Congressman John Dingell (D-MI)—the longest serving Congressman in American History—passed away on Thursday after representing Michigan for nearly 60 years.
President Donald Trump tweeted condolences to his wife and family:
Deepest sympathies to Congresswoman Debbie Dingell and the entire family of John Dingell. Longest serving Congressman in Country’s history which, if people understand politics, means he was very smart. A great reputation and highly respected man.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 8, 2019
Hardly an hour after Trump’s tweet, the Washington Post published an op-ed of Dingell’s last words to America, dictated by his wife, Congresswoman Deborah Dingell. The op-ed was written the day he died, and—while commending the progress America has made and acknowledging the work the country has left to do—included an unflinching rebuke to the President.
“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.”
He continued to warn against political rhetoric in the era of Trump, writing that he emerged onto the political scene in a “kinder, if not necessarily gentler” era. “We observed modicums of respect even as we fought, often bitterly and savagely, over issues that were literally life and death,” he continued.
Many noticed the man for whom his words were intended.
How frightened for all of us he must have been to direct his final words towards you.
“the presidential bully pulpit seems dedicated to sowing division and denigrating, often in the most irrelevant and infantile personal terms, the political opposition”https://t.co/MVb499Y5nF
— cumberickman “woC senuN niveD” 🐄 (@cumberickman) February 8, 2019
I'd rather live in John Dingell's America than Donald Trump's America. https://t.co/2sbCALknzR
— Pejman Yousefzadeh پژمان یوسف زاده (@Yousefzadeh) February 8, 2019
@realDonaldTrump would be wise to understand this. In a 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. https://t.co/A6HjkcoaUY
— Manolete John Garcia (@MJGarciaKCMO) February 8, 2019
— Tom Ramberg (@tom_ramberg) February 8, 2019
— Marty Varga (@MOMV719) February 8, 2019
Leaders from across America began outpouring with condolences and memories of the longtime leader.
They were from both sides of the aisle.
My statement on the passing of former Congressman John Dingell: pic.twitter.com/gjBYHHImzB
— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) February 8, 2019
Former President George W. Bush on passing of fmr. Rep. John Dingell: "I was fortunate to speak to John Dingell this afternoon. I thanked him for his service to our country and for being an example to those who have followed him into the public arena" pic.twitter.com/3MWwPAesGf
— MSNBC (@MSNBC) February 8, 2019
America has lost a beloved pillar of the Congress & one of the greatest legislators in our history. @JohnDingell’s entire life was lived in service to our country. His leadership played an important role in the passage of both #Medicare and the #ACA. https://t.co/1nt6YqB0oe
— Nancy Pelosi (@SpeakerPelosi) February 8, 2019
For nearly 60 years, John Dingell represented the people of Michigan with honor, integrity & great good humor. There are few major legislative triumphs since 1955 that he didn’t have a key hand in passing. Hillary & I are grateful to have worked with him & called him our friend.
— Bill Clinton (@BillClinton) February 8, 2019
My statement on the passing of John Dingell pic.twitter.com/PHQF3g0yrf
— Leader McConnell (@senatemajldr) February 8, 2019
After recounting the horrors Americans had to contend with in the 20th century—legal racial discrimination, no safety net for the elderly, no environmental safety measures—Dingell expressed hope in the nation’s future, writing:
“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.”
The words inspired Americans across the country.
Tears here, as I think of him crafting these eloquent words in his last moments.
— Melodie Woerman (@Melodie_Woerman) February 8, 2019
God Bless this true patriot.
— Melissa Jo Peltier (@MelissaJPeltier) February 8, 2019
Stunning just stunning and elegant.
— Barb F (@bfwork2hard) February 8, 2019
Everybody needs to read this, his final gift to the country he loved and served.
— Debra King (@Kingwoman) February 8, 2019
Now, it’s up to Americans to heed his warning.