America’s first Iraq veteran elected to the U.S. Congress, Patrick J. Murphy has been a litigator and champion for his fellow veterans. He is a partner at the national law firm Fox Rothschild LLP and Host of the MSNBC show ‘Taking the Hill.’ During his two terms in congress, Patrick was a prolific legislator, authoring the bill to repeal the anti-gay Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy, led the fight for the largest increase in veterans benefits in American history, and the passage of the Post 9/11 GI Bill which has already helped over 1 million veterans. Besides his work at MSNBC and Fox Rothschild, Patrick serves on the board of the United States Military Academy at West Point and as a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress. His greatest responsibility is husband to Jenni and father to Maggie and Jack.
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What are you most excited about doing while you’re in Chicago?
Going to my first Bulls game. I’m a huge sports fan, so I’m hopefully going to be here when the Philadelphia 76ers beat the Bulls and when the Flyers beat the Blackhawks… Unfortunately the Eagles and Bears don’t play this year. I’ve been in Chicago a bunch of times, but I haven’t really had a chance to just hang out. I saw Second City since I’ve been here, and I’m looking forward to going to Improv Olympics and seeing the improv troupe here at UChicago.
Anything else that you’re looking forward to while you’re here?
I want to join Crossfit, too. I do Crossfit back in Pennsylvania, and I want to try to find a boxer around here that I can work out with in the mornings.
If you had to choose, what would you say is your favorite movie and your favorite book?
I’m a Philly guy, so of course you have to go ‘Rocky.' But I would actually say ‘Rocky II’ because he actually wins the championships in that movie. My favorite book is a book on Bobby Kennedy called “The Last Campaign: Robert F. Kennedy and 82 Days That Inspired America,” and it’s great, inspirational, and when you read it, you just realize how he put it all on the line and how he really championed progressive causes and the values that I believe in.
Did you read that book before you ran for office?
Nope, I read it afterwards. A lot of folks thought I was crazy to run for Congress when I was 32 years of age. I had $322 in my bank account when I ran. You know, a lot of the political professionals said to me, ‘Patrick, you got a great story, you got a bronze star in Iraq and you were a professor at West Point, but you have no money and you have no name ID.’ But I ran for Congress because I lost 19 men in my unit, and I thought the Iraq War was wrong and always wanted to do something about it, so I ran for Congress and won one of the closest races in the country and then won by a lot the second time. It was an honor to serve.
Your favorite hobby?
Playing basketball or playing ice hockey. I’m now a certified USA hockey assistant coach for my 4 year old son’s hockey team, so …
You’re in the right city for this.
Yeah! I’ll be coaching him this Saturday morning. You know, I’m a huge sports nut, and I love to play, and I love to get out there, so I’m looking forward to enjoying Chicago and being part of the community here.
What about your favorite food and drink?
Probably Italian. I love all kinds of food though, but I’d say Italian. I love a good Chicken Parm, frankly. And of course pizza, every once and a while.
Alright then I have to ask - New York pizza or Chicago pizza?
I haven’t had the traditional Chicago deep-dish pizza yet, so I’m going to have to give it a shot. I’m going to have to reserve judgement on that. Of course I think that the pizza in Philly is better than the pizza in New York, but you know, it is what it is. But I would say, the one thing I want to do here is just to get out in the local communities - I just went and had some great Thai food the other night and it was awesome, so just being part of the team here is pretty exciting.
Your favorite drink?
Probably Miller Lite. I’m pretty simple. I like beer.
How would you describe your perfect Saturday morning?
I’ll go and coach my 4 year old son’s hockey team. Hopefully Jack Murphy won’t check any of his other teammates. I keep telling him he can’t check people until he’s a teenager. Then get a work out over at Crossfit and get a good sweat on. Then probably go to the Barnes & Noble’s Starbucks or a coffee shop with my daughter, who’s 7, and Maggie Murphy and I will just sit there and read; she’ll do math problems and I’ll catch up on my reading, and just think about the things that I want to write about or things I want to talk about on my television show, or things that I want to do for my class here at the IOP in Chicago.
Who are your heroes?
Well, I would say Bobby Kennedy is probably my #1 hero. I come from a very blue collar family, so my father worked three jobs most of his life, he’s a retired Philadelphia police officer, and my mom is a former Catholic nun, who luckily for me left the convent and met my father, otherwise I wouldn’t be here. Listen, I was the youngest congressman in the country and it was an honor, but my mom was more proud of the fact that I was the 1987 Altar Boy of the year. I mean, she had me pegged - I was the youngest of three - that I was going to be a Catholic priest. I think she’s a little disappointed that I didn’t go down that path, although she loves my wife and my kids. But, the fact that I was the altar boy of the year in 1987 I think is still her high point.
Your favorite motto?
“Seize the Day.” Everyday I wake up and it’s easy to get down - you can always harp on the negative stuff - but there’s a lot of things that you can do to make this country better, and there’s a lot of things you can do to make your world better, and it’s important to do it.
How many times a day would you say that you use social media?
I probably hop on Twitter about five times to seven times a day.
Were you using social media more when you were in office?
No, no. When I was first in Congress, I had folks on my team who said ‘Hey congressman, you have to tweet,’ and I was like, ‘I’m much more thoughtful than 140 characters,’ and I refused to do it and I was wrong. So, now I do it all the time, and a lot of the times it’s personal, I’ll put a picture up of my kids, or something with Philly sports, and obviously politics… You know, I mentor a lot of candidates across the country who are running, especially veteran candidates, and I think it’s important when they have a good day or a good debate, or if they have a good policy proposal that gets picked up in the press, that I try to retweet that out, because you have to spread the word, and you have to reward good behavior.
Who are your favorite political journalists, if you had to choose?
My mentor at MSNBC is Rachel Maddow, and I think she’s brilliant. And listen, I was the youngest professor at West Point, I used to teach Constitutional Law, so I think I do pretty well for myself academically. She is on a different level - she is brilliant. So I often times will sit in her editorial meetings and just sit and listen. I pipe in every once and a while, but it’s more just to listen. I think she’s awesome. I’m also a big fan of Ezra Klein. I think he is pretty insightful. And then, you know, I have some Pennsylvania folks that I read, like a guy John Baer who’s a political columnist for the Philadelphia Daily News, and some others.
What is the best advice that you’ve ever received?
Just “follow your heart.” You know, a lot of young folks there will say, ‘I want to do this, or I want to do that.’ Then do it. You know, if you want to be somewhere, if you have a role model, look at where they are now, and look at where they were when they were your age, and look at how they got there. And I’m not saying it has to be the same exact path. Just do it. I mean, for a guy like me to win in the U.S. Congress, in a Republican area - I was only the second Democrat to win that district in a hundred years - so to win after being outspent by $3 million, and most folks didn’t give me a chance, I think I’ve shown you can win these districts if you really put your heart and soul into it. And listen, a lot of it’s luck, but with a lot of hard work comes a lot of luck.