Veterans and alumni of national service programs explore the idea of running for office as part of an Answering the Call course in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Take this class if you want to run for office

Updated 10:56 AM ET, Mon July 8, 2019

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(CNN)In the tempestuous weeks leading up to the 2016 election, Dan Moy hunkered down in a seminar room on the Harvard campus with more than a dozen others -- Republicans, Democrats and independents -- to discuss what it might be like to run for office.

Moy had enrolled in a master's program at the university's John F. Kennedy School of Government. But one of the most important parts for him, a weekly course called Answering the Call, wasn't part of the official curriculum.
The conversations in that room were changing lives. And they might just change our politics.
Everyone gathered around the table had served in some capacity, whether it was in the military, the Peace Corps or the nonprofit sector. Each had an itch to run for office, and this was a safe space to "talk and share back and forth what we were thinking about our futures," Moy said.
Moy, a retired Air Force colonel, had served in the Gulf War, taught at the Air Force Academy after September 11, earned a Ph.D. in history and commanded counterinsurgency forces in Afghanistan.
But running for office was always at the back of his mind, and he felt that he had skills to offer. After he retired from active duty, he wanted to find ways to apply that skill set to keep improving the world.
    The 54-year-old said he feels discouraged at what he sees as politicians' inability to solve the country's "mounting problems."
    Veterans like Moy bring experience leading diverse teams to accomplish missions in adverse conditions.

    Graduates are taking office across the country

    Those interested in the program can be nominated by friends or colleagues for the course online. If selected, they can join courses each year in dozens of cities.
    At each session, they move through exercises in a workbook. Moy and his classmates had to mull over a number of penetrating questions such as "What core values are at the heart of my commitment to service?" They also draft personal mission statements and write alternative visions for their lives if they run for office or choose not to.
    In one exercise, they're asked to consider whether public service might mean something other than running for office: working on a politician's staff, being appointed to a government position or just being an engaged citizen volunteering in the community.
    Of the 15 or so who gathered in that seminar room in Cambridge, Massachusetts, four have now run for office, Moy said. One of them, Steve Watkins, was elected to Congress and represents the second district of Kansas.
    Since the program's inception two years ago, 850 former service members have graduated from Answering the Call programs in 33 cities, according to the New Politics Leadership Academy, the nonprofit group that runs the courses.
    Of those, six grads ran for US Congress, and 30 more sought down-ballot seats. Two of them, former Navy SEAL Dan Crenshaw in Texas and former Army Ranger Watkins, won their races. And 19 other grads have won office across the country.
    Emily Cherniack, who founded New Politics, is bullish on the program's track record, making a mark in the first election cycle that graduates could run in.
      "My vision is that every potential candidate go through these exercises," she said.