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John Graham
John Graham shipped out on a freighter when he was sixteen, took part in the first ascent of Mt. McKinley's North Wall at twenty, and hitchhiked around the world at twenty-two.

A Foreign Service Officer for fifteen years, he was in the middle of the revolution in Libya and the war in Vietnam. For three years in the mid-seventies, he was a member of NATO's top-secret Nuclear Planning Group, then served as a foreign policy advisor to Senator John Glenn. As an assistant to Ambassador Andrew Young at the United Nations, he was deeply involved in U.S. initiatives in Southern Africa, South Asia and Cuba.

By most measures, he was very successful. But something was missing.

In 1980, a close brush with death aboard a burning cruise ship in the North Pacific forced him to a deeper search for meaning in his life. Now out of the Foreign Service, he began teaching better ways of handling challenge and conflict. Since 1983 he's been a leader of the Giraffe Heroes Project, an international organization moving people to stick their necks out for the common good. The Project finds ordinary people acting with extraordinary courage on a broad range of important issues—then tells their stories to millions of others through the media, and in schools.

Graham is a familiar keynote speaker on themes of leadership, courage, meaning and service. He also leads Giraffe Heroes Project workshops, helping organizations, businesses and individuals handle their challenges more effectively.

Graham has done TV and radio all over the world and articles about him have appeared in major magazines and newspapers. He is the author of Outdoor Leadership, It's Up to Us (a mentoring book for teens), and Stick Your Neck Out—A Street-smart Guide to Creating Change in Your Community and Beyond. His memoir, Sit Down Young Stranger, was published in 2008. Graham walks his talk, including today as an international peacemaker, active in the Middle East and Africa.

He has a degree in geology from Harvard and one in engineering from Stanford, neither of which he ever expects to use.

Entries by John Graham

ISIS, Orlando, and the Siren Song of Terror

(1) Comments | Posted June 22, 2016 | 4:35 PM

Investigations are still ongoing in Orlando but it seems that the professed allegiance to ISIS by the shooter, Omar Mateen, was more a detonator than the charge itself. What exploded inside the Pulse nightclub was a volatile mix of rage and instabilities that had been building in the man for...

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"I Am the Greatest"

(1) Comments | Posted June 12, 2016 | 11:35 PM

I've been uneasy that the praise heaped on Muhammad Ali over the last week has been so uncritical, simplifying the story of a much more complicated man. Quaker writer/activist Tom Ewell reminds us that there were times when Ali was no saint,...

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Defeating ISIS: The Military and Economic Options

(4) Comments | Posted May 2, 2016 | 7:09 PM


The first mistake we must not make in fighting ISIS is to assume the task is simple. The challenge is stupefying in its complexity, involving, among other things, the split between Sunni and Shia Muslims, a bitter history of Western interventions including blowback...

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Peacemaking in a Violent World. Needed: A New Narrative

(1) Comments | Posted April 12, 2016 | 10:19 AM


The answers to violence can't be limited to security forces and stable institutions although those are important. The problem is just too deep for that. We need a whole new brave and compassionate narrative to replace the narrative that now feeds on corruption,...

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Who Joins ISIS and Why?

(2) Comments | Posted December 29, 2015 | 8:02 AM


Why are so many young Muslims in so many countries joining ISIS? Unless and until we understand who they are and why they join, we can't provide counter narratives that can disrupt the ISIS recruiting process. So who are these recruits?


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What Drives ISIS?

(8) Comments | Posted November 29, 2015 | 5:21 PM


If we don't understand what makes ISIS tick we'll never be able to defeat it. To view ISIS as simply a determined army of vicious psychopaths is a significant mistake. ISIS is far more complicated than that, in its origins, philosophy and strategies....

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Enough Hypocrisy to Go Around

(2) Comments | Posted November 13, 2015 | 12:35 PM

It was an honor to represent my country at the United Nations for three years, despite the organization's blatant hypocrisy, a condition that has only gotten worse.

With votes from countries, like the U.S., in thrall to its oil blackmail, Saudi Arabia...

