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Langevin’s final speech on House floor caps 22-year career in Congress

The Rhode Island Democrat, who was the first quadriplegic elected to Congress, said he is proud to have fought for the rights of Americans with disabilities and to bolster the nation’s cybersecurity

Congressman James R. LangevinMatthew J Lee/Globe staff

PROVIDENCE — When a gun misfired in a police station locker room, a bullet severed the spinal cord of a 16-year-old boy in the Warwick police explorers program. But the love and support he received afterward prompted him to enter public service, and that boy went on to become the first quadriplegic elected to Congress.

At age 58, US Representative James R. Langevin this week delivered the final floor speech of his 22-year career in Congress, saying he was proud to have fought for the rights of Americans with disabilities and to bolster national security, particularly cybersecurity.

Langevin, a Rhode Island Democrat, made a surprise announcement in January, saying he would not seek re-election after 11 terms in Congress. In a race that drew national attention, Democrat Seth Magaziner beat Republican Allan W. Fung to represent the district, which includes the western half of Rhode Island.

“Choosing not to seek re-election to Congress was one of the most difficult decisions of my life,” Langevin said in the floor speech. “But after two decades of living in two places at the same time and weekly air travel, I am ready to chart a new course. Although I will no longer be in Congress come the beginning of next year, I will not go away — I’m just coming home.”


Langevin recalled the difficulty of recovering from the accidental shooting.

But, he said, “It was my community that was there for me when I needed them the most, and it was their constant love and support, along with my family, which ultimately inspired me to run for office as a way of giving back.”

After becoming a delegate to the 1986 state constitutional convention, Langevin was elected to the state House of Representatives. In 1994, he became the nation’s youngest secretary of state, and in 2001 he began representing Rhode Island’s Second Congressional District.


In Congress, Langevin said he fought to protect and advance the rights of those with disabilities, “moving our society closer to becoming fully inclusive and accessible for all.”

“I will never forget the moment that I became the first congressman in a wheelchair to preside over the US House of Representatives as speaker pro tem as we marked the 20th anniversary of the American with Disabilities Act,” he said. “I thank Speaker Nancy Pelosi — perhaps the greatest House speaker of the modern era — for making that day possible.”

He also thanked House Democratic Majority Leader Steny Hoyer for his leadership in passing the Americans with Disabilities Act, and his “unrelenting efforts to ensure that the Capitol complex is accessible to all Americans of all abilities.”

As a member of the House Armed Services Committee, Langevin said he worked to strengthen national security — particularly cybersecurity — and he said he was proud to support “the hard-working men and women of my district who build the world’s finest nuclear submarines at Electric Boat.”

He said he has also spoken up for those in foster care — young people who he said are “too often forgotten and left behind.”

And he said he’ll always be proud of voting for President Obama’s Affordable Care Act, “which lowered health care costs and secured coverage for millions of uninsured Americans.”

“I love my state, I love the people who live there,” Langevin said in conclusion. “So most of all I want to say: Thank you, Rhode Island for the opportunity to serve the community, which has given me so much.”


Edward Fitzpatrick can be reached at edward.fitzpatrick@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @FitzProv.