Today is an exclusive live video interview with Ed Murphy, for the interview series “Interviews with the Leading Edge.”
In this series of interviews, I engage with people who are on the leading edge of transformational change, doing work to further the consciousness revolution and how it is manifesting in culture, politics and spirituality, in order to help bring along a more enlightened society.
Ed Murphy is one such person.
Ed is a spiritual warrior, a peace and labor activist and the Executive Director of the Workforce Development Institute. He was a former military intelligence soldier who exposed the CIA’s Phoenix Program in April 1970, was a leader in the Vietnam Veterans Against the War movement that sprung up in protest of the Vietnam War, and was active and played an instrumental role in reuniting the U.S. and Vietnam after the war ended.
Ed was born on an ominous day – August 6, 1945, which was the day the nuclear bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, Japan. It may have been pure coincidence, but being born on that day surely left an indelible mark on Ed’s psyche and helped commit him to a lifetime of activism towards peace.
Raised in Staten Island, NY, after attending public schools, Ed decided a life in the priesthood was his calling. He went to seminary in Baltimore with the Paulist Brothers, and his third year was spent in silent retreat in a cabin in the woods. During that time, after much soul searching, Ed decided to leave the seminary. It was an important decision on many regards, one of which being that as no longer a student, he had to surrender his draft deferment. He then chose to enlist in the military.
He was found to have an aptitude for intelligence, and Ed was sent to U.S. Army Intelligence School, where he learned the Vietnamese language. In 1968 he was shipped to Vietnam, where he served as a sergeant for one year. After the year was up, he came back to the U.S., and served another seven months in the military, completing his military duty in Jan. of 1970. While he was stationed in the U.S., one of his military duties was monitoring the anti-war movement.
As soon as he left the military, he immediately spoke out against the Vietnam war and use of the military to spy on domestic activities, and became an early organizer of Vietnam Veterans Against the War. In May 1970 he spoke out and helped exposed a secret C.I.A. program called The Phoenix Program, which was a program that tortured and assassinated suspected members of the North Vietnamese-backed Viet Cong, but in reality harmed, maimed and killed many innocent Vietnamese civilians.
Years later, In 1991, Murphy left his position as Deputy Director of the New York State Division of Veteran Affairs to work on reconciliation with Vietnam, do business and environmental consulting and provide humanitarian assistance. He participated in the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO)’s 1991 Investors Forum in Ho Chi Minh City and subsequent meetings with government leaders in Hanoi.
For a decade Ed worked with government, businesses, organized labor, NGOs and educational institutions interested in establishing programs in Southeast Asia. Through his alma mater, the College of Staten Island, he lectured, initiated programs related to and assisted in development of the City University of New York’s establishment of English language training in and educational exchanges with Vietnam.
On one of his trips to Vietnam, Ed brought his daughter Zoeann along with him, and that journey ended in a book they co-wrote, “Vietnam: A Father Daughter Journey.” In addition to that book, Ed has had four photography exhibits related to Vietnam and participated in the development of two movies also related to Vietnam.
In 1999, Murphy began to work with the NYS AFL-CIO, and helped establish the Workforce Development Institute as a national leader in workforce intelligence, education and training of unionized workers. The Workforce Development Institute’s mission is to improve the lives of working families across New York State by providing programs in workforce intelligence, economic development, training and education, cultural enrichment, family support, and disabled and dislocated worker services.
In addition, with his work with the Workforce Development Institute he is currently collaborating with the actor Mark Ruffalo training workers with skills to work in the renewable energy field.
I met with Ed at his home just outside Saratoga Springs, NY. There we talked at length about the issues near and dear to Ed’s heart, of peace and the meaningless of war, and how decades after the war ended in Vietnam how important is it to learn those lessons so that we don’t repeat them – although as evidenced from what the U.S. is currently doing with its military presence in the Middle East, we are repeating them.
For Ed, as he says, “Vietnam lives in my soul.” It is a mantra that for him carries many meanings – reconciliation, love, forgiveness, and the universal brotherhood of Man.
This is an inspiring interview with someone who has made peace his life’s mission, and has seen upfront and personal what happens when we don’t reach out to those different than us in order to find common ground and instead seek to destroy their country and their culture.
Let us all learn these lessons of life – and as we do so, we will remember the words of Gandhi: “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.”