With the passing of former Michigan Congressman John Dingell Jr. on Feb. 7, our nation lost one of its greatest public servants. His selfless work helped to shape our country’s laws, policies and programs for more than half a century. It was an honor for me to have served with John and to witness daily his, unrelenting commitment to the finest principles America stands for — and to see the passion he displayed while serving people who came to know, respect and admire him.
Dingell’s interests and impact extended far beyond the Michigan district that elected him, beginning in 1955 when he assumed the congressional seat held by his father, John Sr., who introduced legislation in Congress to provide health insurance for American citizens. The younger lawmaker was a member of Congress longer than any other person who has had the privilege of sitting in that body.
At the root of his beliefs was social justice. He was an ardent supporter of efforts to have the Medal of Honor bestowed upon Doris Miller, the Waco native who saved fellow sailors during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. He worked to improve the environment and pass civil rights legislation.
As chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, Congressman Dingell guided legislation to promote health care, consumer protection, government social service programs and many others of merit. His presence gave hope to those who despaired. He provided light to those who felt as though they were consumed by darkness.
At the beginning of each Congress, Congressman Dingell introduced legislation that would have created what became in 1965 the Medicare program, providing health insurance to our nation’s senior citizens.
When the Affordable Care Act was signed into law by President Obama in 2010, the president said Congressman Dingell was partly responsible for the legislation, stating that it was something he had worked arduously to bring about. President Obama called Dingell a visionary. Indeed.
Dingell’s foresight and presence continue in the House of Representatives. His wife, Congresswoman Debbie Dingell, was elected to his seat when he decided to retire from Congress. She has continued the Dingell tradition of legislative and personal excellence.
When the history of Congress is written, John Dingell’s name will be included amongst those who helped guide our country, having served us with dignity and distinction.