Joe and I wanted our wedding to be small and private. The setting needed to be connected to who we are and how we came to this place in our lives.
We picked the National Archives in Washington, D.C., believing that it would be the most fitting place to celebrate our most important moment together.
When we were trying to decide who would marry us, the process became a bit more difficult. The person needed to match the moment, understand the context, and most importantly, be a unifying presence for our children.
It was not long before we all seemed to simultaneously arrive at Elijah’s name as the answer to this daunting question. We knew that if we could be so lucky to have him officiate our wedding, it would be beautiful, meaningful and genuine. Elijah made sure that it was.
Most have heard the story of how President Donald Trump offered to marry us. Trump became especially bold about the offer after hearing his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, make the same offer in jest. Over lunch at the White House, Trump bombastically said to Jared, “Why would they want YOU to marry them; I’m the president!”
The relationship with President Trump continued to deteriorate, but that’s a story for another time. In light of Elijah’s passing this morning, I feel moved to note the sharp contrast between the president and Baltimore’s congressman.
Joe and I have known Elijah for years, and we have always loved him. He was always a picture of kindness, empathy, compassion, grace, dignity and love. That example was shown through his remarkable record of public service and an innate ability to reach out to those with whom he disagreed.
Whether it be the grace he showed during Michael Cohen’s testimony, or his ability to reach out to a fellow congressman, Republican Rep. Mark Meadows, and defend him in the face of being called a racist. (Elijah never complained when Meadows refused to return the favor later.) In both cases, Elijah found the good in each of those men and expressed it with such empathy and kindness that it was as if he had prepared those words for months.
Empathy moved the man, which is in sharp contrast to our commander-in-chief.
Elijah saw the humanity in every person who crossed his path. You could see it in his eyes and hear it in his voice. Whether I was watching him on television, chatting privately with Joe in the halls of Congress, or listening to him to speak at our wedding dinner, I was always moved to be a better person by what he said.
Which brings us back to our wedding. Elijah discovered at the last minute that no toasts would be made at the wedding dinner other than his. We explained that we wanted the evening to be about making the kids comfortable and expressed our concern that endless toasts would seem tiresome and forced.
I’ll share just a small portion of what he said.
“And to the children I want to say to you as one who has six brothers and sisters. Believe me ... As you get older and older, you value your brothers and sisters more and more ... for they are the people who will be there with you when you go through difficulties ... they are the ones who will cry with you at difficult times. To Joe and Mika, we thank you for bringing us together. Go out there and create wonderful memories. Because one day, that’s all you will have. The memories.”