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Four Years at the Mount

Sophomore year

On Common Cents

Lydia Olsen
Class of 2016

(2/2014) Ralph Murphy is the author of the "Common Cents" column in the Emmitsburg News-Journal. Ralph’s personal experiences and passion contribute to his knowledge about world events. Not only does he present and elaborate on his topics in a helpful and informative manner, but he also demonstrates the importance of what he says in our daily lives.

Ralph Murphy was born in a Turkish hospital near a naval base in Istanbul. He doesn’t remember much about Turkey because he only lived there for a very short time before moving to Norfolk, Virginia with his family. During this time period, Murphy remembers his father going off to war in Vietnam for a year. This was one of his earliest memories. Shortly after moving to Virginia, his family relocated again, moving to Washington, D.C. with five year old Murphy in tow. He recalled having many foreign friends while growing up and living near the capital. A good majority of his friends had parents who were diplomats or employees for international organizations such as The World Bank. With a few exceptions, he lost touch with many of the friends he made at this time, though their different lifestyles sparked an interest in foreign affairs for him.

One of Murphy’s favorite memories was winning the 50-yard dash in sixth grade. This made him the fastest kid in the school while also helping him to create a positive self-image. Later on, Ralph had many other athletic related successes, including some in football and track. Despite his strides in the athletic world, his desire to explore foreign politics stayed with him.

Murphy’s father had a tremendous impact on him. Growing up, Ralph was always curious about his father’s highly intriguing and secretive career as a Sovietologist, which took him on many different missions. He shared his thoughts on his father and his father’s career by stating, "The high-risk, no-nonsense lifestyle rubbed off on me and became almost intoxicating." Since travel was a large part of Murphy’s life, he immediately became interested in geopolitics, the study of the effects of geography on international politics and international relations. With a taste for the no-nonsense, intoxicating lifestyle and his love for geopolitics, Murphy went on to study economics at the University of Maryland. He graduated with his degree in 1982 and joined the federal government within a short period of time. In his article titled, "Divide and Rule," which discusses the United Nations, he begins by describing the question on the eight-hour exam he took to obtain his position. Murphy explains that his view of the UN was critical and that he wasn’t quite able to see the UN’s potential as being a peacemaker. The federal government positively received his essay and he was given a position. Later, he became an economist for the CIA, where he scored in the top two percent in knowledge of world events. He continues to maintain a strong knowledge and love for world events by referring to them as his, "study, hobby, and passion."

Murphy is currently retired from the CIA and is doing contractor work at Andrew’s Air Force Base. He lives in Washington D.C. near his brother and two sisters. He began writing for the Emmitsburg News-Journal in 2012. He has been focusing on his writing and sees it as an opportunity to express his worldviews in a constructive and informative manner. Murphy’s "Common Cents" enlightens readers about current events. Not only is Murphy well informed on his topic, but he also presents it in a way that allows readers to understand the importance of what is happening while simultaneously encouraging deep contemplation from his audience.

Many of his topics include both foreign and domestic affairs. Murphy usually begins his articles with an opening that describes a personal experience that he has had. This not only gives the readers a better sense of him as a writer, but it also provides the audience with a clear example of how the issue plays a role in one’s daily life. For example, his column published in April 2013 describes his encounter driving and entering work on a day when there was no electricity in the building or the surrounding area. Murphy used this experience as a way to express his concern about the risk of a cyber attack. He explains in his article that there would be little that could be done if the United States was to undergo a cyber attack, and he relates his and his coworkers’ inability to work without power as an example of how defenseless the government and other organizations would be if such an attack occurred.

When I asked Murphy what advice he would give to our readers, he explained that it would be to pursue your passions and to not always seek the so-called "easy route" to achieve your goals, "just because it’s expedient." He stressed the importance of having "strategic, constructive objectives" but working tactically. Like any good economist, he insisted that people of my generation and those looking for employment should "try to aim for an inflation adjusted pension."

I think it’s often challenging to recognize the effect that world events have on our daily lives. I’ve heard people question before that if it does not impact them, then why should they bother thinking about it? However, I personally believe that we live in a world where every action is connected to each of us. The drug wars that Murphy brought to light in his January 2014 article do not simply impact the drug users alone. The impact is much larger than that. Similarly, the illegal immigrants that he discusses in his June 2013 article "Citizens or Guests?" are not merely influencing their own lives; they are affecting ours as well. Each of us is not a single entity whose decisions only affect one person. Rather, we are individuals who live in communities that collectively function as a whole. We are lucky enough to read Murphy’s articles about world events that voice to us all the importance of domestic and international occurrences and remind us that we are all impacted by these events. We all depend on and affect each other. World events don’t happen in a far away place in some far off land. They happen in this land, this land that is your land, this land that is my land, this land that is our land.

Read other articles by Lydia Olsen