BOSTON – Rep. Elijah Cummings booming baritone gave voice to the “conscience of the Congress” at Wednesday night’s meeting of the Democratic National Convention — sounding notes of dissatisfaction with the nation’s progress on civil rights, health care, unemployment and education.
The conscience, he told the more than 4,000 delegates in a prime time address, is the Congressional Black Caucus, which he leads.
“We will keep marching forward on history’s road toward universal civil rights,” Cummings said. “We will not be frightened into giving up our freedom – nor our civil liberties.”
This fright is not of terrorist attacks or war, he said, his voice and body shaking, and acknowledging those are major issues. The true fright, he said, is from citizens without health care, education or jobs.
“Our nation deserves more than political slogans and sound bites,” the Baltimore Democrat said.
The health care issue is “at the top of (Maryland blacks’) list,” said Baltimore City Council Member Keiffer Jackson Mitchell Jr. Close behind is quality education for public school children and access to college, he said.
Children in some of Maryland’s public schools are getting a less-than-satisfactory education while the Bush administration is trying to “destroy affirmative action,” Cummings said in an earlier interview.
“If I applied for college today, I couldn’t afford it,” Jason Williams, president of Baltimore County Young Democrats, told the Maryland delegation Wednesday.
With these major concerns circulating through the delegation, Marylanders were critical of the Bush administration and hopeful things would change if Sen. John Kerry were elected.
President Bush formally met with the Congressional Black Caucus only once over the course of his administration, drawing a lot of negative attention from the minority population.
Bush “has a fear,” he said. He is “afraid he’ll be criticized. . . .As president of the United States, you should expect to be criticized.”
The “centered, firm and fearless leadership” of the Democratic ticket will “synchronize our nation’s conduct with her conscience,” Cummings said.
“And we will build a bridge to an America that is strong, free and unified.”
Some Maryland delegates said they were wowed by Cummings’ performance.
“A home run out of the park. When he finished everyone was on their feet listening. He’s a phenomenon of nature,” said Alex Boulton, 2nd District delegate. – 30 – CNS-7-28-04