Empathy is legacy

of late Congressman Elijah Cummings

From his humble beginnings as the child of sharecroppers to gracing the halls of the United States Congress, Rep. Elijah E. Cummings led a life emblematic of moral fortitude and civil service.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. so eloquently proclaimed that it is not where we stand in moments of convenience, but where we stand in times of controversy that define us.

As I reflect upon the legacy of Congressman Cummings, one moment continues to play in my head on repeat, a moment which I believe serves as a summation of Cummings’ character in our era of great controversy. I refer to Chairman Cummings’ exchange with DHS Secretary McAleenan this past July on the topic of the Trump administration’s doctrine of child separation on our southern border.

Chairman Cummings’ emotional retort to reports of the suffering faced by children in the internment camps on our border continues to leave me awestruck:

“I have said it before and I will say it again, it is not the deed that you do to a child, it’s the memory! We are the United States of America, we are the greatest country in the world. We are the ones that can go anywhere in the world and save people! We make sure that they have diapers, that they have toothbrushes, that they are not sitting around defecating in silver paper. I’m talking about human beings, I’m not talking about people who come from, as the president says, “[expletive] countries”, I’m talking about people seeking a better life.”

Cummings questions whether or not we face an “empathy deficit” across our nation. It is on we the people to prove him otherwise. Let us never choose the convenience of indifference over empathetic action, for we will all be damned if we so choose the former.

Alexander Sakes


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