Civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis passed away this week, and while President Donald Trump has remained silent, our country is lucky enough to have a real president in Barack Obama to deliver a fitting tribute to him.
Lewis is legendary for leading the march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama in the fight for civil rights. He was brutally beaten for that effort and he would later become the congressman from Georgia we all knew and loved.
Losing such a giant in our history is not easy, but Obama softened the blow with words memorializing Lewis in a way that Trump would never be able to utter convincingly.
“He loved this country so much that he risked his life and his blood so that it might live up to its promise,” Obama wrote. “And through the decades, he not only gave all of himself to the cause of freedom and justice, but inspired generations that followed to try to live up to his example.”
“Born into modest means in the heart of the Jim Crow South, he understood that he was just one of a long line of heroes in the struggle for racial justice,” Obama continued. “Early on, he embraced the principles of nonviolent resistance and civil disobedience as the means to bring about real change in this country, understanding that such tactics had the power not only to change laws, but to change hearts and minds as well.”
Obama then displayed his humbleness by talking about how Lewis paved the way for his own political achievements.
“I first met John when I was in law school, and I told him then that he was one of my heroes,” Obama explained. “Years later, when I was elected a U.S. Senator, I told him that I stood on his shoulders. When I was elected President of the United States, I hugged him on the inauguration stand before I was sworn in and told him I was only there because of the sacrifices he made. And through all those years, he never stopped providing wisdom and encouragement to me and Michelle and our family. We will miss him dearly.”
It’s the kind of humility that Trump is incapable of showing. Obama went on to tie Lewis to the current protests against racial injustice and police brutality before urging the nation to continue the fight with Lewis in their hearts.
“Not many of us get to live to see our own legacy play out in such a meaningful, remarkable way,” he concluded. “John Lewis did. And thanks to him, we now all have our marching orders — to keep believing in the possibility of remaking this country we love until it lives up to its full promise.”
As part of these re-energized protests, we should start by insisting that the Edmund Pettus bridge be renamed after Lewis. It’s an honor he deserves. After all, Lewis bled on that bridge and nearly lost his life marching for civil rights. The man whose name is currently on the bridge was a racist member of the KKK who committed treason against the United States by serving as an officer in the Confederacy during the Civil War. It’s time for this bridge to have a new name. And that name should be John Lewis.
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