To be part of something called “The Great Debate” was ominous enough, but knowing that I would be facing off against locally renowned orator and wordsmith Ross Bluestein made it even more daunting. Organized by civic activist and restaurateur Paul Rifkin, the Great Debate was held back in June 2008 and was an opportunity to demonstrate that people supporting opposing sides of an argument need not be opposed to one another. This, unfortunately rare, concept of respectful public discourse on the issues of the day attracted more than 100 people to the spacious and well-adorned Hermann Foundation Meeting Room at the Falmouth Public Library for a detailed and lively discussion of the war in Iraq and Afghanistan.
After more than an hour of respectful debate, with varying accounts and assessments on the victor, the near-universal conclusion was that the real winners were the citizens, who all had an opportunity to witness and participate in thoughtful, reasoned debate without personal disfavor and distaste.
As one of the headliners in the debate, I was intent on gathering the facts related to our subject matter so as to have a wealth of reliable information as my oratory foundation, and to get some pointers on the art of war and the skill of sizing up my opponent. I knew where to go to find all of that in one location—and in one man. I called Paul Mulloy.
Rear Admiral Paul Mulloy is and was a distinguished American, a decorated veteran, a proven leader at the highest levels of government, and most importantly, a gentleman of unquestioned integrity and dedication to community. He is also a Falmouthite. Before the Great Debate, Paul and I sat and enjoyed a cup of coffee on Main Street and, like the battle-tested leader he is, he coached, inspired, instructed, and motivated me. When I entered the library on debate night, I felt like Rocky Balboa heading into the ring to face his highly skilled but under-inspired opponent (sorry, Ross). I’ll readily admit these years later that a couple of the haymakers (respectful ones, of course) that I threw were inspired by my friend the admiral. He, too, is committed to respectful dialogue and laments the lack of it in our public discourse today.
Given that rare and valuable ability to motivate and inspire, it’s no surprise that Admiral Mulloy was recently recognized with the distinction of membership in the Maritime Patrolmen Association’s Hall of Honor. A report in the Enterprise this week noted that the association is a group of Paul’s peers, maritime and reconnaissance veterans who know a sound sailor when they see one. The MPA is a nonprofit organization established in 2011, and provides recognition of the US Maritime Patrol and Reconnaissance community. This honor from his peers comes on the heels of a lifetime of distinction and service, including providing advice to the president of the United States on drug addiction and recovery in the US military.
Paul’s charitable work in that arena continues today. He sits on the board of directors of Oxford House, Inc., a nationwide nonprofit that provides structured sober housing for men and women in recovery. Today, Oxford House operates more than 1,700 sober houses with more than 13,000 beds, providing a safe and structured environment for people in early recovery. With ever-increasing headlines about the epidemic of substance abuse from sea to shining sea, Paul’s work in this battle for our survival is his most important yet. Oxford House’s annual report noted that the organization “fosters leadership, responsibility, growth, friendship, and community. That might just as well be the masthead for the story of the life of Admiral Paul Mulloy. If the purpose of life is indeed a life of purpose, Paul’s life has been well lived.
If you see the admiral around town, salute him for his service to our nation, and thank him for his service to humankind.