Top Democrat Jim Clyburn shares his political philosophy through turtles

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WASHINGTON (GrayDC) -- With all the wrangling and noise in DC, one of South Carolina’s biggest leaders looks to an unexpected, small creature for some wisdom. Washington Correspondent Alana Austin takes us behind the scenes with Majority Whip Jim Clyburn on Capitol Hill.

Top House Democrat, Rep. Jim Clyburn, shares his political philosophy through turtles (Source: GrayDC)

“…‘behold the turtle, he makes progress only when he sticks his neck out’…” Clyburn muses, reading the a poster hung above his desk.

Over the past two and a half decades on Capitol Hill, Congressman Jim Clyburn (D-SC) has learned when it comes to life and politics, sometimes slow and steady wins the race.

“I was just moved for some reason – emotionally – by the fable of the turtle and the hare,” said Clyburn.

That childhood story led Clyburn to begin collecting turtles – eventually he traded the live ones for figurines and other artistic depictions. Now, the Majority Whip – the third-highest-ranking House Democrat in Washington – has hundreds of turtles throughout his office.

When asked whether turtles are now a popular gift, Clyburn says yes. “It is and I’ve got them everywhere!”

The former teacher – who still enjoys mentoring young people – often encourages future leaders to be bold.

“The turtle may be safe inside its shell…but if you are going to make a movement, you’ve got to stick your neck out,” explained Clyburn.

During these especially politically divisive times, Clyburn finds inspiration in a poem of a sea turtle swallowed by a shark. The turtle relentlessly gnaws away until he makes opening and escapes back to the water.

In the real world, Clyburn says he applies that philosophy to fighting for civil rights.

“Your success will depend upon your ability to persevere, build relationships and build bridges,” said Clyburn.

Clyburn says the big issue he’s going to keeping gnawing at: bridging the digital divide so all communities can access high-speed Internet.

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