Friday, July 31, 2020

John Lewis Feb 21, 1940 - Jul 17, 2020 (age 80)

Former President Barack Obama delivered an emotional eulogy at civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis’ funeral Thursday afternoon, calling him a “mentor” to many and praising him for his “courage.”
The 44th president, who followed speeches from former Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, said that he was delivering the remarks because of a “great debt” to Lewis.
“I’ve come here today because I like so many Americans owe a great debt to John Lewis, and his forceful vision of freedom,” the former commander-in-chief said at the beginning of his eulogy.
“Now this country is a constant work in progress. We’re born with instructions to form a more perfect union, and explicit in those words is the idea that we’re imperfect,” he continued, “What gives each new generation purpose is to take up the unfinished work of the last and carry it further than any might have thought possible.”
Lewis, Obama said, was “a mentor to young people, including me at the time — until his final day on this earth, he not only embraced that responsibility, but he made it his life’s work.”
The 44th president then noted the bravery of Lewis to begin fighting for racial justice in his teens, specifically referencing a 19-year-old Lewis and Bernard Lafayette boarding a segregated bus after the Supreme Court declared such facilities unconstitutional.
“Imagine the courage of two people Malia’s age, younger than my oldest daughter, on their own to challenge an entire infrastructure of oppression. John was only 20-years-old,” he said. The ex-president’s eldest daughter is currently 22-years-old.
“But he pushed all 20 of those years to the center of the table, betting everything, all of it, that his example could challenge centuries of convention and generations of brutal violence,” Obama continued.
Remarking on the long path of progress and the country’s evolution throughout history, the former president called Lewis a Founding Father of the America that will one day offer equality to all.
“America was built by John Lewises. He, as much as anyone one in our history, brought this country a little bit closer to our highest ideals, and someday when we do finish that long journey towards freedom, when we do form a more perfect union, whether it’s years from now or decades or even if it takes another two centuries, John Lewis will be a founding father of that fuller, fairer, better America,” Obama said to applause from the crowd.
Obama said that Lewis pledged “as long as he had a breath in his body, he would do everything he could to preserve this democracy, and as long as we have breath in our bodies, we have to continue his cause.”
“If we want our children to grow up in a democracy — not just with elections but a true democracy, a representative democracy…then, we’re going to have to be more like John.”
The above article from The New York Times:

John Lewis asked this be published on the day of his funeral. Please take a moment to read it.
John Lewis: Together, You Can Redeem the Soul of Our Nation
NY Times July 30, 2020
“Though I am gone, I urge you to answer the highest calling of your heart and stand up for what you truly believe."
While my time here has now come to an end, I want you to know that in the last days and hours of my life you inspired me. You filled me with hope about the next chapter of the great American story when you used your power to make a difference in our society. Millions of people motivated simply by human compassion laid down the burdens of division. Around the country and the world you set aside race, class, age, language and nationality to demand respect for human dignity.
That is why I had to visit Black Lives Matter Plaza in Washington, though I was admitted to the hospital the following day. I just had to see and feel it for myself that, after many years of silent witness, the truth is still marching on.
Emmett Till was my George Floyd. He was my Rayshard Brooks, Sandra Bland and Breonna Taylor. He was 14 when he was killed, and I was only 15 years old at the time. I will never ever forget the moment when it became so clear that he could easily have been me. In those days, fear constrained us like an imaginary prison, and troubling thoughts of potential brutality committed for no understandable reason were the bars.
Though I was surrounded by two loving parents, plenty of brothers, sisters and cousins, their love could not protect me from the unholy oppression waiting just outside that family circle. Unchecked, unrestrained violence and government-sanctioned terror had the power to turn a simple stroll to the store for some Skittles or an innocent morning jog down a lonesome country road into a nightmare. If we are to survive as one unified nation, we must discover what so readily takes root in our hearts that could rob Mother Emanuel Church in South Carolina of her brightest and best, shoot unwitting concertgoers in Las Vegas and choke to death the hopes and dreams of a gifted violinist like Elijah McClain.
Like so many young people today, I was searching for a way out, or some might say a way in, and then I heard the voice of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on an old radio. He was talking about the philosophy and discipline of nonviolence. He said we are all complicit when we tolerate injustice. He said it is not enough to say it will get better by and by. He said each of us has a moral obligation to stand up, speak up and speak out. When you see something that is not right, you must say something. You must do something. Democracy is not a state. It is an act, and each generation must do its part to help build what we called the Beloved Community, a nation and world society at peace with itself.
Ordinary people with extraordinary vision can redeem the soul of America by getting in what I call good trouble, necessary trouble. Voting and participating in the democratic process are key. The vote is the most powerful nonviolent change agent you have in a democratic society. You must use it because it is not guaranteed. You can lose it.
You must also study and learn the lessons of history because humanity has been involved in this soul-wrenching, existential struggle for a very long time. People on every continent have stood in your shoes, though decades and centuries before you. 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. Continue to build union between movements stretching across the globe because we must put away our willingness to profit from the exploitation of others.
Though I may not be here with you, I urge you to answer the highest calling of your heart and stand up for what you truly believe. In my life I have done all I can to demonstrate that the way of peace, the way of love and nonviolence is the more excellent way. Now it is your turn to let freedom ring.
When historians pick up their pens to write the story of the 21st century, let them say that it was your generation who laid down the heavy burdens of hate at last and that peace finally triumphed over violence, aggression and war. So I say to you, walk with the wind, brothers and sisters, and let the spirit of peace and the power of everlasting love be your guide.

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