Chatting with a former congressman during class is a bucket list item for many students studying politics and policy.
A group of students recently checked it off the list. Former Congressman and current Senior Fellow at the Steven J. Green School of International and Public Affairs Patrick Murphy came to FIU and spoke with students taking courses at the Jack D. Gordon Institute for Public Policy, housed within the Green School.
He also met with students in the Diplomacy Lab at the Gordon Institute – a partnership program between the U.S. Department of State and FIU, part of a national effort launched in 2013 by the Department of State.
Students in the Honors College‘s Diplomacy Lab course shared their research topics and project ideas with Murphy; and to the delight of the students, he shared his feedback with them, asking them new questions to consider and discussing relevant resources to help them with their projects.
During his visit, Murphy spoke about the importance of bipartisanship – and the current structural problems that discourage collaboration between the political parties.
He gave students insight about what it’s like to work in Congress and reminded them of the importance of the basics: voting.
“It’s critical to get involved in government,” said Murphy, who from 2013-2017 represented Florida’s 18th district, including the Treasure Coast and northern Palm Beach County.
One of the first millennials elected to Congress, Murphy spoke from experience when he said that reaching for your goals begins with a simple step – just trying.
If you want to make a difference in your community and run for a local office or eventually run for Congress, he said, you have to join the race and try. You might not win your first race. But, having the courage to sign up, give it a try and seek support for things you believe in is a first step.
For those who’d like to join the House of Representatives one day, Murphy said: “The beautiful thing about [the House of Representatives] is it’s representative of the country. [If you run,] it’s got to be you and it’s got to be genuine.”
The biggest advice he can give aspiring politicians and budding activists is simple.
“Follow your heart,” he said. “Get an understanding of the issues. Figure out, ‘What are the issues?’ From there, decide where [which office or branch] you want to be in government.”
He added that getting a team of volunteers and consultants to support your campaign is also essential.
What was his favorite part about being a Congressman? Getting to experience day-to-day interactions with people, Murphy explained.
He shared that he once helped a mother secure prosthetic legs for her son. When he got to look her in the eyes and see how he helped her, that made an impact on him.
“You can make a difference no matter how broken things are,” he said. “You can make a difference.”