This is a partial transcript from "Your World with Neil Cavuto," June 10, 2004, that was edited for clarity.
NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: In a week we commemorate a hero now resting in the Capitol behind. I want you to meet a hero still doing a lot of business in that Capitol behind me. It is no surprise why I picked my next guest as one of my heroes in my book "More Than Money." I wanted to look at people making a difference. He certainly has and does. His dream of becoming a cop was shattered when he was shot at the age of 16. But he turned his tragedy into a triumph. He's the first quadriplegic ever elected to Congress and intends to use his life story to inspire others. So for those of you who have the view that all politicians are the same, I want you to meet someone who is not, Congressman Jim Langevin.
Sir, good to have you.
REP. JIM LANGEVIN, D-R.I.: Thank you, Neil, good to be here.
CAVUTO: Let's talk a little bit about how you got into this state. It's well-known of course in your neck of the woods. Tell me how it happened.
LANGEVIN: I was 16 years old, I was a young police cadet in the Explorer Scout program, much like a boy scout program but we learned about law enforcement and had the opportunity to work in the police department. I had been in the program for about four years and thought I was well on my way to a career in law enforcement. I loved police work.
And as often happens, life doesn't turn out like you think it's going to. I was in the locker room of the police station one afternoon getting ready to go on my shift. Two police officers were looking at a new weapon that one of them had purchased, not realizing the gun was loaded, one of the officers pulled the trigger and the bullet ricocheted off the locker and went through my neck and severed my spinal cord. And I have been paralyzed ever since.
CAVUTO: Any hope that this could come back.
LANGEVIN: I always have hope and there so much is going on in the area of spinal cord injury research, there was just a major breakthrough from what I understand down at the Miami project, where there was a major leap forward in finding a cure for spinal cord injury.
So there is always hope and I've never lost that optimism. But at the same time I certainly haven't let life pass me by. If there is a cure some day, that is wonderful. And yet at the same time I'm also determined to have a very full and fulfilling life and I'm enjoying life thus far.
CAVUTO: I remember when I was doing the book and you were recounting what Rhode Islanders did for you and your family after this and all the money they provided and bake sales and everything else just to help you, you decided from that moment onto give something back. You have been in public service essentially ever since, why?
LANGEVIN: Well, the kindness of my community certainly touched me in a profound way. And I certainly didn't know that this was the path my life would take. But this is what has happened and I am enjoying public service and giving something back at the same time.
CAVUTO: Any bitterness?
LANGEVIN: No, it is not a — I've never been bitter. It was certainly a tragic accident in my life. At that point in my life I was very sad, and it was a big emptiness. But I knew it was an accident, and the officers that were involved in this were my friends, they were people that I rode with in the police cars, I had worked with them for several years, I knew them well.
And I'm sure if anybody could have, you know, turned the clock back as they say in the book and erase this and have it not happen, of course, you know, I — they would have of course done it. But, life is full of ups and downs and my opinion is you have to play the hand that is dealt you.
CAVUTO: You were very big into not hiding your disability, obviously in your case you couldn't, but you played a key role in the memorial for FDR.
LANGEVIN: Well, I had become aware of the FDR Memorial and I was so pleased that they were finally making a — paying tribute to FDR, and his legacy and all he had done for the country. What I was disappointed and surprised to find out about is that they weren't going to depict FDR in his wheelchair in any way, shape or form, that they weren't going to depict his disability.
And I thought, you know, what a shame, he had been such a monumental figure in American politics and led this country through one of the most difficult times in our nation's history. And yet he did it all from a wheelchair and with a disability himself. And I thought that especially in this day and age, where times have changed so much.
Years ago, it was a source of shame or something you did kind of cover up, and certainly FDR made an attempt to hide his disability, but so much has changed, especially with the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, that I thought it was time that FDR be depicted as he was and serve as an inspiration to others just as he served as a source of inspiration to me.
CAVUTO: But the people who were against showing him in the wheelchair said, why remind the folks that he was in a wheelchair, why not let his acts stand for themselves?
