The Inspiration of John Lewis

Yesterday’s national news cycle had a notable juxtaposition.

There were updates on the pandemic.  There have been over 4 million cases in the United States and we are approaching 150,000 deaths.

Some of the recent protests have devolved into riots. In Seattle, 59 police officers were hurt, while property was destroyed and vandalized.

In Washington, the increasing tribalism of politics will make it difficult for Congress to agree on another round of Covid-19 relief.

But by early afternoon, the news had turned to the arrival of Representative John Lewis’ casket at the U.S. Capitol.

The hearse carrying the late Congressman moved slowly through Washington, pausing at the Lincoln Memorial, The Black Lives Matter Plaza and the Martin Luther King, Jr. memorial.

Along the way, news anchors and others opined about the life and contributions of Lewis—son of Alabama sharecroppers who, at a young age, was integral to the Civil Rights Movement led by King.

He was arrested more than 40 times, suffered attacks and serious injuries, but stayed devoted to non-violence in an attempt to end segregation and discrimination.

Roll Call Magazine called him “One of the most courageous persons the Civil Rights Movement ever produced.” In Washington, he was often called the “the conscience of the U.S. Congress.”

Fox News Politics Editor Chris Stirewalt wrote, “Lewis remained a noble man throughout his long public career.  He could preach fire and brimstone, but his real ministry remained one of example.  His decency and kindness transcended the rest of it.”

Lewis received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2011. President Barack Obama said of Lewis then, “And generations from now, when parents teach their children what is meant by courage, the story of John Lewis will come to mind—an American who knew that change could not wait for some other person or some other time; whose life is a lesson in the fierce urgency of now.”

That “urgency of now” remains relevant today, and it speaks to the continued necessity in America to get it right, to be more perfect, to rise above violence, to strive for unity rather than division. But to get there, as Lewis himself said,  “Never become hostile, never hate.”

That is not easy. We have been working on it for 244 years and still the journey is not complete. At times, we get discouraged, even doubtful about the future.

However, John Lewis’ long and often painful road from the segregated South to lying in state at the seat of government demonstrates what is possible when an individual has righteous beliefs and an iron will to stand by them.

 





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