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As Former Congressman Patrick Murphy walked to the podium yesterday afternoon for the Brown Democrats' John F. Kennedy Jr. Lecture, he offered his hand to the students filling the hall. He sustained this gracious tone throughout the lecture, as he spoke about defending the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" and the timely withdrawal of troops from Iraq.

The Brown Democrats presented Murphy, the first Iraq War veteran to serve in Congress, with the John F. Kennedy Jr. award for his advocacy in civil rights.

Despite opposition from his district, Murphy said he took the lead on the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" because the legislation violates the military's goal to treat all people with respect regardless of color, sex, race, religion and sexual orientation.

"Kicking people out" of the military for reasons of sexual orientation is a waste of money, he said. He said he has always tried to "put what (he) thought was right before political expediency," and he believed the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" was the right thing to do. "If I lost my congressional seat, so be it," he said.

During a question-and-answer session after the lecture, Raphaela Lipinsky DeGette '11 asked Murphy his opinion on bringing ROTC back to Brown. Murphy, who participated in ROTC himself, said Brown should bring the program back.

Murphy said it was an honor to serve in Iraq, during which time he "became a witness to our foreign policy."

"I came out of Iraq thinking it wasn't the right thing to do," said Murphy, who altered a bill within his first six weeks in Congress to set a time frame for withdrawing soldiers from the country.

After his talk, Murphy told The Herald he has always been committed to fighting for justice — regardless of whether the crime is committed on the streets or in a corporate board room — and he is "excited to bring this vision to office."

"He is the definition of inspiring," said Katerina Wright '11, president of the Brown Democrats. "It is so easy to lose faith in politics, but he makes you believe that there are good people out there."

Jeremy Feigenbaum '11, president of the College Democrats of Rhode Island and a former Herald opinions columnist, said he was particularly impressed that Murphy was open about taking positions on Iraq and "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" that were not mainstream positions in his district, but were still in the broader national interest.

Despite the warm spring day, approximately 50 students attended the lecture entitled "Ideals in the Age of Political Cynicism" in Salomon 001. Previous recipients of the John F. Kennedy Jr. award include Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga. and Bill Clinton.



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