Congressman John Lewis – last living speaker from the March on Washington

Our country mourns a titan today, Meredith.

Last night, Congressman John Lewis passed away at 80 years old, leaving behind a legacy of activism and service that will echo for generations to come.

His zeal for justice was only matched by his capacity for compassion. He sat in for justice and stood up for equality, he marched for jobs and rode for freedom. The last living speaker from the March on Washington, he provided a bridge from how far we’ve come and a road map to where we still need to be.

Congressman Lewis never failed to remind us of our moral obligation towards one another. He lived his life acting on behalf of those facing injustice and oppression and then encouraged us to do the same — from the streets of Selma to the halls of Congress.

While many espouse the virtues of justice or a fidelity to true equality, it is the rare leader who inspires them in millions.

John Lewis was one of those leaders.

That crisp Sunday morning when he set foot on the Edmund Pettus bridge he knew what lay ahead. He understood that racism’s fists and segregation’s billy clubs would very well beat him to within an inch of his life, and if he survived he would likely wake up in a jail cell. But he stepped forward anyway, knowing full well the carnage that awaited him. He sacrificed himself so his country he loved so dearly could one day be worthy of such an act. The words of our constitution may have been written by revolutionists in 1776, but they were given meaning by a revolutionary in 1965.

His impact is inescapable. He pushed forward landmark legislation like the Civil Rights Act, showed us the power of organizing and standing up for what’s right, and inspired us to dream bigger and push harder for the kind of world we want to live in.

These lessons hold just as much, if not more, significance today.

As our country continues to grapple with racial injustice and violence, with how we welcome and treat immigrants and refugees, with how we respect and recognize the rights of LGBTQ individuals everywhere, Congressman Lewis’ directive to cause “good trouble, necessary trouble” has never been more needed.

In a moment where we have been driven apart, in a nation that feels as divided as it has ever been, let us allow John Lewis to bring us together one more time. Allow his memory to continue to lead us toward that more perfect union.

His legacy reminds us that we are truly one nation, but it also demands that we continue to work toward completing our unfinished business, his unfinished business: Justice.

May he rest in power.

Tom

Tom Perez
Chair
Democratic National Committee

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