WASHINGTON – Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown and Rep. Elijah Cummings urged members of the National Black Caucus of State Legislators on Thursday to continue fighting racial disparities in health care, voting and unemployment.
Both men were part of the panel of speakers invited to introduce the Rev. Jesse Jackson, who received the caucus' humanitarian award in front of approximately 200 people at the opening breakfast of the group's annual conference in the District.
Brown, a prospective front-runner to replace Martin O'Malley as Maryland's governor in 2014, offered surprisingly low-key comments, notably brief, that focused on thanks and recognition for various attendees.
But Brown did break from podium pleasantries to express his dissatisfaction with the racial disparities plaguing the African-American community and to urge the lawmakers to resist pulling back on the historic changes to health care laws passed under President Barack Obama.
"It's not enough," said Brown, "to simply say we are reforming health care, unless we're doing it in a way that addresses the disparities in our community. It's not enough to tout that unemployment is going down if it's not going down in the African-American community."
Cummings joined in the theme, telling the emotionally charged story of a woman who, on Election Day, declined his offer to help her to the front of the line because she relished the opportunity to wait to exercise her civic right and that she "would die in this line," rather than getting out of it.
The speech's overlying theme encouraged legislators to pressure any governors resisting state implementation of the Affordable Care Act, offering Maryland as a model for success.
"Our state has been far out front in regard to making sure the Affordable Care Act has been put into effect," said Cummings. "If you want to look for some examples, look to Maryland. I'm not saying that because I'm from Maryland, but because Maryland is doing a great job."
Both men exited following their speeches, but not before warmly embracing Jackson. The award was a bright spot in a dark time for Jackson, whose son, Jesse Jackson Jr., recently resigned from Congress following a brief hospitalization for bipolar disorder and an ongoing FBI investigation into possible abuse of campaign contributions.
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