“You are the light. Never let anyone — any person or any force —dampen, dim or diminish your light. Study the path of others to make your way easier and more abundant. Lean toward the whispers of your own heart, discover the universal truth, and follow its dictates.”
– John Lewis
Guided by his core values of empathy and mutual responsibility, legendary civil rights leader and United States Representative John Lewis strived every day to be a light in the darkness for others to follow. Whether marching in the streets for civil rights or occupying the well of the House to demand gun responsibility, he never hesitated to confront injustice by making what he called good trouble.
John Lewis became a living legend and an inspiration for people around the world because he never stopped working to build a better society and a more peaceful world. Again and again, he put his life at risk to secure greater freedom for all, never allowing any adversary to dampen, dim, or diminish his light.
His death is all the harder for us to bear because these are dark times for our country and world. John Lewis was truly a light in that darkness. He never stopped leading by example and never gave in to fear. Though an eloquent speaker, his actions spoke more loudly than any speech he ever delivered. He showed millions of people what courage is. He lived it. Practiced it. Taught it.
“I say to people today, ‘You must be prepared if you believe in something. If you believe in something, you have to go for it. As individuals, we may not live to see the end.’ ”
– John Lewis
Eight years ago, as a delegate to the 2012 Democratic National Convention, I had the great honor of meeting John Lewis and hearing him speak in a small group setting. He was leading a session of the DNC’s Voting Rights Institute in Charlotte before one of the nightly convention general sessions, impressing upon us the need to exercise and ardently defend our hard-won right to vote.
I’d seen and heard John Lewis speak on television many, many times before that day. But it was something else entirely to be in the same room with him, with no filter. It was an incredibly uplifting experience that I treasure to this day.
In the hours since his office relayed the news of his passing, others have remarked how their encounters with John Lewis lifted them up, too.
He was a font of kindness and encouragement, especially to young progressive leaders struggling to combat systemic racism and oppression.
America’s North Star. The Conscience of the Congress. Civil rights legend. American icon. These and similar phrases have been offered up in tribute to his life this weekend, and rightfully so, for John Lewis was the best of us.
“Use the words of the movement to pace yourself. We used to say that ours is not the struggle of one day, one week, or one year. Ours is not the struggle of one judicial appointment or presidential term. Ours is the struggle of a lifetime, or maybe even many lifetimes, and each one of us in every generation must do our part.”
– John Lewis
John Lewis knew that when his time on this Earth came to an end, his work would be unfinished. That did not trouble him, for he knew that the causes to which he cared so passionately about would be carried forward by a new generation of leaders. Though he is no longer with us, we can and should take comfort in his words and his legacy of good trouble. As hard as it may be to go on, we must.
Rest in power, John, and thank you for showing us how to lead a great life.