Here are remarks as prepared for delivery by Congressman Elijah E. Cummings at the 2016 Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, PA:
Madam Chair, Honored Delegates, and my fellow Democrats, I stand before you today, not as a Congressman from Baltimore but as the son of former sharecroppers, whose parents started on a farm in the lowlands of South Carolina with no running water and no toilet, but who believed in education and taught their children the value of helping others.
My father, the late Robert Cummings, a man who left school after the fourth grade, was one of the smartest people I’ve ever known. He’d say, “Son, the test of a man is not how much he helps himself. The true test is whether he helps those less fortunate. You go to school to get blessed, so that you can bless.”
That is the standard by which he measured me growing up, it’s the standard by which I still measure myself, and it’s the standard we Democrats use today.
I stand before you because my parents saw promise in their children, but my parents did not do it alone; no one does it alone. It was our Democratic Party that pushed open the Doors of Opportunity for me, and for millions of children all across the country.
It was our party that fought for Head Start and good schools, and made college affordable, and championed Affirmative Action and school desegregation, that passed Social Security and Medicare, that defended our nation abroad and fought for our veterans back home, that protected the rights, and pensions of our workers, and that made the dream of homeownership possible for millions of American families.
It was – and still is – Our Democratic Party that championed civil rights and voting rights. It’s we Democrats who understand that when you take away a person’s right to vote, you take away their ability to shape and determine their own destiny.
And it was – and still is – Our Democratic Party that fights for women’s rights, gay marriage and LGBTQ rights. That does not just believe, but understands, that Black Lives Matter. That recognizes that our communities and our law enforcement work best when we work together.
That knows that our diversity is not our problem, but our promise. And that’s why ours is the party of unity, not division.
I am proud that our party’s platform will help not the wealthy, not the top 1 percent, but instead it will help our struggling middle class, our working families, the disadvantaged and the disabled. It will help the less fortunate.
Our platform has passed my father’s test. And it has done so, not by seeking common ground, but by aspiring to Higher Ground. It envisions a nation where we do not merely increase the minimum wage, but we enact a Living Wage.
It envisions a nation in which we eliminate the death penalty, because as Democrats we value every life, black, white, Asian, Latino… every life.
It envisions a nation where we do not have to choose between protecting the environment and creating jobs, but where we can defend our planet against global warming while, at the same time, enacting policies that foster job creation, incentivize new start-ups, and bring expatriated jobs back home.
It envisions a nation where every child can get a first-rate education and leave school equipped to compete in a global economy.
It envisions an America in which we protect a woman’s right to choose; where everyone can get the health care they need when they need it, regardless of their zip code or circumstance.
Because health care in our country is not a privilege; it is now, thanks to President Obama, our right as Americans.
Madam Chair, when I say my prayers and I look to the heavens, I see the stars. And sometimes, I see my father. I know: tonight he’s smiling down on all of us, and he—like me—is proud. Proud of our Platform Drafting Committee, our truly progressive platform, our great nominee, Hillary Clinton, and our party’s bright future.
And if my father—that brilliant man with a fourth-grade education but a mind full of wisdom and common sense—were standing here tonight, I know he would be proud of all of you.
And he would say. “You are blessed, so you can bless others. Don’t stop!”
God bless each of you, and may God bless America.