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Reformer Star of the Week: Senator John Thrasher


• Lowell Matthews

A Friend for Life

Someone once said, “When you completely trust a person without any doubt, you’ll automatically get one of two results—a FRIEND for life or a LESSON for life.” Florida’s children have found a FRIEND for life in Senator John Thrasher.

You may already know about his meritorious service to his country during Vietnam and his dedication to his wife, family, and the people he serves. But what you need to know is his dedication to all of the children of Florida.

As with many education reformers, Senator Thrasher has a personal connection to education reform. His grandson has Down syndrome. He doesn’t let that define his grandson. Nor will he let that define any child. His grandson has dreams and desires like many kids his age, as well as a family who believes he can succeed.

All children can rise to their potential and see their dreams realized if they have the support they need, and, just as importantly, an adult who believes they can. In a battle between the status quo, which touts that kids can’t, and the reformers who believe that kids can, you can put Senator Thrasher strongly in the reformers’ camp.

From parental and student choice in schools or programs and parental consent in kids’ special education plans, to putting quality teachers in front of every classroom, he puts the needs of kids above the desire of bureaucracy. I will always respect him for an additional reason.

I was staff director of Senate Education Committee when Governor Charlie Crist had flip-flopped on the teacher quality bill and vetoed it.  I remember walking slowly through the Florida Senate chamber until I reached Senator Thrasher’s desk. I felt like I had failed in drafting the bill. I thought if only I had changed some wording, the bill would have been signed. He told me that wasn’t true. I remember his kind words to me about how he enjoyed working with me those arduous hours and that the bill would be back next year. From an unknown author, “A word of encouragement during a failure is worth more than an hour of praise after success.” Senator Thrasher was right. The bill passed next year, and I had a FRIEND for life.


About the author


Lowell Matthews

lowell@excelined.org