October 25, 2019

Van Hollen Remarks at Morgan State University Tribute to Elijah Cummings

U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) delivered the following remarks Wednesday at Morgan State University in remembrance of U.S. Representative Elijah E. Cummings. Video of the Senator’s remarks is available here. Senator Van Hollen will also be attending the memorial service today in Baltimore to pay his respects.

“Like so many of you gathered here, like I trust all of you gathered here, I loved Elijah Cummings, who I knew for almost 30 years. He was a mentor. He’s an American hero of our times. I loved the way Elijah used that booming voice in the fight for social justice – always the first one on his feet, whether it was in the Maryland General Assembly or in the United States Congress. I loved Elijah’s deep belief in the promise of America. And his equally deep conviction that it is our responsibility – each and every one of us – to make that promise come true in America.

“I loved Elijah’s embrace of humanity and the respect that he demonstrated for those of opposing views. In fact, the only thing I didn’t love about Elijah – I think has been mentioned here – was speaking after him in the Congressional delegation lineup.

“Elijah was a man of principle. A man of incredible dignity. And a man with a purpose and a mission. This past May, he was asked by a reporter if he had a message for the President of the United States, and here is what he said, ‘I want to send a message that we have one life to live, Mr. President. This is no dress rehearsal. The American people simply want to live their lives without fear of their leaders. And we, as leaders, have a duty and a responsibility to keep our promise to them when we run for office and win – and that is to make their lives better while we are all on this Earth. That’s my message.’ That was Elijah Cummings in May.

“And that is the way Elijah Cummings lived his entire life. Every minute of it. Working to make life better for others – trying to bring people together, to move our community, our city, our state, and our country forward. And he did it with the fierce urgency of now, without a minute to waste.

“I go back to his maiden speech now, in the House of Representatives in 1996 -- there’s a tradition where incoming members of Congress give a speech to the entire House chamber and the guests. And he finished that speech by reciting what he described as ‘a very simple poem that I live by.’ Here is the poem – you may have heard him say it many times. “I only have a minute – 60 seconds in it. Forced upon me, I did not choose it, but I know that I must use it. Give account if I abuse it. Suffer if I lose it. Only a tiny little minute, but eternity is in it.’

“I heard Elijah remind us of that all the time. And that’s how Elijah Cummings lived his life. Every minute counted. Every minute mattered in the fight for justice. Every minute counted in the battle to protect and save our democracies.

“In that maiden speech, back in 1996, Elijah Cummings said, ‘I am looking forward to joining with all of you as we travel this road I often call journeywhich I define as life.’ To Maya, to Elijah’s family, we join you in mourning Elijah’s loss, our state’s loss, our country’s loss, the world’s loss. We join you in that mourning. But we thank God every day for the gift that was the journey, and the life, of Elijah Cummings.”