Letter to the editor: Rest in peace, John Lewis. You earned it
A personal memory of John Lewis: In the early 2000s, I was volunteering for the Georgia Chapter of the Sierra Club, a nonpartisan environmental organization. Planning our retreat, needing a speaker, somebody contacted Rep. Lewis. We doubted he would accept, since the audience would be small (most not his constituents, he had little to gain), it was a two-hour drive from his home in Atlanta, and we worked on environmental issues, not civil rights.
But he accepted, and I was honored to meet him. He had that knack of making everyone feel they were alone were in his presence — his way of showing respect. He was modest, although his place in history was assured, asking us to call him “John,” not “Rep. Lewis” (though none of us did). One colleague said he was always humble, but when he spoke with passion, everybody listened.
He demonstrated that passion, encouraging us to protect the environment, because citizens must “get in the way” of anything unjust or destructive. He understood, early in the environmental justice movement, polluting industries often locate near minority neighborhoods, where residents can’t block them.
Lewis spoke for an hour, giving one of the most powerful, inspirational speeches I’ve ever heard. He encouraged us to keep defending what we believe in and never give up.
He drove back to Atlanta, arriving late that night. But his dedication to all Americans fighting for what’s right never left us.
Hopefully, his spirit never will. But with his physical presence gone, St. Paul’s words resonate:
“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness …”
If anybody ever deserved those words, Lewis did.
Want to honor his legacy? Support organizations fighting “the good fight.” Volunteer. Vote.
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