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Amazon's Biggest Challenge

(5) Comments | Posted September 2, 2015 | 9:26 AM


Amazon's high-pressure business model should make us think, not just about the directions the retail world may be taking, but about our personal lives and how we choose to live them. A controversial New York Times article by Jodi Kantor and David Streitfeld...

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Vietnam, Revisited

(160) Comments | Posted March 3, 2015 | 4:25 PM


In 1972, I was US Advisor to the City of Hué, South Vietnam. Some evenings, especially if the day had been difficult and dangerous, I would drive a few miles outside the city to an ancient pagoda called Linh Mu. There I would...

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Cuba: 35 Years Late

(8) Comments | Posted December 18, 2014 | 8:39 AM

President Obama has announced the resumption of diplomatic relations between the US and Cuba, good news that I have a particular reason to welcome. It wasn't that the US has lacked opportunities to do this. We could have at least begun the process thirty-five years ago. I was there, and...

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Ebola and the Fear That Makes Us Stupid

(7) Comments | Posted October 25, 2014 | 4:04 PM


Who says that ordinary Americans can't make a difference? Last week, a few hundred frightened, insular people in Oklahoma City got millions of Africans scratching their heads on just how stupid Americans can be.

The story may have been tucked into page 10...

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Ukraine: Why There Is Hope

(1) Comments | Posted July 25, 2014 | 10:51 AM


The shooting down of Malaysian Flight 17 over Ukraine may actually open doors for peaceful resolution of the conflict there. As evidence mounts of their complicity in the disaster, Russia is now thrown on the defensive and any momentum they and their...

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Lethal Landslides and Common Ground

(1) Comments | Posted April 3, 2014 | 2:38 PM

I'd never heard of Oso, Washington, the mountain town in Washington State that was leveled by a massive mudslide in March -- even though I live only fifty miles away, But I owe the people there an apology -- and the people living in hundreds of similar small conservative rural...

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Ukraine and the OK Corral

(3) Comments | Posted March 17, 2014 | 4:36 PM

The current crisis over Ukraine spotlights larger and hugely important questions: What are America's interests in an interconnected, post Cold-War world? What and how should we protect and promote them, especially with our rivals?

The views of hawks like John McCain are part of that discussion. They need to be...

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Broken Play: Richard Sherman, Martin Luther King and a Game for the Ages

(3) Comments | Posted January 20, 2014 | 1:40 PM

What a performance! And when it ended, the talk swirled around a brilliant, passionate 25-year-old black man whose skill, brains and ability lifted him and his team to victory against opponents who were doing absolutely everything they could to make sure they failed. His name was Dr. Martin Luther King...

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Egypt: A Time for Heroes

(2) Comments | Posted July 1, 2013 | 2:10 PM

John Graham in Tahrir Square

June 30 could end up being the watershed moment for the new Egypt. Perhaps by the time you read this, it already has. June 30 is the first anniversary of the government of the Muslim Brotherhood,...

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Egypt - The Next Revolution

(10) Comments | Posted June 3, 2013 | 2:57 PM

"Tahrir Square was not the Revolution," a young Egyptian woman told me in Cairo last week. "The real Revolution," she said, "has yet to come." Considering that over 300 protestors died in the Square two and a quarter years ago, this is chilling news.

A former US Foreign Service Officer,...

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India on an Edge

(5) Comments | Posted June 27, 2012 | 10:04 AM

Get off the plane in New Delhi's modern, efficient airport and you don't feel like you've landed in the "developing" world. Take the fast, sleek metro into town through miles of new office buildings sporting the names of the world's biggest multinationals and you're positive this isn't a third-world country....

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Who's on Trial with Sergeant Bales?

(26) Comments | Posted March 26, 2012 | 4:57 PM

The U.S. Army thought it could squeeze one more combat tour out of Staff Sgt. Robert Bales. It was wrong. Bales is now accused of shooting and stabbing to death 17 Afghan civilians, most of them women and children. The Army said that he'd "snapped." Something...

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Goodbye Tibet?

(164) Comments | Posted November 14, 2011 | 6:12 PM

For ten days last month I saw first-hand what the Chinese are doing in Tibet. The reports you've heard of cultural genocide are true. China is obliterating the ideas, traditions and habits of the Tibetan people.

Do we care? We'd better. China's confidence increases with each step onto the...

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