NATASHA THOMSON/THE HOYA Congressman Seth Moulton (D-Mass.) discussed his campaign and first two weeks in office, as well as his hopes for the future Wednesday in Riggs Library.
Congressman Seth Moulton (D-Mass.) discussed his campaign and first two weeks in office, as well as his hopes for the future Wednesday in Riggs Library.

Congressman Seth Moulton (D-MA) spoke about his campaign, goals for his term and problems facing Congress Wednesday in Riggs Library. The event, moderated by the Institute for the Study of Diplomacy Director Ambassador Barbara Bodine, was the second of the ISD’s Distinguished Practitioners Discussion Series.

Moulton was sworn into Congress Jan. 6, 2015 after serving as a U.S. Marine for four combat tours in Iraq and receiving degrees from Harvard Business School and the Kennedy School of Government.
Bodine began the discussion by summarizing problems currently facing Congress.

“I think there’s little debate from the right or the left that our governing structure is not working exactly as we might hope, and that’s both within the legislative branch and within the executive branch, and certainly between them as well,” Bodine said.

According to Bodine, American citizens have begun to ask questions about both the effectiveness and make-up of Congress.

“Some of the questions that get raised are: Is congress truly representative any longer? Is it too dominated by money? Is it dominated by an aging and entrenched leadership? Does it need more veterans and others who pay the price for the decisions that are made?” Bodine said.

Moulton then spoke about his road to Congress, which did not begin until college, where he developed an interest in service.

“I looked at lots of different options [after college at Harvard University],” Moulton said. “I looked at the Peace Corp, I looked at teaching over seas, but at the end of the day I had so much respect for the 18- and 19-year-old kids who serve on the front lines of our nation’s military, that I said, ‘I’d like to do my part in this too.’”

While serving in the Marines, Moulton said that he began to discover how the politics in D.C. affected the people around him.

“Over the course of those four tours in Iraq, I felt that I saw some of the consequences of failed leadership in Washington,” Moulton said. “I think Congress didn’t know what they were doing when they got us into Iraq, and they didn’t have our backs while we were there. There was actually a day in 2004 when a young Marine in my platoon looked up at me at the end of a tough day and said, ‘You know sir, you oughta run for Congress so this doesn’t happen again.’”

Moulton defeated the incumbent congressman in his district for the first time in 22 years. He attributed his victory to his campaign, which championed bipartisanship.

“My message was that Congress is too partisan and that we need to be willing to work across the aisle… I think it resonated with people,” Moulton said. “And I think people on both sides of the aisle and even that small set of Americans who actually get out and vote at primaries recognized that hyper-partisanship is a real problem in Congress today.”

After just two weeks in Congress, Moulton said that although he is still learning, he has noticed a few problems he will face throughout his term.

“I’ve been in Congress two weeks so I know all the answers,” Moulton joked. “I’m still figuring out where the bathroom is. But, what I have done already is to make a proactive effort to reach out to people on the other side of the aisle. I’ve been surprised by how much the institution is set up to discourage that.”

According to Moulton, the Congress orientation provides little opportunity for cross-party mingling.

“Every time we went out in the evenings to socialize and meet our new friends, it was divided by party,” Moulton said. “I would say 95 percent of the events in that eight days were divided by parties, so we barely had an opportunity to meet people on the other side of the aisle.”

Moulton said that although this separation was discouraging, he has hope for the congressmen of the newest generation.

“I think it’s very important that we get new blood into Congress,” Moulton said. “I have a lot of hope for our generation, the younger Americans because I think we are more pragmatic, more service-oriented. I think we’ve seen the results of an incredibly divided generation in our parents. So, I’m hopeful, but it’s going to take a lot of work, and fundamentally, it takes more people with this attitude.”

Matthew Censullo (COL ’18), one of Moulton’s constituents, said that Moulton’s commitment to service inspired him as he watched the campaign unfold.

“I have followed his campaign pretty significantly, even while I was in D.C,” Censullo said. “I was very excited when I heard that he was coming, and I was on board with a lot of his policies and platform ideas and just wanted to meet him in person and hear what he had to say. I was definitely inspired by him.”

Another constituent, Brian Poirier (MSB ’17), said that he appreciated how Moulton connected his experiences in Iraq to his service as a congressman.

“He spoke at length about the role of being a veteran and how it played an integral role in working in Congress, so it was something that I was really excited to hear about tonight. … His talks on service leadership were really genuine because of all of the experiences that he’s had,” Poirier said. “Now, he’s really interested in taking those experiences and applying them to working in this Congress.”

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