Jul 30, 2020 - Politics & Policy

John Lewis urges young people "to let freedom ring" in posthumous op-ed

John Lewis.
Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis told young people to "let the spirit of peace and the power of everlasting love be your guide" while fighting to enact change in a posthumous New York Times op-ed written shortly before his death.

Why it matters: The piece, timed to be published on the day of his funeral, hits many of the themes Lewis espoused during his life — and says that the current generation "filled [him] with hope about the next chapter of the great American story" as protests against systemic racism took hold around the country in his last weeks.

  • "That is why I had to visit Black Lives Matter Plaza in Washington, though I was admitted to the hospital the following day. I just had to see and feel it for myself that, after many years of silent witness, the truth is still marching on."

What he's saying: "Emmett Till was my George Floyd. He was my Rayshard Brooks, Sandra Bland and Breonna Taylor. He was 14 when he was killed, and I was only 15 years old at the time. I will never ever forget the moment when it became so clear that he could easily have been me," Lewis wrote.

  • "Voting and participating in the democratic process are key. The vote is the most powerful nonviolent change agent you have in a democratic society. You must use it because it is not guaranteed. You can lose it."
  • "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."

His bottom line: "When historians pick up their pens to write the story of the 21st century, let them say that it was your generation who laid down the heavy burdens of hate at last and that peace finally triumphed over violence, aggression and war. So I say to you, walk with the wind, brothers and sisters, and let the spirit of peace and the power of everlasting love be your guide," Lewis concluded.

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