The Legacy of John Lewis

“John a true American hero, a champion for those less fortunate, and a courageous civil rights leaders. In the face of police brutality and angry mobs, he has continued to stand up for his convictions. In congress, he has been an important voice for low-income people and for preserving the Legal Services program and increasing its funding. He has been a consistent and powerful voice for equal justice.”
Sargent Shriver |Chicago, IL | April 27, 2001

Our Quote of the Week pays tribute to Congressman John Lewis (February 21, 1940-July 17, 2020), who was born 82 years ago this week. As we enter the final week of Black History Month, we remember Lewis for his unflinching courage in supporting justice for all.

On April 27, 2001, the Shriver Center on Poverty Law conferred the Robert Sargent Shriver Jr. Award for Equal Justice to John Lewis. Sargent Shriver presented the award to Lewis personally; our Quote of the Week is taken from his remarks at the ceremony.

From Lewis’ early days protesting with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in Selma and organizing SNCC in the 1950s and ‘60s, to his time on the Atlanta City Council, and then in the halls of the US Congress, Lewis dared to challenge some of the most inequitable laws and practices in our society. With his unique combination of determination and optimism, he defended civil rights and human rights throughout his life, even enduring physical injuries and imprisonment in the fight for civil rights.

At Rep. Lewis’ funeral on July 30, 2020, the Reverend James Lawson noted that Lewis “practiced the politics that we the people of the US need more desperately than ever before, the politics of the Declaration of Independence.” Lawson, one of Lewis’ mentors and his teacher in the practice of non-violence, stressed that through his actions as a young man, Lewis made possible President Johnson’s Great Society programs, including Head Start and the other War on Poverty programs. This is, indeed, a remarkable achievement to consider, for without Lewis’ efforts, it may not have been possible for Sargent Shriver to do the work that he did on the War on Poverty.

We remain grateful to Rep. Lewis, and we commit to following his advice:

“Do not get lost in a sea of despair. Be hopeful, be optimistic. Our struggle is not the struggle of a day, a week, a month, or a year, it is the struggle of a lifetime. Never, ever be afraid to make some noise and get in good trouble, necessary trouble.”

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Peace requires the simple but powerful recognition that what we have in common as human beings is more important and crucial than what divides us.
Sargent Shriver
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