Clinton praised Lewis’ quick wits and the fact that he lived for something greater than himself: “He was here on a mission that was bigger than personal ambition.” He also had great character, Clinton recalled. “We’re here today because he had the kind of character he showed when he lost an election.”
“For all the rhapsodic things we all believe about John Lewis, he had a really good mind and he was always trying to figure out ‘How can I make the most of every single moment?’” Lewis Had hope in a future most could not see, which, Clinton explained using Hebrews 11:1, is the essence of faith.
Like Bush, Clinton also addressed our current divisive political climate (in a veiled way) by saying: “He got into a lot of good trouble along the way, but let’s not forget he also developed an absolutely uncanny ability to heal troubled waters.” He didn’t try to “cancel” his adversaries, but sought to convert them instead.
Addressing Lewis’ faith, Clinton said hope in a better future drove Lewis: “He lived by the faith and promise of St. Paul: ‘Let us not grow weary in doing good, for in due season we will reap if we do not lose heart.’”
President Barack Obama Eulogizes John Lewis
President Obama started his speech off by quoting James 1:2-4: “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” Obama said Lewis’ faith was tested “again and again to produce a man of pure joy and unbreakable perseverance.”
“I owe a great debt to John Lewis,” Obama said. Indeed, all Americans do, as Lewis accomplished what all Americans are instructed to do:
This country is a constant work in progress. We’re born with instructions: To form a more perfect union. Explicit in those words is the idea that we’re imperfect. What gives each new generation purpose is to take up the unfinished work of the last and carry it further than any might have thought possible.
Obama spent much time recalling Lewis’ work for the Civil Rights movement. Like Bush, Obama compared Lewis to someone from the Bible doing God’s work. “Like John the Baptist preparing the way, like those Old Testament prophets speaking truth to kings, John Lewis did not hesitate and he kept on getting on board buses and sitting at lunch counters, got his mug shot taken again and again, marched again and again on a mission to change America.”
Obama also told of the time Lewis and other demonstrators crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama. Demonstrators were marching for voting rights for black people. They were met with a mob of white police officers. Lewis was nearly killed. But, as Obama pointed out, their voices were heard and soon after President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act, which Obama later referred to as “one of crowning achievements of our democracy,” into law.
Obama talked about the way Lewis exemplified the American way of life:
The life of John Lewis was in so many ways exceptional. It vindicated the faith in our founding—redeemed that faith. That most American of ideas. The idea that any of us ordinary people without rank or wealth or title or fame can somehow point out the imperfections of this nation and come together and challenge the status quo. And decide that it is in our power to remake this country that we love until it more closely aligns with our highest ideals….America was built by John Lewises. He as much as anyone in our history brought this country a little closer to our highest ideals. And someday when we do finish that long journey toward freedom; when we do form a more perfect union–whether it’s years from now or decades or even if it takes centuries—John Lewis will be a founding father of that fuller, fairer, better America.