Decent: A word rarely heard
Dr. E. Faye Williams
Decent is a word we rarely hear—especially in Washington, D. C., but in the past few days, it was used frequently when describing the late Congressman Elijah Cummings.
On a personal note, remembering how many people abroad treated Americans who lived in or traveled to their countries after the first U.S. led attack on Iraq, I’ve chosen not to travel abroad until someone is elected to lead our nation who shows some sense of decency like Cummings. News about how our country is run since President Barack Obama left office is nothing of which any American can be proud—but this past week, we can take pride in the descriptions by many of Congressman Cummings.
We’ve had a slight pause in the meanness of spirit we hear daily. Though the word decent is rarely heard in Washington, this week has been a bit different when Congressman Cummings died. His death brought out the better angels of Members of Congress as he became the first African American to lie in State at the U.S. Capitol. Positive statements came from Democrats and Republicans when asked to comment on Cummings. He was described by many as a decent man, a uniter, a North Star, a good man, kind, a warrior for causes he cared about, an advocate for the people and our democracy. No one argued with those descriptions. We learned that he had 12 honorary doctorates and graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Howard University. He was respected by many who differed from him politically. He was held in high esteem.
Various groups held memorials to this man and what he represented to them. Everyone who knew him seems to have thought they had a special relationship with him! I think that demonstrates there is more to life than politics, and it was certainly true for Congressman Cummings. He was admired by many, and his loyalty to truth and justice for all is unquestioned.
We’ll miss his strong voice when others are silent or argue over trivial matters. Rep. Matt Gaetz is one of those exceptions to being civil as service for Rep. Cummings was in progress. MSNBC host, Hallie Jackson, was interviewing him. He talked all over her and talked about crazy stuff in an effort to shut her up so he could use his Republican talking points. Rep. Dan Kildee, who had spoken just before Gaetz, spoke of his special relationship with Rep. Cummings, jokingly saying he learned everybody had a special relationship with him!
It’s so refreshing to learn of all the good things Rep. Cummings stood for, not just talking about them, but doing something about them. Listening to Cummings’ good works from so many, I was reminded of Fannie Lou Hamer’s words when she said, “You can pray until you faint, but nothing will happen until you get up and do something.” From all the comments of who Rep. Cummings was, it’s obvious he often got up to do something!
Rep. Mark Meadows is said to have shared a special bond with Cummings, saying he mentored, had a youth program, helped other elected leaders and many others to achieve their dreams. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver delivered an awesome prayer about the lessons we’ve learned from him. Speaker Nancy Pelosi said he’d made a request to give him more freshman Members so he could help them achieve their dreams. Sen. Mitch McConnell said he encouraged unity and peace. Sen. Ben Cardin read from 2nd Timothy, “I have fought a good fight. I have finished my course. I have kept the faith.” Sen. Chuck Schumer said his voice could shake mountains and that we have lost a giant. I agree.
(Dr. E. Faye Williams is President of the National Congress of Black Women and host of “Wake Up and Stay Woke” on WPFW-FM 89.3. www.nationalcongressbw.org)