Elijah Cummings Portrait Unveiling at Henderson-Hopkins

Remarks by President Ronald J. Daniels
Elijah Cummings Portrait Unveiling at Henderson-Hopkins

Thank you, Principal Kannam and hello, Henderson-Hopkins students!

I am so thrilled to be here with you and our friends Delegate Stephanie Smith, Dr. Maya Rockeymoore Cummings, and Baltimore’s own Christopher Batten, the artist who painted this beautiful portrait, to celebrate the life and impact of a dear friend of Baltimore, Elijah Cummings.

As you’ve heard, Elijah was a congressman, a champion for civil rights, a great lover of our city, and a believer in all the people who call it home.

I knew him as all those things. But I also knew him as an extraordinary teacher. Not a school teacher like your Ms. Moore, but a teacher in a different sense.

Throughout his life, Elijah taught people how to see the world differently and how to make lasting changes in their communities. He taught people to believe in their own worth and potential. He showed us all that no act of kindness or bravery was too small to make a difference.

And he did this not only through his words, but through his actions. Whether he was fighting as a boy alongside his friends for their right to swim in a pool that discriminated against people because of the color of their skin, or as a grown man walking the streets of West Baltimore calling for peace in times of upheaval, he taught everyone he encountered how to make change with grace and fortitude.

And even though it has been a minute since I was in school, I, too, was one of Elijah’s most devoted students.

From the moment I first came to Baltimore, he taught me what it meant to be truly of, and not just in, this city. He encouraged me to think of all the ways we could make our city – and our world – a healthier and safer place to live, work, and study; how we could work together to create jobs and opportunity for all Baltimoreans; and how we could encourage our students – at Johns Hopkins or Henderson-Hopkins – to follow their passions and see them come to fruition.

He gave me plenty of homework, too!

And if he felt I had not done my best on the assignment, he didn’t hesitate to call me out—sometimes in front of the entire class!

But like any great teacher, Elijah was simply holding the rest of us to the same standards to which he held himself. By his example, he was always teaching us to try harder, to dream bigger, and to never lose sight of our wildest ambitions.

Above all, Elijah believed in you—our young people—and the power within each of you to become the leaders our world needs. In you, he saw the path to a brighter future ahead.

The portrait you’re going to see and discuss today embodies those qualities that made Elijah such a giant in our city and in our country.

I am so excited to see the masterpieces you create with Ms. Moore and Christopher Batten, and we cannot wait to display them all at Hopkins when you are done!

Along the way, I hope you’ll enjoy learning a bit more about Congressman Cummings.

And there is no one better to share more about his remarkable life and leadership than his wife and partner, Dr. Maya Rockeymoore Cummings. A public servant and policy expert who shares Congressman Cummings’ belief in the power of people and institutions to build a better world.

Dr. Rockeymoore Cummings, I’ll turn things over to you.