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A Godly Legacy: How a Retiring Congressman Made Special Needs Interns Indispensable to Capitol Hill

A Godly Legacy: How a Retiring Congressman Made Special Needs Interns Indispensable to Capitol Hill Read Transcript


- Representative GreggHarper came to Washington

10 years ago wanting to make a difference.

Looking back, he had no ideathat his greatest legacy

would require no legislation at all.

- So as God indeed directsour paths, from the beginning,

I was on the Committeeon House Administration,

which has the oversightover the intern programs.

So we went to them and we started one.

- [Abigail] Harper's ideaturned into a program

serving students withintellectual disabilities,

who at that time, had noopportunities to work on the Hill.

It started small, with three interns

and six different offices.

- We've now had more than eight years

as a permanent program.

Over 170 House and Senate offices,

Republicans and Democrats,have participated

to the point we don't have enough students

to meet the demand.

- [Abigail] Harper saysthe program is so popular,

offices must often wait a semester

before an intern becomes available.

- It's giving them greatopportunity, great experience,

help them to get oversome shyness perhaps.

By the end of the semester,they're part of the family

and the confidence level is incredible.

- [Abigail] The inspirationfor this program

began with Harper's son, Livingston,

who was born with Fragile X Syndrome.

- None of that program that'simpacted so many offices

would have happened but forour experience with Livingston.

- [Abigail] Austin Cho thrived so much

during his internship, itled to a full time job.

His daily duties includescanning documents

into the digital archives

and providing advice anddirection to other interns.

- I usually give them advicelike stay focused and listen.

- [Abigail] Fortunately,this successful program

will continue despiteHarper's upcoming departure.

- It will certainlylive on and I very much

anticipate it to continueto grow to new levels.

- Colby Jordan, who watched her cousin

face obstacles growingup, praises her boss

for focusing on thespecial needs community.

- It's been really cool to see

these interns come into ouroffice and be such a light.

And I think it's showingpeople on the Hill

that these people can work,they can have full time jobs,

they can come in hereand make a difference

in an office culture.

- [Abigail] Another legacyHarper leaves behind

is leading his staff by example

on how you don't need to separatefaith from the workplace.

- The biggest thing I've learned from him

is a boldness in faith.

Just walking around the halls of Congress,

he will stop a janitor or another worker

and ask them how hecan pray for them today

and give them a Bible verseor a word of encouragement.

- It's been really coolto transition into a job

where you're not looked atdifferently for your faith

and it's encouraged for your faith

to influence the decisionsthat you make in your life.

- [Abigail] For almost six years,

no one left Harper's congressional office

to work elsewhere, which isunheard of in many offices,

especially on the Hill.

- It's been such apleasure working for him.

I think there will be achallenge at transition

to try to work for somebody else.

- [Abigail] Harper will leavehis mark in other places,

such as the Capitol Visitor Center,

where he fought to displayour national motto.

- When you come in now,the first thing you see,

tastefully done, engravedin the marble there,

is our national motto, In God We Trust.

- [Abigail] And in theRotunda, where he worked to put

biblical language backinto the descriptions

below the paintings.

Harper wants other Christianscoming to Washington

to know they're not alone.

- There's a lot of strong believers here,

so my advice is locatesome of those friends,

stay grounded in your own personal faith

and time that you have,

and don't forget aboutyour family at home.

- [Abigail] Harper's wife, Sidney,

says her advice to future families

considering running foroffice is pray about it.

- It's not a decision you take lightly.

Like you said, you've got to hear from God

and know that it's the right decision

and then he will guide you.

- Congressman Harper tellsme he's retiring this year

because he never meantto make this a career,

but is sure he'll remainactively involved in politics

back home in Mississippi.

Reporting from Capitol Hill,Abigail Robertson, CBN News.

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