LANGEVIN: Well, it was more that FDR didn't want to have his disability depicted or shown back during his time. And again, times have changed and I think it is important for history to accurately reflect who FDR was and all his challenges and everything that encompasses FDR and what he overcame to help lead the country forward at a very critical time in our country's history.
CAVUTO: Let me ask you, Congressman, I know you're a Democrat. But what do you think of Ronald Reagan and the attention being paid to him all this week?
LANGEVIN: Well, this has been a fitting tribute to one of America's towering figures, a president of the United States who made great contributions to public service and certainly inspired a nation. I have always been impressed by his ability to touch people, connect with people and inspire people.
He certainly did that as president and had some remarkable moments to remember and reflect on in his presidency. It is a fitting send-off, I was honored to be in the Rotunda last night when we were present for the memorial service. And again it was just a fitting tribute to one of our finest commanders-in-chief.
CAVUTO: Are you surprised at all the outpouring that he's getting, it's not afforded to all former presidents?
LANGEVIN: I'm not surprised. Again, he was a towering figure in American history, and a two-term president who served the country well. And though I'm a Democrat and he was a Republican and we can disagree on policies, I always knew certainly that his heart was in the right place, he was a good and decent person. And...
CAVUTO: But would you classify yourself as a liberal, because he went after guys like you?
LANGEVIN: Well, I think I call them as I see them. I like to think I'm a moderate and on some things I may be seen as conservative and other things I would be considered a liberal, but it is all in the best interest of my constituents. I try to call them as I see them and put party politics aside.
CAVUTO: Because Rhode Island — I used to live in Rhode Island, I can say this, I'm not swiping at the state, but with all the internal political strife and Buddy Cianci, the former mayor of Providence and all of his troubles, it had a reputation for being seedy. Now it is better, I'm sure, today, I'm not saying you are at all any part of that. But are you troubled it takes a while to break non-Rhode Islanders of that impression?
LANGEVIN: Well, I think it, more than anything, Rhode Island is known for its independent spirit, you know, certainly in any state, I suppose, any circumstance you can point to a few bad apples...
CAVUTO: No, they are independent, but I'm wondering if their politicians fairly represent them or are themselves seedy in the past?
LANGEVIN: Again, you can point to any — in any state you can look at anecdotal evidence to say, you know, one way or the other, what the state is made up of, but I think overall Rhode Island is a great place to live, work and raise a family. We have dedicated people in public service. Again, you know, like in any state you may find a couple that are in it for self-service as opposed to public service, but on balance we have a great state and I'm proud to represent my district and my state here in the United States. Congress.
CAVUTO: And how do you feel these days?
LANGEVIN: Well, I'm looking forward to the upcoming election. America certainly is going through a very challenging time. We are facing a war on a different scale right now with this war on terrorism that is going to be with us for a very long time. I sit on the House Armed Services Committee as well as the Select Committee on Homeland Security.
And I know that we face great challenges right now and in the years ahead. But we'll prevail because we have a free and open society, and we want people to realize their full potential and to live their life free in the way that they want to. And that is the only thing that we want for the rest of the world. And...
CAVUTO: Do you think in the process, Congressman, I'll wrap this up because I know you have to go, that you are helping people get a different impression of politicians, because no offense, most Americans do not have a high opinion of those in your profession, are you trying to prove otherwise?
LANGEVIN: Well, I'd like to think that just by my actions that I would give people a better and a different view of politics and public service that there are many people in government and many of my colleagues, I'm proud to — most of my colleagues I'm proud to serve with, with all of them. And I have come across very good and decent people in my time in government. And I know that with the right attitude and determination, we can make a difference. And it is my hope that for myself and for the country we can make a difference together.
CAVUTO: All right, Congressman Jim Langevin, obviously there must be something inspiring about you because the conservatives and Republicans from whom I've gotten e-mail on my book have been most impressed with the chapter on you.
LANGEVIN: Is that right?
CAVUTO: So go figure.
LANGEVIN: That's good to hear, thank you.
CAVUTO: Congressman Jim Langevin, thank you very much.
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