Representative John Dingell addresses student minority leaders in honor of Black History Month

U.S. Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.) waves to the crowd at the Southern Wayne County Regional Chamber at Crystal Gardens in Southgate, Mich., on Monday, Feb. 24, 2014. Dingell announced his retirement. (Ryan Garza/Detroit Free Press/MCT)

On Wednesday, Feb. 19 Michigan Representative John Dingell addressed a by-invitation-only assembly of student minority leaders and faculty in honor of Black History Month.

The event was held in EMU’s Student Center.

Dingell, the longest serving congressman in U.S. history, announced his retirement from Congress the following Monday, Feb. 24. Before he gave his farewell address, Dingell wanted to make sure that he left the future leaders of America with sound advice and knowledge of the history he helped

In 1964, Dingell fought to help pass the Civil Rights Act.

“In those days terror and law were used as weapons [against black Americans]. The 6 o’clock news was filled at night with stories of people sicing dogs on black Americans to use terror [to keep them from voting],” Dingell said. “We were headed for a very bad time. ”

He went on to praise the way Martin Luther King Jr. helped change American culture, and said that MLK’s lessons must endure.

Dingell was highly critical of the John G. Roberts Supreme Court. He took aim at their decisions to invalidate parts of the Voting Rights Act, which he says was the single most important vote he ever made in congress. He also disapproved of their interpretation of the Clean Water Act, a policy he staunchly advocated.

“I am having a hard time making it [the current interpretation of the Voting Rights Act] where it protects citizens from local governments,” Dingell said. “We are trying to get it where the
Department of Justice can make sure people can go and vote and [their vote] be counted.”

EMU Provost Kim Schatzel was also in attendance at the event.

“It is an honor for Eastern Michigan University to have Congressman Dingell visit campus and share his experiences and thoughts with our students,” Schatzel said. “He is a living legend of Congress and the Civil Rights Movement. The students learned much today from someone who actually lead and continues to lead great change in America.”

EMU Student Senator Amir Khalid said, “It’s a phenomenal opportunity. I never thought that I would actually get to meet the longest serving congressman in our country. It means a lot to me because I look forward to being in Congress someday, to help mold laws that help make things better for people and communities around the country. This is a privilege that I would like to thank Eastern
Michigan University and Reggie Barnes [for].”

Congressman Dingell serves in Michigan’s 12th district, and has fought for the environment, universal health care and civil liberties his entire career in office. He is the current Dean of the
House of Representatives and will retire at the end of his current term.

Dingell ran for the house seat after his father retired from office. He and his father have concurrently represented Michigan in congress for over 80 years. He hopes that his wife, Debbie
Dingell, will win his vacant seat in congress in the 2014 election.

“There’s a lot of legitimate complaints about this county,” Dingell said. “But we are also the luckiest people ever to be Americans. We have more opportunity to better ourselves than anyone in history.
It is our job to make it better for every generation that proceeds us.”

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