In addition to Clyburn, the night’s speakers included Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, 45th Michigan Gov. Jim Blanchard, Michigan State’s Department of Political Science chair Corwin Smidt and urban and regional planning senior Wisdom Henry.
Rep. James E. Clyburn visits Wharton Center, discusses time in congress
Clyburn, serving as the Majority Whip, is the third-highest ranking Democrat in the U.S. House of Representatives. President Joe Biden’s Democratic nomination is widely credited to Clyburn’s endorsement of Biden during the primaries in Feb. 2020.
“He spearheaded strikes and sit-ins in the 60s, he spent decades in Congress, serving in a range of leadership roles, including Chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus of the House Democrats and today, Majority Whip of the House," Whitmer said. “He’s fought for families his entire career and his accomplishments could, and have already, filled pages and pages of books. He's an inspiration.”
Clyburn began the night with a speech. After a few personal anecdotes of his time spent in Congress and his experience with writing two books, he shared what drives him — the Pledge of Allegiance.
“I, from that pledge, have developed the little phrase that motivates me every day to make this country's greatness accessible and affordable for all,” Clyburn said.
The night then moved to a question and answer format between Blanchard and Clyburn about Clyburn’s experiences, both personal and political.
Topics discusses included Clyburn’s path to politics, his pivotal endorsement of Biden, his thoughts on the Jan. 6 Capitol attack, how he finds common ground across party lines, the dangers of misinformation online, the current fragility of American democracy, voting rights and his hopes for this coming year.
However, Clyburn said that the most important takeaway of the night should be for young people to not give up, even if they fail at first.
“No matter how many times you try, just remember what your parents and your grandparents, your guardians have always said,” Clyburn said. “If at first you don't succeed, they didn’t say one more time, or two more times, or three more times, try and try again. No numerical limit is on that. So, to all you young people here tonight, no matter how many times you try and fail, don't give up.”
Clyburn first came to Congress in 1993 to represent South Carolina’s sixth congressional district.
In Congress, he worked to restore scores of historic buildings and sites on the campuses of historically black colleges and universities, led legislation to create the South Carolina National Heritage Corridor, elevated the Congaree National Monument to a National Park and established the Reconstruction Era National Monument in South Carolina’s Lowcountry.
The evening was made possible by Jim and Janet Blanchard. According to their website, through their forum, they hope to provide students, faculty and the MSU community with the opportunity to learn from national and international leaders, diplomats and writers.
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