February 14, 2015 Selma, AL: Congressman John Lewis on the Edward Pettus Bridge February 14, 2015.
On March 7, 1965 Hosea Williams and John Lewis led 600 civil rights activists across the Edward Pettus Bridge in a march for voting rights. Lewis had no idea the level of violence that awaited the group on the other side of the bridge. In what would become known around the country as as Bloody Sunday, state troopers and sheriff deputies used tear gas and clubs to break up the march. Leaving Lewis with a skull fracture and sending more than 50 others to the local hospital for treatment. BRANT SANDERLIN / BSANDERLIN@AJC.COM
Like so many young people today, I was searching for a way out, or some might say a way in, and then I heard the voice of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on an old radio. He was talking about the philosophy and discipline of nonviolence. He said we are all complicit when we tolerate injustice. He said it is not enough to say it will get better by and by. He said each of us has a moral obligation to stand up, speak up and speak out. When you see something that is not right, you must say something. You must do something. Democracy is not a state. It is an act, and each generation must do its part to help build what we called the Beloved Community, a nation and world society at peace with itself.
Ordinary people with extraordinary vision can redeem the soul of America by getting in what I call good trouble, necessary trouble. 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.
You must also study and learn the lessons of history because humanity has been involved in this soul-wrenching, existential struggle for a very long time. People on every continent have stood in your shoes, though decades and centuries before you. The truth does not change, and that is why the answers worked out long ago can help you find solutions to the challenges of our time. Continue to build union between movements stretching across the globe because we must put away our willingness to profit from the exploitation of others.
David Richardson holds a sign that reads I Am Man while visiting the John Lewis memorial under the John Lewis mural on Auburn Ave, Sunday, July 19, 2020. STEVE SCHAEFER FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION
Credit: Steve Schaefer
Credit: Steve Schaefer
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. 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.
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.