What Obama knew about John Lewis

Article Image

During his eulogy for the late Rep. John Lewis, former President Barack Obama received a standing ovation for his remarks about voting rights ahead of the 2020 election.

Posted: Jul 30, 2020 9:00 PM
Updated: Jul 30, 2020 9:00 PM

"What a gift John Lewis was," said former President Barack Obama, standing before the congressman's coffin in Ebenezer Baptist Church on Thursday.

And what a gift Obama was on this day, delivering the eulogy for his friend and hero. He acknowledged the great debt we all owe to Lewis, praised "his forceful vision of freedom," and reminded us of the hard work we need to do to resume America's faltering march toward a more perfect union.

"Bull Connor may be gone," Obama said, "but today we witness with our own eyes police officers kneeling on the necks of Black Americans. George Wallace may be gone, but we can witness our federal government sending agents to use tear gas and batons against peaceful demonstrators."

The former President described how he first met the congressman as a law student, when he told Lewis he was one of his heroes. When Obama was elected to the US Senate, he told the Congressman that he stood on his shoulders, and when he was elected the first Black president, he hugged him and said his victory had been made possible only by the sacrifices Lewis made.

Thursday, in front of a passionate (and socially distanced) congregation, the former President marveled at Congressman Lewis' bravery, boarding a bus with fellow civil rights activist Bernard Lafayette in 1960 to desegregate it.

"Imagine the courage of two people Malia's age -- younger than my oldest daughter -- on their own to challenge an entire infrastructure of oppression."

Former President Obama reminded us of the perseverance of John Lewis, but I'm reminded of his own perseverance. As the first Black president, he fought against birtherism, dealt with hostile Republicans in the Senate and was denied his right to appoint a Supreme Court justice.

Before the congregation, Obama called for Congress to pass a new federal voting rights act, named in Lewis' honor, but then urged lawmakers to be ready to keep going, to make the law better.

The Voting Rights Act became law because of the March 7, 1965, march from Selma to Montgomery that became better known as Bloody Sunday. State troopers attacked the nonviolent marchers, cracking the skull of a 25-year-old John Lewis on the Edmund Pettus Bridge.

As Obama noted, news photographers were there. The American public saw it happen, and the response led to the Voting Rights Act's passage. Congress renewed the act in 2007, but in 2013, John Roberts' Supreme Court gutted it, declaring parts of the act unconstitutional.

"Once the Supreme Court weakened the Voting Rights Act," Obama said, "some state legislators unleashed a flood of laws designed specifically to make voting harder, especially, by the way, state legislators where there's a lot of minority turnout and population growth. That's not necessarily a mystery or an accident. It was an attack on what John fought for."

The House passed a new Voting Rights Advancement Act on December 6, 2019, aimed at fixing the damage inflicted by the Supreme Court majority. Yet the Republican-controlled Senate under Speaker Mitch McConnell's leadership has taken no action. Voting is a fundamental right and Congressman Lewis was willing to give his life so that it would be protected for us all.

The Voting Rights Act needs to be restored and strengthened and once again become the law of the land.

McConnell did have this to say about Congressman Lewis after he died: "John Lewis lived and worked with urgency, because the task was urgent." He called Congressman Lewis the "hero" our nation needed.

Taking the liberty of paraphrasing recent comments by Congressman Cedric Richmond, I would say to Sen. McConnell: Keep John Lewis's name out of your mouth. The Senate must pass the Voting Rights Advancement Act and the President must sign the legislation and until they do, we have our marching orders. We will continue to make good trouble, like John Lewis counseled. Necessary trouble.

Congressman Lewis continues to inspire his country. Two days before he died, he submitted an essay to The New York Times and asked that it be published on the day of his funeral. In it, he had some parting words of encouragement for America.

It brings me a small bit of comfort to know that at the end of his life he was "filled with hope" about the future, as he wrote, inspired by the protests across the country -- and world -- as a result of the killing of George Floyd.

Congressman Lewis recently called voting "the most powerful nonviolent tool we have in our Democratic society."

To keep it safe, he has now passed the baton to us.

West Lafayette
Partly Cloudy
79° wxIcon
Hi: 90° Lo: 71°
Feels Like: 82°
Kokomo
Partly Cloudy
79° wxIcon
Hi: 88° Lo: 69°
Feels Like: 82°
Rensselaer
Clear
73° wxIcon
Hi: 87° Lo: 70°
Feels Like: 73°
Fowler
Clear
79° wxIcon
Hi: 87° Lo: 70°
Feels Like: 82°
Williamsport
Clear
80° wxIcon
Hi: 88° Lo: 70°
Feels Like: 82°
Crawfordsville
Clear
77° wxIcon
Hi: 88° Lo: 69°
Feels Like: 78°
Frankfort
Partly Cloudy
77° wxIcon
Hi: 86° Lo: 68°
Feels Like: 78°
Delphi
Partly Cloudy
74° wxIcon
Hi: 90° Lo: 70°
Feels Like: 74°
Monticello
Partly Cloudy
74° wxIcon
Hi: 93° Lo: 72°
Feels Like: 74°
Logansport
Partly Cloudy
77° wxIcon
Hi: 87° Lo: 69°
Feels Like: 79°
Air Quality Alert for Pulaski, Fulton, Cass and Miami counties til 1 a.m. EDT
WLFI Temps
WLFI Planner

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 764448

Reported Deaths: 13965
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion1049701803
Lake567981029
Allen42685698
St. Joseph37253568
Hamilton37131426
Elkhart29699470
Tippecanoe23347230
Vanderburgh23106404
Porter19538327
Johnson18755391
Hendricks18012321
Madison13463345
Clark13450198
Vigo12789255
LaPorte12533224
Monroe12494178
Delaware11100198
Howard10612237
Kosciusko9736123
Hancock8707149
Bartholomew8235157
Warrick8031157
Floyd7975181
Grant7337181
Wayne7222201
Boone7145105
Morgan6886142
Marshall6323116
Dubois6267118
Cass6083111
Dearborn598578
Noble595790
Henry5939111
Jackson514677
Shelby509097
Lawrence4901127
Gibson460696
Montgomery454492
Clinton453555
DeKalb451585
Harrison450576
Whitley414745
Huntington411781
Steuben409560
Miami404073
Jasper399455
Knox387091
Putnam383762
Wabash367383
Adams351656
Ripley350471
Jefferson340486
White338954
Daviess3084100
Wells302281
Greene292285
Decatur291493
Fayette285864
Posey280435
Scott278058
LaGrange276972
Clay273048
Washington252437
Randolph247083
Jennings238149
Spencer237531
Fountain233750
Starke229859
Owen221059
Sullivan219043
Fulton207645
Jay202832
Carroll196522
Orange190556
Perry189139
Vermillion179644
Rush177027
Franklin171635
Tipton171547
Parke153616
Pike141234
Blackford137832
Pulaski122948
Newton122436
Benton109215
Brown105743
Crawford105116
Martin92515
Warren87615
Switzerland8308
Union73510
Ohio58211
Unassigned0428

COVID-19 Important links and resources

As the spread of COVID-19, or as it's more commonly known as the coronavirus continues, this page will serve as your one-stop for the resources you need to stay informed and to keep you and your family safe. CLICK HERE

Closings related to the prevention of the COVID-19 can be found on our Closings page.

Community Events