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Three Former Presidents - Obama, Bush, Clinton - Pay Tribute to Civil Rights Icon John Lewis
Written by <a href="index.php?option=com_comprofiler&task=userProfile&user=55432"><span class="small">John Wagner and Paul Kane, The Washington Post</span></a>   
Thursday, 30 July 2020 12:34

Excerpt: "Three former presidents - Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton - are paying tribute to the late congressman and civil rights leader John Lewis at his funeral Thursday at the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta."

Funeral for Rep. John Lewis. (photo: AP)
Funeral for Rep. John Lewis. (photo: AP)

Three Former Presidents - Obama, Bush, Clinton - Pay Tribute to Civil Rights Icon John Lewis

By John Wagner and Paul Kane, The Washington Post

30 July 20


hree former presidents — Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton — are paying tribute to the late congressman and civil rights leader John Lewis at his funeral Thursday at the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta.

Obama, the nation’s first Black president, was scheduled to deliver the eulogy at a service marked by speeches, songs, prayers and the tolling of a bell.

Bush, speaking before Clinton and Obama, praised Lewis’s life story and used their political differences, as a GOP president and Democratic congressman, to point to the nation’s strength.

“But in the America John Lewis fought for, and the America I believe in, differences of opinion are inevitable and evidence of democracy in action. We the people including congressmen and presidents can have differing views on how to protect our union, while sharing the conviction that our nation, however flawed, is at heart a good and noble one,” Bush said, eliciting applause.

President Trump, who clashed with Lewis early in his White House tenure, did not attend the funeral, nor did he appear at any of the memorial events at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, where Lewis, a 17-term congressman, lay in state.

As he spoke, Clinton took a veiled shot at Trump’s early Thursday tweet suggesting that the elections be delayed because of the coronavirus pandemic, and his previous suggestions he might not accept the results of the election.

The former president told the story of how Lewis accepted defeat to a more aggressive activist, Stokely Carmichael, to lead the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee in the late 1960s. “We are here today because he had the kind of character he showed when he lost an election,” Clinton said to applause.

The lawmakers, family members and others attending the service wore masks and sat at a distance in the pews, as the coronavirus pandemic has had its impact. Former president Jimmy Carter, 95, who has battled cancer, did not attend but sent a statement honoring Lewis.

Over the years, Obama and Lewis shared some poignant moments, including on Obama’s Inauguration Day in 2009. At a luncheon that day, Lewis handed Obama a copy of his ticket to the history-making event and asked for an autograph.

“It’s because of you, John,” Obama wrote to Lewis.

Shortly before he died, Lewis wrote in an essay that he visited Black Lives Matter Plaza in Washington last month because he wanted to see for himself that “truth is marching on” — and he urged activists to continue the fight for civil rights.

“While my time here has now come to an end, I want you to know that in the last days and hours of my life you inspired me,” he said in the essay published Thursday. “You filled me with hope about the next chapter of the great American story when you used your power to make a difference in our society.”

The New York Times, which printed the essay, said it was written shortly before the death of the Georgia Democrat on July 17 at age 80 and that he wanted it to be published on the day of his funeral.

‘This is what he lived for’: John Lewis remembered at Black Lives Matter Plaza

“So much political cynicism and narcissism, here lies a true American patriot,” The Rev. Raphael Warnock, the officiant, said at the start of the service.

Warnock, the senior pastor of the church once headed by Martin Luther King Jr., is the leading Democratic candidate for a November special election for one of Georgia’s Senate seats, a potential pickup that would tip the majority away from Trump’s Republicans.

Introducing Bush, the first ex-president to speak, Warnock noted the historic nature of this service. “Only John Lewis could compel three living presidents to come to this house,” Warnock said.

Obama published an essay shortly after Lewis’s death that reminisced about their final private talk in early June, after the lawmaker and former president had held a virtual town hall with young activists. Lewis told Obama how inspiring the group was.

“I told him that all those young people — of every race, from every background and gender and sexual orientation — they were his children. They had learned from his example, even if they didn’t know it,” Obama wrote.

In early June, Lewis visited the stretch of 16th Street in Washington leading to the White House where “Black Lives Matter” had been painted in giant letters after weeks of protests following the death in Minneapolis police custody of George Floyd.

Accompanied by Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D), Lewis praised the street painting as “a powerful work of art.” The newly created plaza was among the stops earlier this week as Lewis’s hearse made its way to the Capitol, where his body lay in state.

In his essay, Lewis noted that he was admitted to the hospital the day after visiting the plaza. But, he said, “I just had to see and feel it for myself that, after many years of silent witness, the truth is still marching on.”

Lewis recounted his work and struggles in the early days of the civil rights movement and urged others to continue the fight to “redeem the soul of American by getting in what I call good trouble, necessary trouble.”

“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,” he wrote. “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.” your social media marketing partner
Last Updated on Thursday, 30 July 2020 12:36