U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings will be the University of Maryland’s winter commencement speaker, campus officials announced Wednesday.
The commencement ceremony will take place at Xfinity Center on Dec. 19.
“I am tremendously honored to have this opportunity,” Cummings said. “It’s humbling. To be in a position to be able to provide advice to people who are about enter a new chapter in their lives, it’s a major accomplishment for me.”
Cummings, who has been representing Maryland’s 7th congressional district since 1996, said he is not sure what he will discuss in his speech yet, but in these scenarios, he thinks about what he wished he knew when he was younger.
“I hope to inspire them,” Cummings said. “I hope to say something that will go with them to the rest of their lives.”
Cummings, 66, will also receive an honorary doctorate of public service from this university, according to a university news release. He has 12 other honorary doctoral degrees from various universities, including Johns Hopkins and Howard.
Cummings, the top Democrat on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, recently questioned White House officials about the use of private email accounts for government affairs. He’s also clashed with Republican lawmakers over former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s role in the 2012 Benghazi attack.
After riots erupted in Baltimore in 2015 following Freddie Gray’s death, Cummings marched through the streets, urging protesters to go home and be safe. Gray, a black man, died after sustaining spinal cord injuries when police arrested him and tried to transport him in a van.
“Congressman Cummings embodies our university’s core values of diversity, inclusion and respect,” Provost Mary Ann Rankin said in the news release. “We look forward to hearing how those values underscore Congressman Cummings’ life’s work and how he can inspire our graduates to embed those values in their future endeavors.”
A Baltimore native, Cummings attended Howard University and later the University of Maryland, Baltimore’s Francis King Carey School of Law. He served in Maryland’s House of Delegates for 14 years, and in 1995, he became the first black speaker pro tem in state history.
“What an outstanding role model for our students and the entire campus,” university President Wallace Loh said in a news release. “Congressman Cummings rose from a humble background, embraced the power of education, and in 35 years of service has never forgotten where he came from. Colleagues on both sides of the aisle deeply admire his commitment to
bipartisanship. His message has great power.”
In September, Cummings returned to the House of Representatives with a revitalized passion for his job after undergoing heart surgery in May.
“When you are in a hospital bed for 60 days, it causes you to look at your own life and try to figure out how you can be more effective and efficient in the time you have on this earth,” Cummings said.
When he was a little boy, Cummings said a school counselor told him he could never be a lawyer because his family was very poor.
“He asked me the question, ‘Who do you think you are?'” Cummings said.
That question has stuck with Cummings throughout his whole life, and he said it’s helped shape the person he is today.
“Ever since then I have been trying to prove who I am,” he added. Before his counselor died, he saw Cummings become a lawyer and a Congressman.