Congressman Jim Langevin has moved
fast and accomplished much as an elected public servant for his home
state of Rhode Island. At the age of 22, he was State Delegate to the
Rhode Island Constitutional Convention, serving as its secretary. At
24, while still an undergraduate in college, he was elected to the State
House of Representatives. At 30, while completing his master’s
degree in public administration, he was elected Rhode Island Secretary
of State, defeating the Republican incumbent and becoming the youngest
state secretary in the nation. He held this position from 1994 until
2000, when he was chosen by the voters to represent them in the U.S.
A cornerstones of Langevin’s administration as Secretary of State
included transforming that office “from being an ‘old records-keeping
office’ to being a vibrant office of public information. He founded
Rhode Island’s Public Information Center, and lived up to his
campaign promise of making the office “the people’s partner
in government.” Langevin also made it his priority to do away
with what was the oldest voting equipment in the country and implemented
a new modern voting system.
Langevin has now served Rhode Island’s Second Congressional District
in the U.S. House of Representatives for three consecutive terms; being
re-elected in 2004 with an overwhelming 75 percent of the vote. Since
joining Congress, he has worked on issues that affect the lives of all
of his constituents, including healthcare, education, national security
and economic policy. He has played an instrumental role in creating
election reform legislation, an area of keen interest and concern in
his life. He is currently seeking re-election to the U.S. Congress.
Jim Langevin grew up in Warwick, Rhode Island. He was born in 1964,
and like other young men of his generation, his dream was to become
a police officer. That path would lead him to serve not only his community,
but his country.
A catastrophic injury at the age of 16 left Langevin a C5 - 6 tetraplegic
and with only partial use of his arms and hands. As a Boy Scout participating
in the Explorer program he worked for the Warwick Police Department
to gain experience in law enforcement. A chance discharge from a policeman’s
revolver (thought to be empty) sent a bullet into his throat, permanently
damaging his spinal cord; permanently ending his police force aspirations.
This would not direct Langevin into self-pity. Through an outpouring
of support from his family, friends, and the community, he was inspired
to give of himself in public service.
“I saw what positive things would come when a group of people
came together for a common purpose, experiencing it firsthand,”
recalls Langevin. He graduated from high school in 1983, and in ’86,
ran for and was elected to serve as a State Delegate to Rhode Island’s
Constitutional Convention. Having been exposed to politics as an early
teen by his mother, he found his passion in public service as an elected
“I had to think about what I was going to do with my life [now
that law enforcement was no longer an option]. I thought about it, and
became more and more interested in government and public service in
the political field. My parents were very insistent that I finish my
education and go on to college - again, failure was not an option. They
were bound and determined that I was going to make something of my life,
and with their support and the support of the community, it all tied
together and I found a new passion in life.”
Reflecting on his early political appointment at the Rhode Island Constitutional
Convention in 1986, Langevin recalls, “Not only did I feel that
I was giving something back, but I found something that I really enjoyed.”
His passion was recognized and ignited and his political career has
taken him to Congress, serving Rhode Island and the U.S. from 2000 to
the present. He has served on Armed Services and Small Business Committees
as well as the Homeland Security Committee; sponsored bills to increase
gun safety; and pursued his desire to improve government for the people.
Langevin’s youthful injury polarized his concerns about the lack
of universal healthcare, and affordable prescription drugs for most
Americans. This issue has become a continued focus and priority of his
work in Congress.
Langevin’s key for successfully running for public office: “I
have always tried to be as honest and straightforward as I can possibly
be. But I also have a passion for public service. I believe there is
no higher calling than public service, and working hard to represent
your neighbors, your community, your state and nation. I think we all
have a desire within us to make a difference in the world, to make it
better than when we found it and through public service in elected office
I have been given the opportunity to touch people’s lives in a
Langevin’s key for a successful life: “It’s important
for any individual to follow their passion, no matter what it is. If
you have an interest, especially in public service, I encourage you
to pursue it. We can all make a difference if we chose to try.”
Langevin on his disability: “I hope my involvement in public service
has inspired all people with challenges. I also hope it has raised awareness
of the challenges of those with disabilities but also our capabilities.
Despite my limitations, I had a goal and a dream - something I had a
passion for. I pursued that passion and I have given back to my community.
I believe I have made a difference.”
Jim Langevin is the first person with quadriplegia to serve in the U.S.