From his humble beginnings in Sumter, South Carolina, to his prominence on the Washington, D.C., political scene as the third highest-ranking Democrat in the House of Representatives, U.S. Congressman James E. Clyburn has led an extraordinary life. In Blessed Experiences, Clyburn tells in his own inspirational words how an African American boy from the Jim Crow–era South was able to beat the odds to achieve great success and become, as President Barack Obama describes him, "one of a handful of people who, when they speak, the entire Congress listens."
Clyburn was elected to Congress in 1992. Serving as copresident of his freshman class, he rose quickly through the ranks and was elected chair of the Congressional Black Caucus in 1999 and House Democratic Caucus vice chair in 2002. Three years later he was unanimously elected chair of the Democratic Caucus. When Democrats regained the House majority in 2006, Clyburn was elected House majority whip. Now as assistant Democratic leader in the 112th Congress, Clyburn, a self-described independent, prides himself on working to overcome barriers and destroy myths without becoming too predictable. “I have worked across party lines to further legislative causes, and on occasion publicly differed with some of my allies in the civil rights community,” says Clyburn. “My experiences have not always been pleasant, but I have considered all of them blessings.”