PHILADELPHIA (July 25, 2016)—Two prominent Marylanders, former NAACP president and CEO Ben Jealous and Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Baltimore, will be featured speakers on the first night of the Democratic National Convention.
Cummings, chairman of the Democratic Platform Drafting Committee, is scheduled on the Monday evening program. Under Cummings' leadership, the committee has held numerous public hearings in order to draft what the party has called the most progressive platform in the party's history.
Earlier on Monday, Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake opened the convention, stepping in for the embattled chair of the Democratic party, Debbie Wasserman Schultz.
"I hereby call the 47th quadrennial Democratic National Convention to order," Rawlings-Blake said during short welcoming remarks.
Cummings said in an interview that his speech will focus on what the Democratic Party stands for instead of who it stands against.
However, he said he would "emphasize the fact that Republicans are trying to take away people's rights to vote."
Cummings said Republicans are trying to hinder African-American, Hispanic, elderly and students' efforts to "participate in the American system of democracy."
"I will beg them to keep their eye on the prize, and that is a democracy we will not allow to be hijacked," he said.
Cummings, a Baltimore resident, has represented Maryland's 7th District since 1996. He has advocated for the rights of those facing foreclosure and is leading an effort to strengthen the curriculum at the Maritime Industries Academy in his home city.
Cummings is scheduled to be joined by another Baltimore native: Ben Jealous, who was the youngest national leader of the NAACP for four years before stepping down in 2013. He has been a longtime advocate for black rights and marriage equality.
Jealous originally supported Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, but is now endorsing Hillary Clinton.
Jealous and Cummings were both at the Maryland delegation breakfast earlier today at The Inn at Penn. Announcement of their speeches were met with applause and cheers from the Maryland delegation.