Rep. Stephanie Murphy, 39, a Florida Democrat, talks about working across the aisle, the moment she was called to public service and her gun violence-related biggest fear.
Q: What has surprised you most about Congress so far?
A: I think when you’re outside of the Beltway, you listen to the news and the media and it seems like nobody gets along and nothing gets done. What surprised me the most is that there’s actually quite a bit that can be achieved in a bipartisan way where you work with people on the other side of the aisle and move things forward on behalf of your constituents.
Q: You were 6 months old when your family fled from communist Vietnam to a refugee camp in Malaysia and then settled in the U.S. What unique perspective does that give you?
A: My back story is one where I’m a refugee and an immigrant and I had an opportunity to work in business, in academia, in the halls of the Defense Department and now here in Congress. It really is a reflection of the American dream in that if you work hard and play by the rules, you’ll be able to achieve whatever it is you’re looking for. It gives me the perspective and the desire to ensure that the next generation still has all of those opportunities.
Q: The 9/11 terrorist attacks made you change your career path and get into politics. Tell me about that.
A: I went to work for Deloitte consulting after graduation, and even then I sort of knew that I had a debt to this country, that I wanted to do public service and pay it back. [Lt. Gen. Brent] Scowcroft spoke at my graduation about the importance of the people who have their hands at the head of state. I was working in the private sector when 9/11 happened. When I found that my country was under attack, I felt like it was time to serve and to give back and to pay back the debt that I owed this country.
Q: If you could have any other job, what would it be?
A: I’d like to be a fashion blogger. [Laughs.] That would be fun.
Q: What is your biggest fear?
A: My biggest fear is that we have another mass shooting of some sort in this country, and as legislators, we haven’t done anything to make our communities safer. We have to look those parents of victims in the face knowing that we didn’t act.
Last book read: “Dept. of Speculation” by Jenny Offill and “The Road Not Taken” by Max Boot.
Pet peeve: Incompetence.
Cats or dogs: Dogs. I have my own dog at home too. I don’t want him to feel like I left him out. [Points to her office dog, Carmela.] She’s a great chief morale officer.
If you could have dinner with one person, living or dead: There’s a Vietnamese fashion blogger named Wendy Nguyen. She is also an advocate for youth and foster children, and I just find her personal story that I’ve read, through her blog, so compelling. I just would find it interesting to sit down and pick her brain a little.
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