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Funeral Services for Rep. Elijah Cummings Underway. Aired 12:30-1p ET
Aired October 25, 2019 - 12:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[12:30:00] DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: -- like you haven't seen before. But here's the thing, I don't have teams -- everyone was talking about teams, I'm the team. I did nothing wrong.
JOHN KING, CNN HOST: We'll take you straight from the South Lawn of the White House to Baltimore, Maryland. This is former President Bill Clinton as the funeral of Elijah Cummings.
BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: -- Maya, all the members of the family, and honorees. Bishop, I thank you for many things but especially for the decades of guidance and genuine friendship you gave to Elijah.
It is true that almost exactly 21 years ago, he invited me to New Psalmist on the Sunday before the election. And I remember, you know -- I love that you introduced the staff because we would all be dead without the people that are helping us. But if you are a president, your staff is always trying to tell you why you shouldn't do something or you shouldn't go somewhere. I remember this very well.
It is the Sunday before the election. Why would you go -- I get what you want to go to an African-American church but why would you go to Baltimore? I mean, come on. They were so good to you. They always vote for you. And why would you go for Elijah Cummings? He's been in the House 15 minutes. He literally hadn't finished one term yet.
I said, I have just got a feeling this is something we ought to do, and if we do it, we will know whether it was right or not. And so the bishop rolls out the red carpet. Thousands of people were there. And you may remember we got in some trouble, didn't we? We got in some trouble. People criticized us for having "get out the vote" event in a church, they said it was inappropriate. And as I remember, Elijah reminded people that our constitutional rights including the freedom of religion, the freedom of assembly, the freedom of speech depended on people giving voice to them in elections, in the debate. Then, I got to listen to Elijah talk that day. You talk about a lousy deal, it was -- I had to follow both the bishop and Elijah Cummings. And at least I am getting in ahead of you and President Obama today, I'm just so -- I'm just -- in my old age, I'm the (INAUDIBLE), I'm glad to do it.
Anyway, Elijah was great. And he ended with his quiet and reasoned and rhythmic voice growing into his booming voice, by quoting that wonderful verse from the 40th chapter of Isaiah, saying "Wait upon the Lord and will have their strength renewed. They will mount up with wings as eagles. They will run and not grow weary, they will walk and faint not." And he kept going more and more. The crowd was going crazy.
Over the course of these last few days, I have had the chance to think a lot about Elijah's life. He really did sort of mirror Isaiah. He had one of the greatest one-liners in the history of human affairs. When the Lord asked whom shall I send and who will go for me, Isaiah said, here am I, Lord. Send me. Elijah Cummings spent a whole life saying send me. An entire lifetime.
[12:35:02] He was not even a teenager when he hauled down to the swimming pool to integrate it, and for his trouble gets banged on the head with a glass bottle, leaving him a lifetime scar which he bore with honor. And then the people of Baltimore sent him to Annapolis, and then you sent him to Washington. On behalf of the rest of the nation, I would like to thank you. You did a good thing.
And I was looking over all the things that he worked on, just in the four years we were together. He was elected the year I was re- elected, 1996. He had this amazing array of interests. But we all know now that at least until certain things happened, his legacy is how ardently he honored his oath to protect and defend the constitution of the United States.
I think he did it for a lot of reasons. He loved the fact that his parents' humble lives made his a great American story, and he loved that it confirmed his faith. But he knew that without the constitution, the laws that were passed under it, the rights that were guaranteed by it, and the abuses it was designed to prevent, without that constitution, he would not have been in Congress. And so he said to himself, I am certain every day I will not let this promise be sullied. And he did his best.
And while doing his best and fighting his heart out, sticking up for Hillary and lots of other people, many of whom were voiceless and weak and will never be known, while doing all that, he actually made, in one of the most turbulent periods of our country's history, a lot of Republican friends. Why did he do that? How did he do that? I think he did it because everybody could see he was the real deal. He believed his heart was in it. And I think he did it because no matter how hard he fought and how passionately he argued, he tried to treat everybody the way he wanted to be treated, the way he thought Americans should be treated.
You know, you can't run a free society if you have to hate everybody you disagree with. I mean, sooner or later, if you've been married 45 years and both of you are thinking, you are going to have a disagreement or two. Sooner or later, if you're in a business or a team or in a campaign and you are thinking, you're going to have disagreements.
He believed that he should treat people the way he wanted to be treated. And he believed if everybody accepted his broad, enduring, and inclusive definition of one America where we respect our differences and think what we have in common matters more, and we all live under the same set of rules, and we all believe that under those rules those of us who have more than we need should do more to help those who do not have enough, then everything would work out OK. Now, that's what he believed. And being friends -- he was so proud that he could help resolve the personal spat between his Republican congressional friend and a new member of the Democratic caucus. But he believed.
[12:40:06] So here is what I want to leave you with. Elijah spent his working life in the tradition of Isaiah. He went again and again and again. But I think in his lasting legacy to us, we should think again about the prophet Elijah for this reason. He was about to be killed for his ardent promotion of his faith. He hid in a cave either within or next to Mount Sinai. He received a message from God to go up and stand on top of the mountain, and wait for the voice of God to speak to him. He had already had a pretty hard time. Just like at the end of Elijah's life, he's already had a pretty hard time. You got to go through this too.
So there is Elijah standing on the mountain, and a huge wind came, so strong it broke the rocks of the mountain, but the Lord was not in the wind. Then an earthquake came shaking everything, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. Then the fire came, but the Lord was not in the fire. And then, what does the scripture say? A still, small voice.
