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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

Cuba: 35 Years Late

(8) Comments | Posted December 18, 2014 | 9:39 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 | 5:04 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 | 11:51 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 | 3:38 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 | 5:36 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 | 2:40 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 | 3:10 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 | 3:57 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 | 11:04 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 | 5:57 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 | 7:12 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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America Divided

(4) Comments | Posted July 20, 2011 | 5:26 PM

Watching the sandbox antics in Washington over yet another polarizing issue -- the debt ceiling -- I feel sad and angry at my country's incompetence. Yet there may be a model for America's future in Sierra Leone, a country the size of Iowa on the bulge of West Africa. It's...

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What Will Gaddafi Do?

(3) Comments | Posted February 24, 2011 | 6:52 PM

For a short time in 1969 I probably knew more about Libyan ruler Muammar Gaddafi than any other American. I was then a young diplomat attached to the American Embassy in Tripoli. Since I was the most junior member of the embassy's political staff, I was given the worst job...

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Boys into Men

(3) Comments | Posted November 12, 2010 | 5:59 PM

I went to a quiet meeting yesterday at the local Veterans Resource Center in the small rural county where I live. At the meeting were 25 vets, family members of vets and a few others. From that small group flowed gut-wrenching stories of suicides, addictions and shattered minds and bodies.

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Steven Slater, Baseball, and the Anger of America

(7) Comments | Posted August 12, 2010 | 4:46 PM

By now certainly you've heard of Steven Slater, the flight attendant who, suffering one too many abusive passengers, cursed the last offender over the intercom, activated the plane's emergency escape slide, grabbed a beer and slid to the tarmac. Slater became an instant folk hero. "Free Steven Slater" T-shirts are...

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Afghanistan -- Winning Lessons from Vietnam

(6) Comments | Posted October 19, 2009 | 2:33 PM

There are many differences between our wars in Vietnam and in Afghanistan. There are also similarities we can't ignore, including the vital need for an indigenous government that commands broad-based popular support.

I know the Vietnam part of it pretty well. In Vietnam, I was a civilian officer in...

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How Do We Be Safe?

(0) Comments | Posted July 31, 2009 | 12:33 PM

I saw the possibility of a just and peaceful world last week--at a conference on a mountain in Switzerland. The (second annual) Caux Forum on Human Security was no Davos nor G-8 Summit. No media were invited. While the 300 invitees included some global VIPs, the key criterion for being...

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The Health Care We Deserve

(4) Comments | Posted July 10, 2009 | 11:58 AM

The givens: our country over decades has jerry-built a health care "system" that is unfair and inefficient. We pay far more for far less care than any other industrialized nation. And we have forty million people uninsured for whom a major illness can mean mortgaging a home, not sending a...

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When the Lights Came On

(0) Comments | Posted June 25, 2009 | 1:02 PM

I just had cataract surgery. The doctor replaced the clouded lenses in my eyes with high-tech plastic. The results were amazing. In the supermarket I stood in shock, trying to absorb the real colors of vegetables and fruits. Outside, the Olympic mountains, 30 miles west, jumped into my front yard....

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Pirates and Poverty

(3) Comments | Posted April 14, 2009 | 2:58 PM

It all worked out in Pirate Alley.

A brave American captain saves his ship and crew by putting his own life on the line. An untried American President deals with the crisis with wisdom and restraint, negotiating for days even as the standoff risks becoming an international embarrassment for...

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