John Lewis was a congressman who represented Georgia from 1987 to 2020. He passed away on July 17th.
I really didn’t know very much about Congressman Lewis until I read the essay he drafted a few days before his death. He asked the NYTimes to publish it after he was gone. The piece is a moving expression of hope and love. Lewis was a devout follower and disciple of Martin Luther King, Jr.
The thrust of the op-Ed is fairly straight forward and enlightening. He believed the strides that the Black Lives Matter Movement has made in the past weeks and months, in terms of its notoriety and message, could be the basis of a new round of hope that will ultimately afford all people the dignity they deserve. It’s yet another opportunity to rid our society of deep-rooted bigotry and to accelerate the slow, and exasperating, struggle for equality.
From the grave, Lewis pleads with people of all colors to join together and “Stand up, speak up and speak out.” He says, “When your see something that is not right, you must say something. We are complicit when we tolerate injustice.”
Lewis is calling upon “ordinary people with extraordinary vision to redeem the soul of America. . . by getting into good trouble, necessary trouble.”
Lewis implores everyone to vote and participate in the democratic process. “The vote is the most powerful nonviolent change agent” in a democratic society. But we must also study and learn from history. “The truth does not change, and that is why the answers worked out long ago can help you find solutions to the challenges of our time.”
Lewis calls for the current generation to protest nonviolently so “that peace finally triumph[s] over violence, aggression and war.”
I regret that John Lewis did not live longer so I could learn more about his motivations and ethos. America lost a great man, an understated wise person.