Last Friday, I, along with leaders, icons, and dignitaries from around the nation gathered at The New Psalmist Baptist Church in Baltimore to say our final goodbyes to our fraternity brother and friend, the honorable Elijah Eugene Cummings, U.S. Representative of Maryland.
A lot of things have been on my mind over this past week; I’ve been thinking about the importance of leadership, having lost congressman Cummings. More specifically, I’ve been thinking about the void of leadership in the government and in the Congress, and in society. There is a need for people who can lead to step up and be leaders and not be afraid and not be consumed with their own personal ambitions; people who can look instead to what is the greater good for the community and the country. If more people did that, we would get better leaders, simple as that.
As I sat with my thoughts over the last week, two aspects of the funeral proceedings really resonated and helped to make sense of some of my thoughts and confirm my sentiments around a need for change; for a step back from the status quo and a reevaluation of where we are as a country and where we want to be. It’s amazing; even in death Rep. Cummings continues to inspire.
If you’re wondering why Representative Cummings’ service took place at (the church), as opposed to the Capital, Civic Center, or some other large venue, I can assure you it was no coincidence.
As Bishop Walter Scott Thomas brilliantly articulated in his moving eulogy of Congressman Cummings, while the church was in fact the one that Congressman Cummings regularly attended, there existed another, and more powerful reason why he insisted on his going home service to be held at his church. Congressman Cummings knew that his funeral would attract the power-brokers of our time. In attendance, there were two former United States Presidents, the Speaker of the House, almost the entire Congress, Governors, Mayors, business leaders, etc.; all of these powerful people came to say farewell at his going home service.
Even in death, Congressmen Cummings sought to use the gathering of all of these people in great power to take a moment to remind them of their roots and their ultimate mortality. A grim reminder that our days on this earth are short so we had better be about the business of making an impact on humanity. All of them, most of them, started just like him; from humble beginnings but now they’re in positions of power and authority. Perhaps the Congressman Cummings was using his last service on this side of eternity to remind these powerful people of the old biblical adage, “to whom much is given, much is required!”
For Rep. Cummings funeral, powerful leaders came together to hear a single message. President Clinton said it best when he drew the comparison between Congressman Elijah Cummings and Elijah from the Bible. Biblically, Elijah was known because he carried a message from God that people were not doing right and needed to do better. In parallel, Congressman Cummings had a similar purpose to remind leaders of our country: you’re not doing right, you’re not being the best that you can be, and you will be held accountable.
Though he may be gone from this earthly and resting peacefully until Christ calls him from the grave, Rep Cummings lives on inside each of us who are committed to carrying his torch; the torch for liberty, equality, and a better America for ALL.
I hope you’ll join me in my commitment to keeping his legacy alive by living a life of service in the name of a better tomorrow.
Rest in Peace Congressman Elijah Cummings