“He as much as anyone brought this country a little bit closer to our highest ideals….” In a passionate eulogy at a historic Atlanta church Thursday, former President Barack Obama praised late civil rights pioneer and longtime U.S. Representative John Lewis.
“John Lewis will be a founding father of that fuller, fairer better America….” Obama was one of three former U.S. Presidents who paid homage to Lewis at the Ebenezer Baptist Church, where the Revered Martin Luther King – a mentor to Lewis – had once preached.
“We live in a better and nobler country today because of John Lewis….” George W.
Bush spoke of Lewis’ humble rise from the son of sharecroppers in Troy, Alabama, to a leader of the civil rights movement.
“The story that began in Troy isn’t ending here today.
Nor is the work.” And Bill Clinton said that when Lewis could have been angry at his adversaries, he tried to make converts of them instead.
“He thought the open hand was better than the clenched fist.” But it was Obama’s fiery speech on voting rights – the cause for which Lewis was beaten during his famed 1965 march over Selma, Alabama’s Edmund Pettus Bridge – that brought the crowd to its feet, with its thinly veiled shots at the current administration.
“There are those in power who are doing their darndest to discourage people from voting by closing polling locations and targeting minorities and students with restrictive ID laws and attacking our voting rights with surgical precision, even undermining the postal service in a run-up to an election that’s going to be dependent on mail-in ballots so people don’t get sick!" In an essay written shortly before his death and published in the New York Times Thursday, Lewis spoke out to generations behind him, saying, “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….