Pelosi Floor Speech on the Passing of Chairman Elijah Cummings

October 17, 2019
Press Release

Washington, D.C. – Speaker Nancy Pelosi delivered remarks on the Floor of the House of Representatives on the passing of Chairman Elijah Cummings of Maryland, before the House observed a moment of silence.  Below are the Speaker’s remarks:

Speaker Pelosi.  Thank you very much.  Very disconcerting day for so many of us here.  

Thank you, Mr. Hoyer, for bringing us together to mourn the loss of our dear friend and colleague, Elijah Cummings.  Thank you for your beautiful statement calling forth so many of the beautiful attributes of Elijah Cummings.

As you spoke, I was reminded of how he always was a calmer, calming of the waters.  No matter how rough and tumble things would be, he would always just calm the waters.  Reach out, if it was across the aisle or across the issue, across the Capitol or down Pennsylvania Avenue.  

He – I know that the people of Baltimore, and the U.S. Congress, and America have lost a voice of unsurpassed moral clarity and truth, our beloved Mr. Chairman, Elijah Cummings.  

I’m personally devastated by his passing, as I know many of us are and we have the flowers in his place where he sat, where we all sought counsel, learned more, were calmed down, were lifted up by the wisdom and the graciousness and the goodness of Elijah Cummings.  

In the House, Elijah was a North Star.  He was a leader of towering character and integrity whose stirring voice and steadfast values pushed the Congress and country to give rise to a higher purpose of why are we here.  His principled leadership as the Chair of the Committee on Oversight and Reform was the perfect testament to his commitment to restoring honesty and honor to government and leaves a powerful legacy for years to come.

As a senior member of the – now, people think of him as that Chairman, but meaning so much to him was his role as a member, senior member of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.  He was always fighting for his district, for his state of Maryland and for the country. He was a powerful voice for building the infrastructure of America and for creating good-paying jobs.  The working class guy, in terms of who he was here to serve.

I was very proud of him as a Member of the U.S. Naval Academy Board of Visitors.  He took great pride in the Naval Academy, his role on the Board and Maryland's role in our national security.  I know we have some Naval Academy grads here and that was a source of great pride.  To me, he said, ‘You’ve taken me to a new level of decision-making in terms of national security.’

Chairman Cummings’s story was the story of America.  A sharecropper's son who was dedicated – who dedicated his life to advancing justice, respecting human dignity – as you say – and ending discrimination.  He believed in the promise of America because he had lived it and he dedicated his life to advancing those values that safeguard our republic: justice, equality, liberty and fairness.

As Mr. Hoyer said, our distinguished Leader said earlier, we were always listening to Elijah and these flowers remind me of it, because of growth and renewal that are there.  He said, ‘Children are the living messengers we send to the future, a future we will never see.’  But, he also wanted to build a future that was worthy of the aspirations of our children.  He always wanted to make sure that they took with them the values, the values which nurtured him and that he was promoting in his public – in his public service.

Earlier this year, Chairman Cummings, he asked us, ‘When we are dancing with the angels, the question will be: what did we do to make sure that we kept our democracy intact?’

He's now with the angels.  Out of pain.  

Maya said this morning, he fought the fight right up until the end.  Those of us who communicated with him, I didn't know it was this close.  I thought he was coming back in a few weeks.  

But our Members, I want to say to my Republican colleagues, we had a conference call on Friday, this past Friday, not a full week ago, which Elijah, as always, passionate about what he believed in, dispassionate in how he conveyed a plan for how we would go forward with fairness, justice, dignity, worthy of the oath of office that we take to the Constitution, worthy of the vision of our Founders in establishing this institution and worthy of the aspirations of our children.  His words, messengers to a future we will never see.  

His leadership made a difference in strengthening our democracy.  Again, during difficult times, let us draw strength from his righteous words that the Leader has been reminding us all day.  We are better than this.  We are better than this.  

In the Congress, we'll miss his wisdom, his dignity, the brilliance of his mind, the kindness of his heart, the friendship that meant so much to us and that we could all call upon.  

In Baltimore, we will miss him as a champion.

May it be comfort to his wife, Maya, whom I convey the good wishes of the Congress – to whom I have conveyed the good wishes of the Congress this morning – may it be a comfort to Maya, his three children and Chairman Cummings's entire family, and I want to add to that his dedicated and devoted staff in every capacity, as a Member, as a Chairman, as a Member of the Committee, whom he just treated with such fairness and respect to his staff – may it be a comfort to them all, that so many mourn their loss and are praying for them at this sad time.  And may he always be inside of our hearts as we make decisions about our responsibilities and how we will be accountable when we are dancing with the angels.

God bless you, darling Elijah.  We all love you.  We miss you.  But we'll never forget you and your legacy will live in the Congress of the United States, in this House of Representatives.

Pleased to yield back, sadly.