Madison Cawthorn, the 25-year-old North Carolina Republican vying for a House seat, on Wednesday night told his personal story of the tragic accident that left him paralyzed from the waist down before dramatically rising from his wheelchair to conclude his address.
“This is a time of great adversity for our country," Cawthorn began in a speech at the Republican National Convention. "And I know something about adversity.”
At 18 years old, Cawthorn was left paralyzed from a car accident.
“Instantly, my hopes and dreams were seemingly destroyed," he said. "I was given a one percent chance of surviving."
Cawthorn said it took him a year to recover.
“At 20, I thought about giving up," he said. "However, I knew I could still make a difference. My accident gave me new eyes to see, and new ears to hear. God protected my mind and my ability to speak. At 20, I made a choice. In 2020, our country has a choice. We can give up on the American idea, or we can work together to make our imperfect union more perfect.”
Cawthorn said he was fighting to “seize the high ground,” and that while Democrats want to “dismantle, defund, and destroy,” Republicans under President Trump want to “rebuild, restore and renew.”
Cawthorn defeated Trump’s pick Lynda Bennett in June during the North Carolina primary. Still, Cawthorn at the time said his win wasn’t a rebuke of Trump, and that the president had called him to congratulate him on his victory. Cawthorn said he’d handily defeated his opponent because voters knew he was someone who could “ease this partisan divide” and bring voters together.
Cawthorn in his convention speech said that political forces were working to usher in the “dark digital ages – a time of information without wisdom and tribalism without truth.”
He called to mind the dream of Martin Luther King Jr.-- for all Americans to be judged solely on their character. “National leaders on the left have normalized demagoguery and a radicalized identity politics that rejects MLK’s dream.”
Cawthorn said that Republicans were committed to building a “new town square,” that “welcomes all ideas and people.”
“Here, we will have freedom of speech, not freedom from speech,” Cawthorn said.
He spoke directly to liberals and conservatives.
"Be a true liberal, listen to other ideas and let the best ones prevail,” he continued. “To conservatives, let’s define what we support and win the argument in areas like health care and the environment.”
With the help of two others, Cawthorn then slowly rose out of his wheelchair to conclude his remarks, saying: “I say to Americans who love our country -- young and old -- be a radical for freedom. Be a radical for liberty. Be a radical for our republic.”