuse, we don’t have a guide for that either. So we’re in this uncharted territory. You think you’re smart and knowledgeable. Remember, at this point my kids were 16, 14, and 9. And there’s a lot of things that try the very core of who you are as a human being, and in that parenting world. You know, a lot of people ask me over the years about guilt. I’ve always said I don’t have any guilt from it, but I guess I really do. You bring somebody into your home to help take care of your kids because you work a lot, because you’ve got a spouse that also worked and had other stuff going on. You do all the right things, going to an agency, and you did your due diligence, but your kids got harmed. When those disclosures happened, investigators didn’t just interview Lauren, they interviewed my son, who was very young, my (other) daughter. And there were no indications of any abuse of those two. Now, much later, other disclosures occurred. The abuse was of all three kids, not just one. How do you go about balancing that as you try to lead your family to a place of survivorship, a place of balance ...? You get through these things. You want to go kill somebody ... you want to just go there for your kid. “How could they do that?” When I think about all of the direct — forget collateral damage — all the direct damage to all three of my kids.... People want to know why I do what I do with my daughter’s foundation, my role as chairman of the board. There is nothing I do that’s more important. Nothing. Nothing. Nothing. If I stop doing all this — and I’m still driven to do this, I get up every day with a passion to try to figure out how to get a square peg in a round hole — and all I did was homelessness and my daughter’s foundation work, I’m a fulfilled individual. ][

PHOTO: By Mark Wallheiser Photography

ON BEING A PARENT: You know, when

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INFLUENCE Florida Winter 2016  

The people, professionals and lifestyle of Florida politics

INFLUENCE Florida Winter 2016  

The people, professionals and lifestyle of Florida politics