James Clyburn has won all 11 of his races to represent South Carolina's 6th Congressional District. Along the way, he's risen to the powerful position of No. 3 Democrat in the U.S. House.
But that doesn't mean the S.C. State graduate, who turned 74 Monday, doesn't know what it's like to lose.
The former history teacher at Charleston's long-closed C.A. Brown High School stressed that personal point last Friday during a speech to about 200 students and parents at the Louisiana Leadership Institute in Baton Rouge.
He also emphasized the importance of bouncing back from defeat, which he suffered in three elections before ever becoming a federal lawmaker.
He recalled falling only 500 votes short in a 1970 run for the S.C. House. He thought he had won by a similar margin -and even thought the outcome was questionable. But rather than dispute the result, he accepted it.
Soon afterward, newly elected Gov. John West offered him a position in state government. Four years later, Mr. Clyburn became the first South Carolina Human Affairs commissioner, a job he held for 18 years.
As Rep. Clyburn told Friday's audience of Gov. West: "He saw that I knew how to lose. I haven't looked back since."
He also urged the young people in the audience to summon their own powers of perseverance by refusing to let what can be merely temporary setbacks deter them from their goals:
"I want each of you to keep trying until you get it right."
And citing famous inventors like Thomas Edison, he challenged them to produce innovations across a wide range: "We're still looking for people like you to open secrets and solve problems. This world is waiting on you. This world is depending on you."
Like many South Carolinians outside the 6th District, we often disagree with Rep. Clyburn's generally liberal viewpoints on assorted issues of public policy.
But in that speech, the ex-teacher presented an uplifting lesson for all, regardless of age or ideology.
And if more Americans would learn it, bipartisan progress would be easier to achieve.
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