Congresswoman Julia Carson died today after a battle with lung cancer. The Indiana Democrat was an opponent of the Iraq war and a champion for women, children and the homeless. When elected to Congress in 1996, Carson became the first black person and the first woman to represent Indianapolis. Before that, she'd served in the city government and the Indiana state legislature. The first time she entered the State House as an elected official, a doorman mistook her for a cleaning woman.

My colleague Daniel Zwerdling spoke to Julia Carson after she was first elected to the United States Congress. She told him one of her main priorities was reforming the health care system.

(Soundbite of archived recording)

Representative JULIA CARSON (Democrat, Indiana): I can't sleep. I am still on a roll. First and foremost, you know, everybody's got to understand that universal health care is not socialized medicine, although that's what the opponents try to make it out to be. The United States is one of the last countries - one of the last countries in a civilized society that doesn't have a universal health care system. It just makes sense.

DANIEL ZWERDLING: Julia Carson, I know that you love talking policy, policy. It makes your adrenaline go, but I want ask you for a moment just to answer something in a very personal way and not in a political policy way. When you lean back and you fantasize about some moment when you arrive in Congress, what sort of picture do you get in your mind? Where do you see yourself standing? Who are you standing with, you know, that makes you feel in that fantasy, I am now a congresswoman?

Rep. CARSON: You know, if you will allow me to become very personal about this, the thing that I think that's most overwhelming - excuse me - I'm the kind of individual that politicians talk negatively about. I was born to a teenage mother out of wedlock when she had just turned 16 years of age. My mother dropped out of school when she was in the second grade. She lost her own mother when she was only 4 years of age. And for someone like me to be able to walk life's journey into the halls of the United States Congress as an elected member of that body is most overwhelming.

And that's the point that we have to get around to more politicians in this country who are sitting on a throne believing that they're the hierarchy, and that anybody that didn't walk the same road that they'd walked, lived in the same neighborhood that they lived in have no business in society in terms of a contributing way. And that is a point that is very personal to me. And that is why it was hard not to cry because I wish that my mother had been alive to have seen this happen. And my minister assured me that wherever she was, she knew about it and she was proud.

SEABROOK: Indiana Democratic Congresswoman Julia Carson. That was from an interview back in 1996. She died this morning at the age of 69.

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