On Day of His Funeral, Final Words From John Lewis

Civil rights icon submitted essay to 'NYT' 2 days before he died
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 30, 2020 9:25 AM CDT
On Day of His Funeral, Final Words From John Lewis
This image shows the late Rep. John Lewis in a scene from "John Lewis: Good Trouble."   (Ben Arnon/Magnolia Pictures via AP)

Barack Obama is expected to deliver a eulogy for John Lewis at the civil rights icon's funeral on Thursday, but one other big name has some final words as well: John Lewis himself. In an essay he sent to the New York Times two days before he died, with the arrangement to publish it on the day of his funeral, Lewis tells the American people that even though he's gone, he hopes they'll take up the mantle to fight for a better nation. "While my time here has now come to an end, I want you to know that in the last days and hours of my life you inspired me," he writes. "You filled me with hope about the next chapter of the great American story when you used your power to make a difference in our society." Lewis offers a short overview of his life, from his early years surrounded by loving family to "the unholy oppression waiting just outside that family circle."

After hearing the voice of Martin Luther King Jr. on the radio, Lewis found his calling. And now, he notes, it's time for Americans to find theirs. "Ordinary people with extraordinary vision can redeem the soul of America by getting in what I call good trouble, necessary trouble," he writes, calling especially for people to vote, take part in the democratic process, and "study and learn the lessons of history." "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," he implores. "In my life I have done all I can to demonstrate that the way of peace, the way of love and nonviolence is the more excellent way. Now it is your turn to let freedom ring." Read his essay here, in which he writes, "Emmett Till was my George Floyd." (More John Lewis stories.)

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