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Askew offers reflections in ceremony at Old Capitol

Former Gov. Reubin Askew was honored Monday for his positive influences on politics and education at an event held at his old stomping grounds: the restored Senate chamber in the historic Old Capitol in Tallahassee.

"I spent a little time in this room," said Askew, who was a senator from 1962 to 1970, when voters elected him governor. He was the first governor in the state's history to serve two terms, and was a leader in tax reform, openness in government, race relations and strengthening the judiciary.

Askew, a Democrat, later served as President Jimmy Carter's trade representative, ran unsuccessfully for president in 1984 and has spent the past two decades teaching about government in the university system. Next month he'll begin his final year of teaching, and he turns 85 in September.

A group of graduate students in applied American politics and policy at Askew's alma mater, Florida State University, honored him for his contributions, and the former governor touched on a variety of topics in a long and sometimes rambling speech.

* On the role of government in society: "No one ever said government had all the answers. I never felt that, even when I was there. What government has is the responsibility to bring people together who do know what they are talking about."

* On his long-shot bid for the presidency: "I was 'Reubin who?' and when I got done two years later, you know what they called me? Reubin Who."

* On the state's newest university, Florida Polytech in Lakeland: "Nor have I been to Polk County Polytechnical. I'm not sure, Mr. President (Gaetz), what that is now."

* On the influence of lobbyists: "You have many very vocal people in government, and they themselves want their way. When you drive around Tallahassee, who owns the most beautiful homes? Not me. I'm out at Westminster Oaks (an assisted-living facility)."

Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, gave a solid speech that summarized Askew's career and joked about "the rumor" that Askew may run for governor again.

"We have a plan for Alex Sink, Charlie Crist, Nan Rich and Bill Nelson, and the cards are on the table," Gaetz said. "But we wouldn't stand a chance if Reubin Askew ran for governor again. So, please, sir, don't get any ideas."

-- Steve Bousquet