There are plenty of events that bring together political leaders to celebrate a new opening or initiative. Even as the giant scissors change, they can start to feel a bit similar.
But when U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings stepped up to the mic, he always cut through the routine.
Cummings, who died on Thursday at the age of 68, had gifts as an orator were respected in the halls of the U.S. Capitol. But they were equally on display at local ribbon cuttings. Taking the dais with a sense of gravity, he often started remarks slowly, then summoned passion as the speech went on. He was direct with criticism, but also issued a call to action. Instead of a political plane, he often spoke with moral authority.
In short, he always reminded an audience why they were there.
While Cummings was in the national spotlight for tangling with Trump on impeachment and prescription drugs, he brought a passion for education and economic opportunity to the local events where we’ve covered him. He’s also deeply rooted in the West Baltimore area where he continued to live, as we saw in reporting on events where he talked about his days at the building that is now Green Street Academy and supporting tech training programs.
Below is a look back at some of our favorite quotes from the Congressman over the last five years:
“We can no longer have a city where there are some people on the outside clamoring to get in.”
9/24/15: An event unveiled flashy new renderings of the then-under-construction Open Works makerspace in Station North. For Cummings, the focus was on the jobs it could provide to residents in the area. Three years in, Open Works reported an $8.6 million economic impact, and a diverse membership that’s 60% Baltimore residents.
“Baltimore will do extremely well, but that’s not the question. The question is whether all of Baltimore will rise together, or will we leave some behind?”
9/21/16: A year later at Open Works’ official ribbon cutting, Cummings offered a charge to a group of makers and officials that can serve as a key question for anyone looking to take up an economic development initiative.
“I love Starbucks, but I also want our children to become the doctors and the scientists. I want them to become those who cure disease and bring new life to life.”
11/29/16: A new building at 1812 Ashland Ave. near Johns Hopkins Hospital campus brought a space for the university’s efforts to commercialize the technology that grows out of discoveries made by faculty. Cummings made the point that along with providing pathways to jobs at the coffee shop in the building through a pilot program launched by Starbucks, efforts to connect the community also meant providing access to education that would bring them inside the university in their backyard itself.
“It gives a sense to the world that they are trying to be sure that they’re involved in the inclusion revolution.”
11/12/18: Facebook hosted a multi-day event in Baltimore to provide training for local entrepreneurs. While there was plenty of talk of digital marketing, there was also an aim to help more folks start businesses. Cummings underscored why economic opportunity played a role, and showed his gift for rhyme.
“The innovation coming from student entries always amazes me.”
6/11/18: Inspiring students to learn to code was the mission of the Congressional App Challenge. Cummings offered recognition to the winner from the 7th District each year that his office participated. This year’s winners created a pollution alert app.
Knowledge is power!
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