Sunday Spotlight: Rep. John Dingell

The Michigan congressman reflects on his career.
4:36 | 06/02/13

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Transcript for Sunday Spotlight: Rep. John Dingell
And today's "sunday spotlight," the man you see in that vintage photo from the congressional page class of 1939, right there. Elected to congress in 1955, taking the seat held by his father. He's been there ever since. And soon, john dingell will make history, becoming the longest-serving member ever on capitol hill. 57 years, 5 months and 26 days. Congressman dingell, congratulations. Thank you, george. It's great to see you again and be back with you. Great to be with you. And, boy. Your brushes with history began so early. When you were a page, back in 1941. You were right there when franklin roosevelt gave that day of infamy speech. I was. I was in the gallery, taking care of a very famous newsman. Who was to wire recorded roosevelt. I let him record not just roosevelt's speech, but the speeches that follows, which he was not supposed to do. And that's a little bit of the history that's been preserved about how people actually felt and how they behaved on the day in the congress. When you got to congress, you cast more than 25,000 votes. When you look at all of them, which one was most important to them? I made a lot of important votes. But I have to tell you, the one that I'm most proud and I think was the most important, was the vote I cast on theivil rights bill, that allowed citizens to vote. The country was being torn apart by the denial to our people the right to vote. And that began a process that cured it. So a black american citizen is now sitting in the white house. That must have been an amazing moment for you to see him sworn after being there to vote for that civil rights bill. It was. It almost cost me a job. How so? Well, there was a very nasty election over it. And people said -- "the wall street journal" gave me a 1 in 15 chance of winning. And I went around and told folks, now, please explain to me why it is that a white man should be able to vote and a black man should not? And the response of my people was fair and decent. And they agreed with me. At the start of the debate, they really didn't. Congress is a dramatically different institution since when you first came in 1955. What's the biggest change? Lack of -- refusal to compromise. An absolute reluctance to work together. And I think the total loss of the understanding of the traditions. When my dad went there, there were two things you could say about a member. One was, he's sincere. That meant he was a good guy. You could trust him. Didn't make a difference whether you agreed with him or not. He was sincere. If they said, he's insincere, that put you behind and beyond the pail. Today, members are so busy getting re-elected, spend so little time there, there's so much pressure on them from outside to be partisan and to fight. Not to do the things that we're supposed to, such as compromising. And compromise has become a dirty word. And this is a great shame. The founding fathers intended some quite different. How do you keep your sense of mission after all this time? Well, you have to love the job. And you have to love the country. And you have to have goals and purposes and hopes. You have to have a closeness with the people. You have to understand what their hopes and dreams and desires are. And I got a pretty wonderful bunch of people in the 12th district of michigan. They're wonderful, decent, hard-working people. And you get inspired just talking to those people. And you served them well for more than half a century. Congressman, congratulations. God bless you. Thank you. Now, we honor our fe americans who serve and sacrifice. This week, the pentagon released the names of two soldiers killed in afghanistan. That's all for us today. Thanks for sharing part of your sunday with us. Check out "world news" with david muir tonight. I'll see you tomorrow on "gma."

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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