During this week as our nation honors the life and legacy of Congressman John Lewis, we invite you to reflect on some of the words and wisdom he offered at different points in his life. In tribute and gratitude let us find courage and support as we continue to live, work and witness in these times.
“Freedom is not a state; it is an act. It is not some enchanted garden perched high on a distant plateau where we can finally sit down and rest. Freedom is the continuous action we all must take, and each generation must do its part to create an even more fair, more just society.”
–- Lewis on what he learned from movement building in Across That Bridge: A Vision for Change and the Future of America
“To those who have said, ‘Be patient and wait,’ we have long said that we cannot be patient. We do not want our freedom gradually, but we want to be free now! We are tired. We are tired of being beaten by policemen. We are tired of seeing our people locked up in jail over and over again. And then you holler, ‘Be patient.’ How long can we be patient? We want our freedom, and we want it now.”
— on the emotional toll of fighting for freedom, during his 1963 speech at the March on Washington
“As a nation, if we care for the Beloved Community, we must move our feet, our hands, our hearts, our resources to build and not to tear down, to reconcile and not to divide, to love and not to hate, to heal and not to kill. In the final analysis, we are one people, one family, one house—the American house, the American family.”
― from his autobiography
“The history of the right to vote in America is a history of conflict, of struggling for the right to vote. Many people died trying to protect that right. I was beaten, and jailed because I stood up for it. For millions like me, the struggle for the right to vote is not mere history; it is experience… The vote is the most powerful, non-violent tool we have in a democratic society. We must not allow the power of the vote to be neutralized. We must never go back.”
— As a Congressman, on voting rights
“A democracy cannot thrive where power remains unchecked and justice is reserved for a select few. Ignoring these cries and failing to respond to this movement is simply not an option — for peace cannot exist where justice is not served.”
— Lewis on the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act
“Get in good trouble, necessary trouble, and help redeem the soul of America.”
— Remarks atop the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, on March 1, 2020.