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Dingell writes: "One of the advantages to knowing that your demise is imminent, and that reports of it will not be greatly exaggerated, is that you have a few moments to compose some parting thoughts."

John D. Dingell in 2014. (photo: Jeff Kowalsky/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)
John D. Dingell in 2014. (photo: Jeff Kowalsky/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)


My Last Words for America

By John D. Dingell, The Washington Post

10 February 19


John D. Dingell, a Michigan Democrat who served in the U.S. House from 1955 to 2015, was the longest-serving member of Congress in American history. He dictated these reflections to his wife, Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.), at their home in Dearborn, on Feb. 7, the day he died.

ne of the advantages to knowing that your demise is imminent, and that reports of it will not be greatly exaggerated, is that you have a few moments to compose some parting thoughts.

In our modern political age, the presidential bully pulpit seems dedicated to sowing division and denigrating, often in the most irrelevant and infantile personal terms, the political opposition.

And much as I have found Twitter to be a useful means of expression, some occasions merit more than 280 characters.

My personal and political character was formed in a different era that was kinder, if not necessarily gentler. We observed modicums of respect even as we fought, often bitterly and savagely, over issues that were literally life and death to a degree that — fortunately – we see much less of today.

Think about it:

Impoverishment of the elderly because of medical expenses was a common and often accepted occurrence. Opponents of the Medicare program that saved the elderly from that cruel fate called it “socialized medicine.” Remember that slander if there’s a sustained revival of silly red-baiting today.

Not five decades ago, much of the largest group of freshwater lakes on Earth — our own Great Lakes — were closed to swimming and fishing and other recreational pursuits because of chemical and bacteriological contamination from untreated industrial and wastewater disposal. Today, the Great Lakes are so hospitable to marine life that one of our biggest challenges is controlling the invasive species that have made them their new home.

We regularly used and consumed foods, drugs, chemicals and other things (cigarettes) that were legal, promoted and actively harmful. Hazardous wastes were dumped on empty plots in the dead of night. There were few if any restrictions on industrial emissions. We had only the barest scientific knowledge of the long-term consequences of any of this.

And there was a great stain on America, in the form of our legacy of racial discrimination. There were good people of all colors who banded together, risking and even losing their lives to erase the legal and other barriers that held Americans down. In their time, they were often demonized and targeted, much like other vulnerable men and women today.

Please note: All of these challenges were addressed by Congress. Maybe not as fast as we wanted, or as perfectly as hoped. The work is certainly not finished. But we’ve made progress — and in every case, from the passage of Medicare through the passage of civil rights, we did it with the support of Democrats and Republicans who considered themselves first and foremost to be Americans.

I’m immensely proud, and eternally grateful, for having had the opportunity to play a part in all of these efforts during my service in Congress. And it’s simply not possible for me to adequately repay the love that my friends, neighbors and family have given me and shown me during my public service and retirement.

But I would be remiss in not acknowledging the forgiveness and sweetness of the woman who has essentially supported me for almost 40 years: my wife, Deborah. And it is a source of great satisfaction to know that she is among the largest group of women to have ever served in the Congress (as she busily recruits more).

In my life and career, I have often heard it said that so-and-so has real power — as in, “the powerful Wile E. Coyote, chairman of the Capture the Road Runner Committee.”

It’s an expression that has always grated on me. In democratic government, elected officials do not have power. They hold power — in trust for the people who elected them. If they misuse or abuse that public trust, it is quite properly revoked (the quicker the better).

I never forgot the people who gave me the privilege of representing them. It was a lesson learned at home from my father and mother, and one I have tried to impart to the people I’ve served with and employed over the years.

As I prepare to leave this all behind, I now leave you in control of the greatest nation of mankind and pray God gives you the wisdom to understand the responsibility you hold in your hands.

May God bless you all, and may God bless America.

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+56 # DongiC 2019-02-10 14:12
What a beautiful statement from a dedicated public servant. We all are in your debt, Congressman Dingell.
 
 
+12 # Adoregon 2019-02-10 21:22
"We regularly used and consumed foods, drugs, chemicals and other things (cigarettes) that were legal, promoted and actively harmful. Hazardous wastes were dumped on empty plots in the dead of night. There were few if any restrictions on industrial emissions. We had only the barest scientific knowledge of the long-term consequences of any of this."

I don't think it is entirely true that "we had only the barest scientific knowledge of the long-term consequences of any of this."

Think of the tobacco industry. I believe they knew full well the product they marketed was extremely harmful to the health of their customers.

How about the petroleum industry? I think they have had significantly more than the "barest scientific knowledge of the long- term consequences" of their actions on both humans and the global environment.

John Dingell may have been a swell guy and a respected representative, but if he genuinely thought industry had only the barest scientific knowledge of the long-term consequences of their actions, I think he was terribly naive.

Think about Monsanto and glyphosate.
Uh-huh.
 
 
+16 # Observer 47 2019-02-11 08:48
I think the Congressman meant "we," as in, "we, the general public, we the Congress, we the people." Of course the relevant industries knew. That's why they fought so hard to keep their secrets.
 
 
+29 # rachelmama 2019-02-10 21:24
Farewell, Congressman Dingle. Thank you for your years of service to our country. We truly need more public servants like you. Your last testament brought tears to my eyes. Go in peace.
 
 
+33 # USADUDE 2019-02-10 22:58
When I speak of “Public Service” as a noble call, John Dinglell is the prototype. His leadership, by example, is a powerful testament to his humility and humanity. We need more public servants who are not self serving but selfless. Political capitalists seek to capitalize off of public service. True public servants are becoming fewer and fewer. We need to hold those who ask to be our representatives to amuch higher standard than we currently do. Thank you John D. Digell for your service to your constituents and our country. Men like you are grate and with your leadership we strive towards a more perfect union.

“The peaceful political revolution begins between your eras”
 
 
+4 # trimegestus 2019-02-12 23:37
Well said and well done. Thank you John Dingell. Thank you for your service. You were there for the 99%.
 
 
-3 # davehaze 2019-02-13 11:23
I really don't care what politicians say because the major part of the job is essentially saying one thing while voting another thing. If you want to know how well or ill Dingell has done examine his voting records on War oil health education wealth Etc.
 

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