On Thursday, November 10th, former Congressman Patrick J. Murphy ‘99 delivered the 2nd Patrick J. Murphy lecture on Widener Law’s Harrisburg campus. The school’s Law and Government Institute
hosted the event, which followed last year’s inaugural event in the series.
Citing his own experiences at Widener Law, Murphy started off by telling the students that they should be proud to be here at Widener, saying, “My heartfelt belief is that the Widener family is a great place to be.”
Congressman Murphy went on to discuss his past as an Iraq war veteran, former West Point professor, former criminal prosecutor, and as a Congressman representing Pennsylvania’s 8th Congressional District in Washington, D.C.
Murphy was a professor at West Point when 9/11 happened. He was committed to teaching but requested deployment. His first deployment was to Bosnia in 2002 and the second was to Baghdad, Iraq from 2003–2004.
Murphy shared stories from his deployment in Iraq such as when he stopped an ambulance with 200 pounds of mortars in it. While in Baghdad, Murphy served as a Captain in the Army’s elite 82nd Airborne Division, and was later awarded the Bronze Star for Service.
When Murphy ran for Congress, he told the students he only had $300 in the bank. Yet he won his first election in November 2006, becoming the first Iraq War veteran elected to Congress.
One of his first co-sponsored bills was the Iraq De-Escalation Act of 2007, which passed the House and Senate but was vetoed by then President George W. Bush. Murphy also talked about his efforts to repeal the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy, noting that he saw many good soldiers thrown out just because they were gay.
“If you see a moral injustice, you need to do something about it,” he said, adding, “When you stand up for justice, its makes a difference in people’s lives.”
Murphy shared that he received death threats during his support for the repeal of the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy, but he also received an email from a gay soldier who was depressed. The soldier received a “Dear John letter” but had no comfort from his peers because he was gay. The soldier admitted to wanting to kill himself but told Murphy he would keep going because of Murphy’s fight for the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.
Leaving the students in the audience with one final piece of inspiration, he said, “When you have that opportunity, you have the duty to make a difference.”
Patrick J. Murphy is currently a partner at Fox Rothschild LLP and a candidate for Pennsylvania Attorney General.