SANTA FE – U.S. House Majority Whip James Clyburn, D-S.C., urged New Mexico lawmakers Friday to “not give up on our children” during their ongoing 60-day session.
The veteran congressman, who was invited to speak before a joint session of legislators on African American Day at the state Capitol, recalled being discouraged from pursuing a career in politics as a young boy growing up in South Carolina.
“Don’t throw cold water on anyone’s dreams,” Clyburn said, drawing bipartisan applause from legislators.
The third-ranking Democrat in the U.S. House of Representatives, Clyburn arrived in New Mexico early Friday and had breakfast with Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, a former congresswoman, before giving his speech to legislators.
He praised the governor in his speech, saying, “She was a great congressperson, and I predict she is going to be an even greater governor.”
Clyburn was first elected to Congress in 1992 and has been re-elected 13 times. He has served two separate stints as House majority whip, along with an 8-year stint as House assistant Democratic leader.
During his visit to the Roundhouse, he also visited with reporters and weighed in on the controversy surrounding several Virginia state officials.
Clyburn said he would “bet my last dollar” that Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam was the individual shown wearing blackface in a medical school yearbook picture that recently surfaced.
“I’m very pained by it, (but) I’m not surprised by it at all,” Clyburn said. “I’ve been seeing these yearbooks and other things with blackface ever since I can remember.”
He also described the situation as a “teaching moment” for the country.
Northam initially apologized for the picture but has since denied that he is one of the two individuals in the photo. He has rejected calls to resign.
Meanwhile, Clyburn said U.S. House Democrats, who reclaimed a majority in the chamber after last year’s election cycle, will hold hearings in the coming months on issues including student loan debt and health care access.
In his 22-minute speech on the House floor, Clyburn also referred to President Donald Trump’s campaign motto: “Make America Great Again.”
“The fact of the matter is that does not need to happen – America is already great,” Clyburn said. “The challenge is to make sure this extends equally and equitably to all our citizens.”