Rep. Seth Moulton talks courage and young Syrian refugee he brought to State of the Union in commencement address

The Congressman brought Ahmad to President Obama's final address in January.

–Drew Angerer / The Boston Globe

Rep. Seth Moulton paused during his commencement address at the University of Massachusetts Boston to reflect on one of the most courageous people he’s met — 10-year-old Ahmad, a Syrian refugee whom he brought to Obama’s last State of the Union address in January.

“Ahmad lost three of his siblings and both of his arms in an airstrike on his refugee camp,” Moulton said. “Yet instead of focusing on his own recovery, he has been an advocate for others. He brought a letter to the President advocating for the other children in that war torn country.”

Ahmad was just one of the individuals Moulton, an Iraq War veteran, mentioned during his speech, which was focused on courage.


“All the things you typically hear in commencement speeches, ‘make a life not just a living,’ ‘get back on the horse when you fall off,’ I don’t think any are possible without courage,” Moulton said. “Courage is not being fearless, it’s doing the right thing in spite of your fear.”

The congressman also told the story of James, a marine he served with who saved another member of their platoon’s life by carrying him across a field filled with grenades.

“James wasn’t fearless,” Moulton said. “But James saved Ryan’s life in spite of his fears.”

Moulton also praised Gloucester Police Chief Leonard Campanello for his bravery in starting the Angel Program, which offers treatment, rather than punishment, to addicts without serious records or open warrants.

“He had the courage to admit the old approach wasn’t working, that we can’t arrest our way out of this problem,” Moulton said. “That’s a big risk for a police chief charged to fight crime.”

Moulton wrapped up his speech by making a jab at his fellow politicians. He said he’s often asked, “Seth, why is Congress so stupid?”

“My observation after a year down in Washington is that most of my colleagues are pretty smart,” he said. “What’s lacking in congress isn’t intelligence, it’s the courage to vote for what’s right, even if it might be unpopular back home. If you live your life with courage, you will have no regrets, and you will look back on it with pride.”

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