By Caitlin Kelly
Americans are somehow surviving through a time of unprecedented misery — a loss of 30 percent of the economy, millions facing eviction and the loss of jobs and healthcare.
And now the loss of a man so many revered for his passion, commitment to social justice and civil rights, John Lewis. (To Britons, a department store.)
He died at 8o of pancreatic cancer and, this week, three former Presidents came to eulogize him and pay their respects.
John Lewis — the first of the Freedom Riders, head of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, youngest speaker at the March on Washington, leader of the march from Selma to Montgomery, Member of Congress representing the people of this state and this district for 33 years, 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.
Which isn’t bad for a boy from Troy. John was born into modest means — that means he was poor — in the heart of the Jim Crow South to parents who picked somebody else’s cotton. Apparently, he didn’t take to farm work — on days when he was supposed to help his brothers and sisters with their labor, he’d hide under the porch and make a break for the school bus when it showed up.
Here is his final essay, published in The New York Times.
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, through 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.
Here’s his Wikipedia entry if you haven’t yet heard of him.
And this, a video I adore, reminding us all you don’t have to be po-faced and tedious to be a courageous and inspiring politician…at 78, natty in a gorgeous suit, dancing to “Happy.”
God bless this man for all he was and all he did!
I cannot think of anyone anywhere in American public life now with his character.
My American-born mother wept bitterly on my birthday morning in 1968 and I never understood why she cared so much about any politician — Bobby Kennedy’s assassination.
Someone who carried and embodied so much hope for so many people.
Now I do.
I only watched the last hour or so of Lewis’ 3.5 hour funeral, held at the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia.
And when the pastor said this, in his closing prayer, I wept and wept: