Somewhere in heaven, the late Harvard theologian the Rev. Peter Gomes had to be smiling. Today, Seth Moulton, one of his most impassioned students, will be sworn in as a new member of the 114th Congress.
Years ago, it was Gomes who set the trajectory for Moulton’s improbable journey to Washington, when he told his student that simply supporting some form of public service was not good enough. He should be willing to serve himself.
So, armed with a Harvard degree, Moulton joined the Marines and served four combat tours as an officer in Iraq, inspired by the commitment of younger men willing to lay their lives on the line.
Some might suggest that the challenge facing a young, idealistic Democrat entering a Republican-controlled Congress is almost as daunting as the one Moulton faced in Iraq. And yet, there wasn’t a trace of pessimism in his voice as he drove down to D.C. over the weekend.
“As a veteran, I do have a natural constituency already in place in Washington,” Moulton told me. “I’ve already had some absolutely wonderful email exchanges with other vets from both sides of the aisle. ‘Whatever we can do to help.’ That’s generally been the message I’ve been receiving.
“I do think there’s plenty of common ground to be found with colleagues across the aisle. The perception, of course, is that Republicans are going to be anti-everything. But I don’t think they can afford to be. Not now, when they control both houses of Congress.”
Moulton’s optimism is balanced with a humility that stands in stark contrast to the moribund pol he jettisoned from the 6th Congressional seat. For all the grace John Tierney showed in defeat, he might as well have been John Boehner.
Though Moulton is trying to adjust “to the surprise of people calling me ‘Congressman,’” he says he’s been consumed over the past eight weeks “working to assemble the best team I can find to serve the people of the 6th District.”
As a member of Congress, that sense of service instilled in him by a beloved mentor will now manifest itself in helping the fishing industry in Gloucester and working to bring more jobs and industry into Lynn.
As one who receives his health care from Veterans Affairs, Moulton is also hoping for a committee assignment that will allow him to hasten efforts at reforming the VA.
What is likely to distinguish Seth Moulton as he embarks on his congressional career today is a sense of purpose, a sense of service, minus the all-consuming calculation of your average Washington pol.
“As far as I’m concerned,” he said, “service to the country is far more important than service to any political party.”
Politicians simply don’t talk with that kind of faith.