From Service To Politics: A Room Full Of Doers
Today’s blog was originally published on January, 26, 2016 on the ServiceNation blog by their Communications Director, Tim Smith. In January, AmeriCorps Alums, Leadership for Education Equity (LEE), National Peace Corps Association, New Politics Leadership Academy, Peace Corps to Politics, and ServiceNation convened “From Service to Politics,” an event that united military and civilian service veterans and alumni to talk about talking their leadership to politics after service.
“People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it.”
It was Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw who first uttered the famous phrase, but it seemed like an even more perfect theme for Congressman Seth Moulton (D-MA) to use while addressing a room full of doers, looking to do more. Rep. Moulton pulled the quote out to answer a question from an AmeriCorps alum curious about how he was dealing with gridlock in Washington as a part of the third installment of “From Service To Politics” — a gathering of service veterans from the civilian/military sectors to ignite a discussion about moving from their service experience into the political realm.
There may be no better example of moving from service to politics and of doing what others said could not be done than Moulton, who attended the first “From Service To Politics” event in Washington, D.C. over three years ago as a veteran (somewhat) interested in running for office — at the strong urging of “From Service To Politics” organizer, New Politics’ Emily Cherniak (also an AmeriCorps alum). He now served as the third event’s keynote speaker in the Capitol Building of his home state, Massachusetts. In the time in between, Moulton defeated a nine-term incumbent from his own party and has become a rising star in the United State House of Representatives, working across the aisle and as a champion for issues like national service and the Syrian refugee crisis — choosing to follow a path that is anything but “politics as usual.”
It was with this backdrop that Rep. Moulton began the first local edition of the event, attended by close to 200 AmeriCorps alums, Returned Peace Corps Volunteers, and veterans from all branches of the military. And while many came to listen to the Congressman and ask about his experience, perhaps the highlight came from the smaller group discussions led by those who have moved from service to politics at the local level — including State Representative John Velis (also currently a Captain in the US Army Reserves), Matt Patrick (a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer and candidate for State Representative ), and David Lieberman (an AmeriCorps alum and former Somerville, MA City Councilor). It was here that questions could be asked and experiences shared, and a conclusion seemed to be made in each group — our political process desperately needs more people who have served.
One thing you didn’t hear, however, was what could not be done — the room was too busy getting things done, just like their shared experiences taught them to.