"What do I want to be when I grow up?" is a question most of us ask ourselves. At 15, one young man knew that answer. This young man got on a bus and headed to Washington, D.C. at the age of 18 to work with a civil rights activist. He must have been nervous, anxious, unsure, even doubting himself a little. He garnered trust among the people in the cause. He stayed true to his voice, a conviction for what was right, and he remained steadfast amid adversity. He prayed often. As a Congressman, he was always on the right side of the issues, earning him the tribute, "Conscience of the Congress." He was a hero for every marginalized constituency seeking fairness – Black people, the underprivileged, Jewish people, the LGBTQ community, immigrants, and women. He applied the same zealous emphasis on justice to every worthy cause.
We will never forget his name - John Robert Lewis.
Known for getting into "good trouble," he taught us while the journey is difficult, we must be unafraid, and never give up. His life is an example of why young people must be allowed to lend their voices in the struggle for social justice. Speak up and speak out. His legacy of treating women as full and equal colleagues will serve as a road map for those who follow. He addressed all with dignity and respect for their leadership. Congressman Lewis will be remembered for his enduring faith in the power of the vote, and his memory will stand as a sentinel to the proposition that activism is how change occurs.
The struggle continues, the need is alive, the hope endures. Rather than stopping, be like Lewis and put another step forward. Congressman Lewis died on Friday, July 17, 2020, at the age of 80. Most of the privileges we enjoy today can be traced back to his work and service, which include the Voting Rights Act, job equality, patient protection and affordable care, emergency and affordable housing, human rights policy, keeping ERA relevant, raising the living wage, and gun control, to name a few.
To this celebrated icon, dear friend, mentor, and role model we say: May we be more than the keeper of your story, but the perpetual continuation of your legacy.