Former President Barack Obama delivered a stirring eulogy at the funeral for Rep. Elijah Cummings on Friday, remembering the 12-term Maryland Democrat in Congress and native son of Baltimore as a dedicated public servant with a “noble and good heart” whose “commitment to justice and the rights of others would never, ever waver.”
“His life validates the things we tell ourselves about what is possible in this country,” the former president added.
Obama spoke late in the program, and his speech marked one of the most anticipated moments of a homegoing service that included statements from several high-profile politicians and civil rights figures including former US senator and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Rep. Marcia Fudge, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, and former Congress member and NAACP president Kweisi Mfume. Obama was one of two former presidents to speak at the service; former President Bill Clinton spoke before him.
During a memorial service that served as both a celebration of Cummings’s life and a reminder of the tremendous power and influence the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee chair wielded over two decades in federal politics, the 44th president called for people to remember Cummings’s commitment to people.
“It now falls on us to continue his work,” Obama said, so that other children “might too have a chance to grow and to flourish. That’s how we will honor him.”
The connection between Obama and Cummings developed early, and the Maryland congressman was an early supporter of Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign. “President Obama, he was so proud,” Maya Rockeymoore Cummings, the Congress member’s widow, said during the service. “To stand with you and for you early, to be your co-chair here in the state of Maryland, to serve as your chief defense attorney on the House Oversight Committee, and to make sure that you and your administration were all right.”
At one point in his remarks, Obama paused to note that Cummings’s role as a US Congress member had added a fitting title to his name — the word “honorable.”
“This is a title that we confer on all kinds of people who get elected to public office,” Obama said. “We are supposed to introduce them as honorable.”
“But Elijah Cummings was honorable before he was elected to office,” he noted. “There’s a difference.”
The former president had previously issued a powerful statement about Cummings’s life on October 17, saying that the Congress member “stood tallest and most resolute when our country needed him most.”