Rep. John Dingell — a legend in American politics — penned a posthumous ode to progress: 'The work is certainly not finished'

Rep. John Dingell — a legend in American politics — penned a posthumous ode to progress: 'The work is certainly not finished'
Image credit: United States Congress

On Thursday night, former Rep. John Dingell (D-MI) passed away at 92.


A legendary figure in Washington who chaired of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Dingell holds the record for the longest congressional career in history, having served in the House from 1955 to 2015. He was also an epic social media user — on various occasions, he has noted the phallic nature of the Trump campaign's logo, wished Trump the best for a trip to Mars, and mocked Trump for having toilet paper stuck to his shoe. And he firmly believed Trump needed to be held to account, saying last August that the president's "entire criminal operation is on the brink of collapsing and honestly there is not enough popcorn in the world."

But for his final words to America, dictated to his wife and published in the Washington Post, Dingell took a more somber, reflective tone on his public service and the social direction of America.

"My personal and political character was formed in a different era that was kinder, if not necessarily gentler," Dingell said. "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."

Among the issues tackled during his time in Congress were "Impoverishment of the elderly because of medical expenses," "chemical and bacteriological contamination" of the Great Lakes, and the "legacy of racial discrimination" that saw people of every race "risking and even losing their lives to erase the legal and other barriers that held Americans down."

"All of these challenges were addressed by Congress. Maybe not as fast as we wanted, or as perfectly as hoped," Dingell continued. "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."

Dingell also discussed his personal views of power, palpably showing his reverence for the position of public trust the voters had given him, and the responsibilities it came with.

"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,'" said Dingell. "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)."

"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," Dingell's message concluded. "May God bless you all, and may God bless America."

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