Former United States President Barack Obama used his eulogy at the funeral of civil rights leader and Congressman John Lewis to call on Americans to summon a measure of his moral courage and question what is right and wrong in their democracy.
Joined by former Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton, Obama called for vigilance against the darker currents of the country’s history, excoriating recent action by federal law enforcement against peaceful protestors in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death.
John believed that in all of us, there exists the capacity for great courage and a longing to do what’s right. We are so lucky to have had him show us the way. I offered some thoughts today on his life and how, like him, we can give it all we have. https://t.co/7UHT86OzEj
— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) July 30, 2020
Lewis’ final send-off in his hometown of Atlanta, Georgia, followed a week of tributes to a man beloved by many.
‘Man who loved America’
Lewis honoured by statesman and women, members of Congress, civil rights activists, family and friends – at the Ebenezer Baptist Church Horizon Sanctuary – where both Martin Lurther King Jr and his father before him were pastors.
Lewis described as a man who loved America until America loved him back. Former President George W. Bush says, “John and I had our disagreements of course but in the America John Lewis fought for and the America I believe in, differences of opinion are inevitable elements and evidence of democracy in action. We the people including Congressman and Presidents can have differing views on how to perfect our union while sharing the conviction that our nation, however flawed, is at heart a good and noble one.”
“We live in a better and nobler country today because of John Lewis and his abiding faith in the power of God, in the power of democracy, and in the power of love to lift us all to a higher ground.” – President George W. Bush
Full remarks: https://t.co/LGmiTkC25T
— George W. Bush Presidential Center (@TheBushCenter) July 30, 2020
Lewis the Congressman
A Congressman for more than 30 years, his great loss evident in the words and tone of the current Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi reminisced about the moment Lewis’ casket left Capitol Hill where he laid in state for two days.
“The last night he was at the Capitol it wasn’t raining, thousands of people showing up to pay their respects, a little after 8 o’clock there was a double rainbow, a double rainbow but it hadn’t rained. There was a double rainbow over the casket. And for us – we waved goodbye when he started to leave us – he was telling us I’m home in heaven. I’m home in heaven with Lillian. We always knew he worked on the side of the angels and now he is with them.”
When John Lewis spoke, people listened. When he led, people followed. He was our mentor, our colleague, but most of all, our friend. May he rest in peace. pic.twitter.com/6FaERI5pVv
— Nancy Pelosi (@SpeakerPelosi) July 30, 2020
‘Man staying true to form’
The 42nd President Bill Clinton said he loved John Lewis and always would – a man he described as staying true to form. “No matter what, John always kept walking to reach the beloved community, he got into a lot of good trouble along the way but lets not forget, he also developed an absolutely uncanny ability to heal troubled waters. When he could have been angry and cancel his adversaries, he tried to get converts instead. He thought the opened hand was better than the clenched fist.”
Hillary and I were blessed by his friendship, support and wise counsel. We’ll miss him so much, but we’ll always be grateful that he lived to see a new generation of Americans take to the streets in search of his long sought “beloved community.” https://t.co/gKDuLmUMLQ
— Bill Clinton (@BillClinton) July 18, 2020
‘Be vigilant against the darker currents’
America’s first black President was the final act delivering a eulogy honouring a life that brought the country closer to its highest ideals while taking aim at the business that remains unfinished in the country.
“He knew from his own life that progress is fragile. That we have to be vigilant against the darker currents of this country’s history. Of our own history, with the whirlpools of violence and hatred and despair that can always rise again. Bull Connor may be gone but today we witness with our own eyes police officers kneeling on the necks of black Americans. George Wallace may be gone but we can witness our federal govt sending federal agents to use teargas and batons against peaceful demonstrators.”
Former President Obama lambasted attempts to undermine voter turnout in elections and urged Congress to act on voting rights – a key pillar of Lewis’ lifetime of struggle.
“John Lewis devoted his time on this earth fighting the very attacks on democracy and what’s best in America and we’re seeing circulate right now. He knew that every single one of us has a god-given power and that the faith of this democracy depends on how we use it, that democracy isn’t automatic, it has to be nurtured, it has to be tended to, we have to work at it, it’s hard. ”
The late Congressman died July 17th after a battle with pancreatic cancer. John Lewis was 80 years old.
Barack Obama delivers eulogy at John Lewis’ memorial: