On Thursday, worshipers honored the civil rights icon and longtime deputy John Lewis in Atlanta. At his funeral ceremony, the first black president of the United States, Barack Obama, delivered a speech paying homage to one of the greatest leaders of the American civil rights movement and calling for concrete steps to continue this legacy. It is likely to decline as one of Obama’s biggest speeches, and it pays to watch it in full.
In a speech that was almost surprising in his sincere call on politics, Obama compared the brutal 1965 violence that nearly ended Lewis’s life – police broke his skull on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama – with the Federation’s violent repression of peaceful protests. Officials today called on the Supreme Court’s decision in 2013 to pass a voting rights law and a wave of repression of voters following the “attack on what John was fighting for”, hypocritical leaders of Congress attacked, who did not agree to renew the “law that [Lewis] he was willing to die “while issuing empty statements calling him a” hero “, calling for an end to the release of previously imprisoned people, calling for election day to be a public holiday, calling for statehood for DC and Puerto Rico and asking for” The removal of the filibuster, another memorial to Jim Crow, in order to secure the God-given rights of every American. “
Barnburner’s political speech followed a strong rewrite of some of Lewis’s lifetime and career, a story that laid the groundwork for Obama’s call to action. Obama seemed devastated by the death of a man he named a mentor.
“It is a great honor for me to be back in Ebenezer Baptist Church in the pulpit of his greatest pastor, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., to pay homage to his best disciple,” Obama said at the beginning of his speech. the voice was almost breaking.
“I came here today because, like many Americans, I owe John Lewis a great responsibility and a strong vision of freedom,” Obama continued.
Obama then described Lewis’ rise from a place of “modest means” in rural Troy, Alabama, where as a boy he listened to conversations with his fathers about the murderous violence of the local Ku Klux Clan. As Obama described, Lewis became one of the country’s biggest advocates of nonviolent resistance after hearing the king on the radio.
“He helped organize the Nashville campaign in 1960. He sat with other young men and women at a segregated lunch counter, well-dressed, straight back, refused to let a cocktail or cigarette on his back be poured on his head, or his leg aimed at ribs – refusing to refuse to let and a sense of purpose, “Obama said. “In a few months, the Nashville campaign achieved the first successful desegregation of public facilities in any major city in the south. The first time, the second, the third, well, he got the taste of prison several times. But he also got a taste for victory and consumed it with righteous intentions and took the battle deeper south. Obama then described Lewis’s work on desegregating buses in the south “months before the first official Freedom Rides.”
But Obama’s story was not just a powerful rewrite of the icon’s life and a founding member of the most democratic phase of American democracy – it tied Lewis’s work in the 1960s to America’s current struggle with authoritarianism and voter suppression.
“Sometimes we read about it and we take it for granted or act as if it was necessary. Imagine the courage of two people Little age, younger than my oldest daughter, in itself, to attack the entire infrastructure of oppression, “he said. “John was only 20 years old, but he pushed all 20 of those years into the middle of the table and bet everything, everything, so that his example could call into question centuries of convention and generations of brutal violence and the countless daily outrage suffered by Africans.” Americans. “
Finally, Obama turned to a strong and direct political attack on the current police brutality against black people and efforts to suppress voters and protests.
The “Bull Connor” – the infamous Birmingham, Alabama, police commissioner who turned dogs and fire hoses on civil rights protesters – era may be gone, but today we are witnessing with our own eyes police officers kneeling on the necks of black Americans. “Obama said, talking about the murder of George Floyd. “George Wallace may be gone, but we can witness federal government broadcasters using tear gas and batons against peaceful protesters,” he added, referring to the Trump administration – ordering attacks on protesters in Lafayette Square in DC and Portland, Oregon.
Finally, Obama suggested that America honor the congressman late by adopting a new law on John Lewis’ voting rights and other measures to protect the vote, and ending the filibuster’s “Jim Crow” relic, if necessary, to pass it.
Obama’s was one of the most beautiful funeral speeches of the American president – a tribute to Lewis’ life and a specific, actionable reason to protect the rights for which he and many others fought and bled. History will determine whether his call – and Lewis’ call – was heard in the United States.
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