Reflections on John Lewis

user image 2020-08-04
By: Robert Francis
Posted in: Blog

Reflections On John Lewis

On John Lewis

 These past several days have been very moving for me with the passing of John Lewis. When American democracy seems to be falling apart, he had hope -- hope embedded in the young people of America who he urged to get into "good trouble" in defense of democracy. Democracy -- the right to assemble to attempt to right what is wrong about racism in our country and about how suppressing the right to vote is an existential threat to democracy.

 John Lewis wrote these words just a few days before he died. tps://] The words reminded me of the last speech ever given by Martin Luther King in 1968 over 50 years ago just two days before he was assassinated. King was urging his followers to never give up in the struggle for freedom for all people. His speech was in support of the sanitation workers of Memphis who, mostly Black and on strike, were being treated unfairly by the city. King finished his speech with these words, words prophetic just as the words of John Lewis before his death.

 "Well, I don't know what will happen now. We've got some difficult days ahead. But it doesn't matter with me now. Because I've been to the mountaintop. And I don't mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I'm not concerned about that now. I just want to do God's will. And He's allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I've looked over. And I've seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land. And I'm happy, tonight. I'm not worried about anything. I'm not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord."

 As you read or better yet, listen to John Lewis' last words, use them to inspire you to get involved in whatever way suits you [voting, urging others to vote, demonstrating, working to remove inequities in your community, writing, changing racist laws that do not treat all people equally, reading more American history of slavery, Jim Crow, reconstruction and how racism still permeates our society, donating to organizations that are making a difference, etc.]..

 Lewis marched with Martin Luther King, Jr, but he also followed his own path putting himself in great danger all for the cause of Black people gaining true freedom from oppression. John Lewis was the conscience of the US House of Representatives. He will be greatly missed. In his final words, he never mentioned Republicans or Democrats; he never mentioned Donald Trump; he never mentioned white supremicists. All he did was do what he always did -- plead for fairness and urge us to get up off our behinds and get into "good trouble!"

 I know most of you looking at this blog posting are already doing a lot to overcome the inequities in our society. It has been my privilege to have worked alongside you for many years. For others on this email, I may not know you as well but I know you are good and fair people. As we reflect on what we can do, Let's us  figure out what small and maybe not so small contributions we can make in the cause of democracy for everyone, not just the people who look like us.

You may also want to check in on the eulogy by President Barack Obama for John Lewis -- an incredibly moving tribute and call to action. Maybe, with this eulogy, Obama along with all o fun will speak out more often and carry the mantel forward to reduce racial inequity. Time to start lobbying for the John Lewis Voting Rights Act.




John Hamerlinck
08/19/20 01:18:29PM @john-hamerlinck:

Thanks for posting this, Bob. Below I've pasted my favorite John Lewis quote. I have frequently used this when doing ABCD trainings. It is also what reminds me to be a pilot light.

"When I care about something, when I commit to it, I am prepared to take the long, hard road, knowing it may not happen today or tomorrow, but ultimately, eventually, it will happen. That’s what faith is all about. That’s the definition of commitment — -patience and persistence. People who are like fireworks, popping off right and left with lots of sound and sizzle, can capture a crowd, capture a lot of attention for a time, but I always have to ask, where will they be at the end? Some battles are long and hard, and you have to have staying power. Firecrackers go off in a flash, then leave nothing but ashes. I prefer a pilot light — -the flame is nothing flashy, but once it is lit, it doesn’t go out. It burns steadily, and it burns forever."

- Congressman John Lewis, Walking with the Wind: A Memoir of the Movement, 2015

Robert Francis
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Group facilitation, program and strategy development, community organizing, understanding implicit bias, youth development, juveniel and adult criminal justice reform

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