Newly Elected U.S. Congressman Greg Murphy ’85 on Criticism and Common Ground
The owners of Oxycontin manufacturer Purdue Pharma agreed to a multi-billion dollar legal settlement of lawsuits for allegedly helping create the opioid crisis. Murphy, a 1985 Davidson College graduate and the only alumnus currently in Congress, said he hopes to contribute his experience and expertise to an issue that will linger for years and to find other ways to bridge divisions.
As a freshman member of the House of Representatives, do you think you will be able to play a role on this issue?
Yes. The legislation we put forth in North Carolina has been used as a blueprint for six or seven other states … you can stop the overprescribing, you can work on the illegal drugs that are coming in, but unless we get substance abuse treatment and mental health treatment, we will not be able to keep the three-legged stool from falling over. Purdue Pharma settling for $12 billion is a good step in that direction … but this is not going to be a ship that gets turned around overnight.
How can you help make connections in such a divided time?
The most important thing for me to do is to listen. That’s to everyone … Republicans and Democrats and even the one independent senator, to try not to make judgments … try not to make inflammatory statements. We have to be respectful of each other. It is all about open dialogue, the non-confrontational exchange of ideas. But, I must also say this. I’m going to hold the line on what I think is right. I am not here to ‘go along to get along.’ I am here to serve the people I represent. Take one issue, immigration, for example. The concept of open borders is simply ridiculous. We cannot have them. We can’t have a country if we’re not a nation of laws. It is chaos otherwise. My great-grandfather came here legally [from Ireland]. To have open borders just because people want to leave their country and come here is a myopic and chaotic approach to immigration. We simply don’t have the resources to do that.
Aren’t the immigrants at the Mexican border essentially doing what your great-grandfather did—showing up at the border and asking to enter, since there weren’t visas and asylum questions in those days?
No. We have a different set of circumstances and laws at the present than at that time. We are an empathetic nation that cares for people, but we are also a nation that has laws. We must approach control of our population and concern for our resources in a thoughtful, planned and methodical manner.
How do you reach the people who don’t support President Trump when you do?
I support our president’s policies. He’s done a fantastic job on our economy, but he’s a bold individual and sometimes that offends people.
One way to look at our president is the way I look at a surgeon. You want the surgeon to have a good bedside manner, but, more importantly, you want them to produce results. If they have both, that’s all the better. Our president, while some wish he would get off Twitter, is doing things he said he was going to do. He is keeping his campaign promises. Given the well demonstrated bias of the media, Twitter is seemingly the only way he can reliably get his message out. Our last five or six presidents, Republican and Democrat, haven’t followed through on their campaign promises and, like him or not, he is fulfilling his.
What aspect of your Davidson experience will we be able to see from you in Washington?
Being able to listen with discernment, and to understand there are going to be different viewpoints and that those differing viewpoints can be valid. Even if I disagree with them, I will do it from a viewpoint of respect and not animosity. They come from different experiences, different educational venues and even different cultures. Davidson has historically taught students to make rational decisions based upon facts, not emotional biases, and that is the way I will approach decisions as a Congressman.
What one thing would you want someone to know about you if they only learned of you from this week’s election results?
I don’t have to do this. I’m a very happy surgeon and medical doctor, and I love being a surgeon and doctor. I choose to serve because I care deeply about our country. I care deeply about the future for my children and grandchildren and, as Davidson always teaches, I’m trying to make a difference in the world. It is important that people come out of private life with all of their life’s experiences and try to make a difference as a servant of the people.
You have received criticism from fellow Davidson alumni over positions you have taken. If you sat down with those alumni, what would you say?
That I respect their right to express their opinion. They don’t have to agree with me, but they should respect my right to express my opinion. It comes from a variety of sources—subject knowledge they may not have, experiences they may not have had or beliefs I hold. We share a lot more in common than we do apart. Some choose not to believe that. Attacking somebody personally is never tolerable. Never. In all this discussion about ‘diversity’ one must also respect there is diversity of opinion. If someone has a different opinion from yours, they’re not a bad person. They just have a different opinion. Davidson has historically been a place where open and respectful discussion with the exchange of differing ideas was expected. I hope that will continue. I do believe that social media has been detrimental to respectful debate. I last left Davidson as a board of trustees member. I look forward to returning as a member of Congress and sharing thoughts and ideas on how best we can continue as the greatest nation on earth.