He's an 18-term congressman representing New York's 15th District, whose success story has inspired many. Gayle talks to Congressman Charles B. Rangel about his life—from the streets of Harlem to the halls of Congress—which he recounts in his memoir, And I Haven't Had a Bad Day Since.
As a boy, Charles says he lived a rough-and-tumble life in New York City's Harlem neighborhood. Charles's father left the family when he was 6 years old, and as a teen, he had frequent encounters with the police. Although he says he didn't lack self-confidence, Charles says he never imagined he would one day become one of the highest-ranking Democrats in the House of Representatives. "[My goal] was, 'I'm getting out of poverty, I'm getting out of this block, I'm going to do better,'" he says. "But it never was wild dreams."
Charles dropped out of high school, joined the army and went to serve in the Korean War in June 1950. After being severely wounded and receiving a Purple Heart for his service, Charles says he decided to pursue a life of meaning and substance. "Then I knew that I had a special obligation—how could I complain about anything in life knowing how close I was to death?" he says.
The attitude he adopted after nearly dying in battle served Charles well when he returned home. He finished high school, went to college and earned a degree in law. Despite his less-than-ideal childhood, or the tough climb to the top of his career, Charles says he is living proof that you should always dream big. "Sometimes it's not whether you make it—it's your attitude in believing you can make it," he says.