Pelosi Remarks at Funeral of Chairman Elijah E. Cummings
Baltimore – Speaker Pelosi delivered a eulogy at the funeral of Chairman Elijah E. Cummings. Below are the Speaker’s remarks:
Speaker Pelosi: Good morning, Baltimore.
Thank you, Bishop Thomas, for bringing us under these beautiful auspices to pay tribute to our darling, precious Elijah.
Mr. President, Mr. President, Mr. Vice President.
Madam Secretary, Archbishop Lori, Bishop, members of the Clergy, distinguished guests who are all here for our darling Elijah.
As Speaker of the House, I have the sad honor and personal privilege to bring the condolences of the entire Congress of the United States to Maya, the Cummings family, the people and constituents of Elijah’s district, the people of Baltimore, to our entire country. I say that with great authority because yesterday, my friends and those of you who loved Elijah, yesterday, Maya gave us the privilege of having a celebration of Elijah’s life in the Capitol of the United States.
The first African American lawmaker ever to serve in repose, lie in repose in the Capitol of the United States.
It was so beautiful and as has been referenced, Elijah brought people together in life of different parties and, in his death, of different parties. And that’s why I am so pleased that yesterday’s service was very bipartisan. In fact, it took bipartisan agreement for Elijah to lie in repose on the same catafalque that Abraham Lincoln lay in repose. In the Capitol.
And so today we have a very strong bipartisan [showing] of Elijah’s colleagues from the House of Representatives, led by our Chair of the Black Caucus, Karen Bass, our Leader, Steny Hoyer, John Lewis, Marcia, who got the nod, and I am happy to get it as well, and so many of our Members of the House, in a bipartisan fashion. Please rise to be recognized. And their families and their staff. Elijah’s staff. John Lewis, where are you? John Lewis.
And we had a strong representation from the United States Senate, in a bipartisan way yesterday. Today also, led by Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen, bringing so many senators here today.
Bishop Thomas, how brilliant was it of Elijah’s parents to name him Elijah? As the Secretary said, ‘The Lord – God is my Lord.’ And, as we know form the Old Testament, there is a tradition to leave a seat at the table for Elijah, who might show up. But our Elijah always made a seat at the table for others.
He made a seat at the table for children who needed an education. For even new Members of Congress, so that he could mentor them. For all that wanted to be part of the American Dream. Elijah himself personally lived the American Dream, and he wanted everyone else to have that opportunity, hence many seats at the table.
How fortunate for our country that his parents also taught him to live up to his name. How blessed are we all to know him and to benefit from his friendship and his leadership.
Elijah was a proud man: proud of his heritage, proud of Baltimore –
– and proud of America. He always appealed to our better angels and to the promise of America, calling us to live up to our principles and for a higher purpose.
As he said, and this is so – all the words that we will use that are the best words are words that Elijah used. When he was – when we were not meeting the needs of children in our country, he said, ‘We are better than this.’
He held himself to a high standard and that is why I have called him ‘the North Star of Congress,’ our guiding light.
Thank you, Maya, for giving me this opportunity to speak at the Baltimore celebration, as well as yesterday, of Elijah’s life.
Previously, I have seen some of you over time. Speaking as Speaker of the House before at St. James Episcopal Church, to speak at the funeral service for Congressman Parren Mitchell: a sad and proud day for the Baltimore community and our country that day. Paying tribute to Parren was both an official and a personal honor. My D’Alesandro family and the Mitchell family had been friends for generations.
Now, is it my great honor and sadness to join you at the New Psalmist Baptist Church – Elijah’s church – to celebrate Elijah’s life.
As I said yesterday, Members of Congress said goodbye to Elijah. Maya gave us the honor of holding that official service in the Statuary Hall of the House. At the time, I said that it was appropriate because Elijah was master of – master of the House.
In his Chairmanship on the Committee of Oversight and Reform, he lived up to his responsibilities to hold the Federal government accountable to the laws of the land.
One word I would use to describe Elijah over and over again is the word future. He was there to make the future for our children, who he called, as has been said, ‘Our living messengers to a future we will never see.’ But, he wanted for those children to have a future worthy of their aspirations, and he wanted them to have a future built on our values – continue to be built on our values.
As the master of the House, he was also the mentor of the House. Was anybody in here being mentored by Elijah Cummings? I think so.
He – it was no surprise that when we won the Congress, Elijah said, ‘Send me as many Freshmen as you can, because I want to help them to be oriented for them to reach their fullest potential in the House of Representatives.’ So wonderful that he did that, and all Members, whether new or not, benefited from the generosity of his spirit. Sometimes, the candor of how we do our work, whether we asked it or not, the candor was there.
And, again, it is an honor to share some of these thoughts about our dear Elijah.
Elijah loved Baltimore and his district. He was my Baltimore brother in Congress. We had chats about Baltimore all the time. He loved and respected his constituents.
By example, he gave people hope. By his courage, he fought for what was right. By his brilliance, knowledge and legal prowess, he made a difference in so many ways, fighting for gun violence prevention, expanding opportunity for everyone.
Recognizing – now this was most recent – recognizing the cost of prescription drugs hurt the health and economic well-being of America's working families, he was willing to work across the aisle, even across the Capitol, even down Pennsylvania Avenue. So, it should be a source of pride to all of us who loved Elijah, that the Committee Chairmen immediately named H.R. 3, the Lower Drug Costs Now Act the Elijah E. Cummings Lower Drug Costs Now Act.
Baltimore – our Baltimore connection gave me special entree into Elijah's thinking, which helped me as Speaker. Our love of the Orioles and the Ravens made it fun. Thank you, Baltimore, for your contribution to the greatness of the United States of America.
When I spoke on Wednesday at my brother’s service, I acknowledged that we would be honoring Elijah today. We lost two great leaders in one week in Baltimore.
One thing that Elijah – one of the things that Elijah, my brother Tommy and I, being from Baltimore, and I, representing San Francisco, had in common was the pride we took in Baltimore, our Baltimore. Another thing Tommy, Elijah, and I, in representing San Francisco, had in common: that our hearts are full of love for America. I used to tell them in San Francisco, to us, love means letting other versions exist, and that’s exactly what Elijah did: respecting the views of others, reaching across the aisle, building community and consensus.
Thank you, Maya, thank you to the children and to your entire family for sharing Elijah with us and for loving him so much. You were the source of his strength and inspiration. I hope it is a comfort to you that so many people mourn your sad loss and are praying for you at this sad time.
As we always pray for God to bless America, let us acknowledge that God truly blessed America with the life and legacy of Elijah E. Cummings, mentor, master of the House, North Star, Mr. Chairman, master of the House, may he rest in peace. Elijah Cummings.
Thank you all very much.