Elijah by this point had gotten rid of all the pomp, all the circumstance, all the glory. But still, small voice. I love this man. I loved every minute I ever spent with him, every conversation we ever had. I loved his booming voice. But we should hear him now in the quiet times at night and in the morning when we need courage, when we get discouraged and we don't know if we can believe anymore, we should hear him.
Let our Elijah be for us what he himself heard, a still, small voice that keeps us going, keeps us grateful, keeps us happy, and keeps us moving. Thank you and God bless you.
BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: To the bishop and first lady and the New Psalmist family, to the Cummings family, Maya, Mr. President, Madam Secretary, Madam Speaker, Governor, friends, colleagues, staff. The seeds of the good sower.
[12:45:00] The Parable of the Sower tells us stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop. The seed on the good sower. Elijah Cummings came from good sower, and in this sturdy frame, goodness took root. His parents were sharecroppers from the south. They picked tobacco and strawberries and then sought something better in this city, South Baltimore. And Robert worked shifts at a plant and Ruth cleaned other people's homes. They became parents of seven, preachers to a small flock.
I remember I had the pleasure of meeting Elijah's mother, Ruth, and she told me she prayed for me every day, and I knew it was true. And I felt better for it. Sometimes people say they're praying for you, and you don't know. They might be praying about you but you don't know if they're praying for you. But I knew Ms. Ruth was telling the truth. So they were the proverbial salt of the earth and they passed on that strength and that grit but also that kindness and that faith to their son.
As a boy, Elijah's dad made him shine his shoes and tie his tie, and they'd go to the airport not to board airplanes but to watch others do it. And I remember Elijah telling me this story. Robert would say, I have not flied, I may not fly but you will fly one day. We can't afford it right now but you will fly. His grandmother, as Elijah relayed it, and as grandmothers do, was a little more impatient with her advice. Your daddy, she said, he'd been waiting and waiting and waiting for a better day, don't you wait. Elijah did not wait.
Against all odds, Elijah earned his degrees. He learned about the rights that all people in this country are supposed to possess. With a little help, apparently, from Perry Mason, Elijah became a lawyer to make sure that others had rights, and his people had their God-given rights. And from the State House to the House of Representatives, his commitment to justice and the rights of others would never ever waiver.
Elijah's example, the son of parents who rose from nothing to carve out just a little something. The public servant who toiled to guarantee the least of us have the same opportunities that he had earned. A leader who once said he'd die for his people even as he lived every minute for them.
[12:50:06] His life validates the things we tell ourselves about what's possible in this country. Not guaranteed, but possible. The possibility that our destinies are not pre-ordained, 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 about a full harvest. That we are neither sentenced to wither among the rocks nor assured a bounty, but we had the 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 this 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. He was never complacent for he knew that without clarity of purpose and a steadfast faith and the dogged determination demanded by our liberty, the promise of this nation can wither. Complacency, he knew was not only corrosive for our collective lives but for our individual lives.
It's been remarked that Elijah was a kind man. I tell my daughters, and I have to say listening to Elijah's daughter speak, that got me choked up. I'm sure those of you who have sons feel the same way, but there's something about daughters and their father. And I was thinking I'd want my daughters to know how much I love them, but I'd also want them to know that being a strong man includes being kind. That there's nothing weak about kindness and compassion. There's nothing weak about looking out for others. There's nothing weak about being honorable. You're 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, but Elijah Cummings was honorable before he was elected office. There's a difference. There's a difference if you were honorable and treated others honorably outside the limelight, on the side of a road, in a quiet moment counseling somebody you work with, and letting your daughters know you love them.
[12:55:19] You know, as president, I knew I could always count on Elijah being honorable and doing the right thing. And people have talked about his voice. There is something about his voice that just made you feel better. You know, there's some people that we have a deep baritone, a prophetic voice. And when it was good times, and we achieved victories together, that voice and that laugh was a gift. But you needed it more during the tough times. When the path ahead looked crooked, when obstacles abounded. When I entertained doubts or I saw those who were in the fight start to waiver, that's when Elijah's voice mattered most.
And more than once during my presidency when the economy still looked like it might plunge into depression. When the healthcare bill was pronounced dead in Congress, I would watch Elijah rally his colleagues. The cost of doing nothing isn't nothing he would say. And folks would remember why they entered into public service.
Our children are the living messengers we send to a future we will never see, he would say, and he would remind all of us that our time is too short not to fight for what's good and what is true and what is best in America. Two hundred years to 300 years from now he would say people will look back at this moment and they will ask the question, what did you do. And hearing him, we would be reminded that it falls upon each of us to give voice to the voiceless and comfort to the sick and opportunity to those not born to it and to preserve and nurture our democracy.
Elijah Cummings was a man of noble and good heart. His parents and his faith planted the seeds of hope and love and compassion and the righteousness and that good soil of his. He has harvested all the crop that he could for the Lord has now called Elijah home to give His humble, faithful servant rest.
And it now falls on us to continue his work so that other young boys and girls in Baltimore, across Maryland, across the United States, and around the world, might, too, have a chance to grow and to flourish. That's how we will honor him. That's how we will remember him. That's what he would hope for.
May God bless the memory of the very honorable Elijah Cummings, and may God bless this city and this state and this nation that he loved. God bless you. Thank you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For just about 40 years, Congressman Elijah Cummings was an active member of the New Psalmist Baptist Church. Each and every Sunday morning, his faith was strengthened and enriched through the preaching ministry of Bishop Walter Scott Thomas Sr. whom he not only could pastor but also a friend.
After the choir has lifted --