Washington, D.C. – October 24, 2019 – Congressman Steny H. Hoyer (MD-05) delivered remarks honoring Chairman Elijah Cummings at the Arrival Ceremony at the U.S. Capitol today. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:
“Much has been said in recent days about our friend Elijah Cummings the man – the kind and gentle soul who, nevertheless, demonstrated a tenacity for justice and a boundless energy to fight for the causes in which he believed.
“Today, as we gather to bid him a final farewell in the U.S. Capitol, we remember Elijah Cummings the Congressman.
“Whenever I welcome freshman Members to the House, I share with them a piece of advice from Edmund Burke, delivered in a campaign address when he ran for the House of Commons in 1774.
“Burke said of the ideal representative: ‘It is his duty to sacrifice his repose, his pleasures, his satisfactions, to theirs; and above all, ever, and in all cases, to prefer their interest to his own. But his unbiased opinion, his mature judgment, his enlightened conscience, he ought not to sacrifice to you, to any man, or to any set of men living. These he does not derive from your pleasure; no, nor from the law and the constitution. They are a trust from providence, for the abuse of which he is deeply answerable.’
“That was at the core of what Elijah Cummings. He believed his job to be here in the House: a trust from providence.
“And he made it his mission not only to honor that trust in his own work serving his constituents and the American people but also to ensure that everyone who serves in public office is held to account for the abuse of that trust. The public trust was, for him, a sacred thing.
“Like the Biblical prophet Elijah, he saw wrongdoing and spent his life working to banish it from our land.
“In much the same way, he saw poverty in Baltimore and elsewhere and worked to alleviate it. He saw injustice and worked to make our country more just. He saw inequality and worked to break down barriers and reduce disparities. At a moment of anger and pain in Baltimore, he walked with the people and brought them comfort and consolation, a calming influence in a sea of rage.
“Elijah Cummings viewed service in this House for what it is: an instrument by which ordinary citizens make our republic better by giving it their love, their labor, and their very best. And, as it was said before and Elijah would repeatedly remind us when we came short of our goals and ideals: ‘we are better than this.’
“That was his answer when confronted with the difference between America’s promise and its reality. And it was his guiding principle as a legislator and as a committee Chairman.
“As we pay our final respects to him in the place he served so well, we remember a servant of the people and an example of the best of this institution.
“Martin Luther King Jr. is clearly welcoming Elijah as a warrior and drum major for justice. A man who lived his faith and pursued its admonitions. A man whose name meant ‘the Lord is my god’ – and who kept faith with god by keeping faith with his fellow men and women here on earth. A man who spent his life and his career helping us be a better House, a better and more beloved community, and a better country.
“May God keep and protect our friend and colleague Elijah Cummings. May his dance with the angels be one of everlasting joy.
“Here on earth, we will miss him. This House will miss him, and America will miss him. But we will rejoice in having had Elijah walk among us as our colleague, our friend, and our example. ‘Well done, good and faithful servant.’”