Former U.S. Congressman Patrick J. Murphy spoke at the Harrisburg campus on November 22, 2010 at 10 a.m., delivering the inaugural lecture of a new annual series named in his honor. A 1999 graduate of Widener Law’s Harrisburg campus, Patrick J. Murphy was elected to Pennsylvania’s Eighth Congressional District in November 2006, and was the first Iraq War veteran elected to Congress.
In a talk entitled “Lead, Follow, or Get Out of the Way: Lessons Learned from the Streets of Baghdad to the Halls of Congress,” Congressman Murphy spoke to the students about the life he had leading up to his job as a Congressman and some of the many issues that he faced throughout his four-year term.
Murphy admitted that while growing up in Philadelphia he cared more about his next hockey game then his schoolwork and grades, but when a close friend of his passed away in high school, he decided he was going to honor his friend by turning his life around so that he would be somebody. He started out at Bucks County College and then went to Kings University where he placed hockey. He joined the Army during college and later attended Widener Law School at the Harrisburg campus.
On September 11th, 2001, Murphy was teaching constitutional law at West Point. After the horrific events that took place that day, he had a burning desire to join his brothers and sisters in the armed forces. He reflected on the old army saying, “Lead, follow, or get out of the way,” and decided that he wanted to lead the way. He volunteered to deploy and was sent out on two tours as a Captain in the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division. The first tour was in Bosnia and the second tour was in Baghdad, Iraq.
“The time in Iraq forever changed my life. I was responsible for ensuring my men returned home, helping the Iraq justice system stand up on its own, and doing everything possible to win the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people,” said Murphy.
When he returned from Iraq, Murphy ran for Congress and won the election by .6%. He became the first Iraqi War veteran in Congress. He cited repeal of the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy as one of his major priorities. He described the policy as a breach of the Constitutional rights of individuals affected by it, and explained that his fellow soldiers did not seem to care whom other soldiers dated. Instead, soldiers cared about whether the soldier next to them knew how to handle their weapon and whether they could get the job done so that everyone could get home alive.
Congressman Murphy encouraged the students to stand up for what they believe in. He advised, “There is no price high enough for your principles and values.”
The hour-long lecture, sponsored by the school’s Law & Government Institute
, took place in the administration building room A180 and was followed by a reception.