President Barack Obama delivered a moving eulogy during the funeral of Rep. Elijah Cummings held at Baltimore’s New Psalmist Baptist Church on Friday (Oct. 25).
According to the Baltimore Sun, Cummings was a faithful member of Psalmist where more than 4,000 mourners, including his family, friends and staff members paid tribute to the late Congressman. Vice President Job Biden, Bill and Hillary, were among the speakers at the ceremony, along with Cummings’ wife, Maya Rockeymoore-Cummings, whom Obama was seating next to in the church’s front row. The guest list also included U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and Sen. Elizabeth Warren.
During the eulogy, the onetime POTUS credited Cummings’ parents with passing on their strength, grit, kindness and faith. Cummings’ upbringing, Obama said, laid the foundation for his dedication to public service.
The Baltimore native was the son of Southern sharecroppers who migrated North in search of a better life. “Elijah Cummings came from good soil. And in this sturdy frame, goodness took root,” noted Obama.
“A son of parents who rose from nothing to carve out just a little something, a public servant who toiled to guarantee the least of us have the same opportunities that he had earned. A leader who once said he would die for his people, even as he lived every minute for them, his life validates the things we tell ourselves about what’s possible in this country. Not guaranteed, but possible,” he continued. “The possibility that our destinies are not preordained. But rather, through our works, and our dedication, and our willingness to open our hearts to God’s message of love for all people, we can live a purposeful life. That we can reap a bountiful harvest. That we are neither sentenced to wither among the rocks nor assured a bounty, but we have a capacity, the chance, as individuals and as a nation, to root ourselves in good soil.
“Elijah understood that. That’s why he fought for justice. That’s why he embraced his beloved community of Baltimore. That’s why he went on to fight for the rights and opportunities of forgotten people all across America, not just in his district.”
Obama revealed that he got “choked up” while Cummings’ daughters, Adia and Jennifer, shared glowing words about their late father, which made him reflect on his own daughters. “I am sure those of you who have sons feel the same way, but there is something about daughters and their fathers,” explained the father of two. “And I was thinking, I would want my daughters to know how much I love them, but I would also want them to know that being a strong man includes being kind. That there is nothing weak about kindness and compassion. There is nothing weak about looking out for others. There is nothing weak about being honorable. You are not a sucker to have integrity and to treat others with respect. I was sitting here and I was just noticing the honorable Elijah E. Cummings and, you know, this is a title that we confer on all kinds of people who get elected to public office. We’re supposed to introduce them as honorable.”
Cummings, a five-term Congressman representing Maryland’s 7th district, was also chairman of the House Oversight Committee, former chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, and the first black lawmaker to lie in state on Capitol Hill. The 68-year-old legislator died on Oct. 17, from complications brought on by “longstanding” health challenges. As noted by his widow, Cummings quietly battled a life-threatening illness for the last 25 years.
Watch Obama’s full eulogy of Cummings in the video below.