A tribute to Congressman John Lewis

Larger than life. Free at last.

I had the pleasure of serving with John Lewis in Congress for 17 years. It was the high honor of my life, in public service. He was the nations foremost authority and consistent Civil Rights activist. From the Edmund Pettis, to the Atlanta City Council, to the Congress of the United States, “Equal Justice under the law” was his life passion and work. Changing unjust laws and Championing fairness, equality and global human Rights was his mission and objective. Without changing the law the country could back slide into authoritarianism and tyranny. He was a leader who truly understood that the movement was about changing law, and with changed law, a changed collective behavior could result.

I salute and honor a man whose life’s work took into account my life and your life, all of our lives. He not only fought for our “right to vote,” the vote he fought for, expanded our right to education opportunity, our right to desegregated middle class home ownership, our right to medical coverage and workplace fairness, including equal pay for equal work, the opposite of chattel slavery, he expanded our life options by giving us the tool, to participate in the process that secured our rights and liberty. He slowed, altered and changed the course of our judicial system and saved scores of us, thousands of us, from public and private lynchings. Those are just some of the things that come from the right to vote, that he secured on the Edmund Pettis Bridge in 1965.

The events of the Edmund Pettis Bridge were so profound that the President of the United States Lyndon Johnson, initially a segregationist from Texas, had this to say, “At times history and fate meet at a single time in a single place to shape a turning point in man’s unending search for freedom. So it was at Lexington and Concord. So it was a century ago at Appomattox. So it was last week in Selma, Alabama.” 

John Lewis was a modern Founding Father. It is hard to date reality in the modern world without the Edmund Pettis Bridge being a turning point in modern thinking. In fact for today’s generation it is impossible to even imagine the world that existed before the Edmund Pettis Bridge.

God was with us, God was in our midst, Providence provided us an Edmund Pettis Bridge and guided us across the Red Sea that day. Did you expect a different response from Pharoahs army?

Pancreatic cancer attacked his body, but he remained strong in mind, body, and spirit. A perfect unity. No splitting, no differentiating. He was an angel of destiny.

He rose to the highest heights of human dignity and human respect all over the world a giant of humility and human spirit.

Author: Jesse Jackson Jr

Jesse Jackson Jr was born into advocacy and the struggle for human rights. He entered the world at the height of the American civil rights movement. As such, his father stood among the thousands on the Edmund Pettus Bridge just two days before his birth. The feverish demand for equal voting rights for African Americans, no doubt, infected Jesse with the fight for justice and the right to the pursuit of happiness right down to his bones. He accepts the charge. With this legacy of civil rights, Jesse has always known the importance of using his talents for the advancement of the common good and in the fight for marginalized groups. He carried that foregone conclusion to the platform provided him at North Carolina A&T University. As early as his freshman year, Jackson began working for the people, on campus and abroad. While earning his Bachelor’s of Science degree in business management, he represented the student body as President and he founded a student activism organization centered on overcoming apartheid in South Africa. Jesse Jackson, Jr. is at the seat of his soul when he is working on the front lines of activism. He was an active member of the demonstrations against the blatant civil rights violations of South Africans. Similarly, he has threaded into the fabric at home as Field Director of the National Rainbow Coalition, where he worked to promote voter registration and education programs. Not long after earning his Master’s in theology and his Juris Doctor, Jesse began representing the interest of the citizens of Illinois as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives. In his 17 years in Congress, from 1995 to 2012, Jesse Jackson Jr had a say in every vote. Additionally, he has served on myriad committees, including the House Appropriations Committee. Taking his aptitude for civic service a step further, Jackson also lent his talent during the 2008 presidential election—working diligently to assist fellow Illinois-native Barack Obama win the presidency. Jesse is an advocate for equal education rights, equal employment opportunities, improving the circumstances of impoverished Americans, conserving various American landmarks as historical districts and reinvigoration the US economy following the 2007-2008 housing and auto market crash. Today, as a citizen thriving with bipolar disorder, Jesse continues the fight on behalf of marginalized communities through his work to help America eliminate the stigma of living with a mental health challenge. Jesse Jackson Jr’s tireless subscription to knowledge of the mind, freedom of the heart and the voice of the vote informs his current effort to impact. His rich possession of theological, historical, political and geopolitical knowledge creates an elemental toolbox that makes him a galvanizing catalyst for change.

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