I served with Elijah in the Maryland House of Delegates for two years before he became a congressman. In 1996, I was a white, middle-aged woman freshman from a rural district and Elijah proved that he is not a racist, but a decent human being who cares for all he works with and for.
One early morning in the midst of his unexpected bid for Congress, Elijah approached me in the House Office Building surrounded by a crowd of campaign people all demanding his attention. He was on his way to a committee meeting where he still had his vice chair responsibilities. He looked exhausted. I remember thinking the crowd was sucking the air from around him. As we passed, he nodded.
A few seconds passed when I heard, “Delegate!” As I turned, he had stopped and said, “We are going to pass your bill out of committee today! Good job!” He was true to his word. The bill passed that day, a huge victory for a freshman Western Maryland legislator.
The importance here is not the bill but how it reflects on Elijah the person, the leader and the statesman. Elijah wasn’t going to get any votes or special recognition from making sure that bill passed. But he felt it was his responsibility — even as he was leaving the Maryland House. It is a lesson in leadership and I think about it each time I see him fighting for his all his constituents whether they live in his congressional district or in Florida where I now live.
I heard recently that it is not always what your enemies say, but the silence of your friends that speaks volumes. Hear me shout that I know Elijah Cummings is not a racist! He is a great leader and I am so glad he is fighting for all Americans.
Sue Hecht, Palm Coast, Fla.
The writer, a Democrat, represented District 3A in the Maryland House of Delegates from 1995-2003 and 2007-2011.