Obama echoed a theme that was prevalent throughout the remembrances of Lewis, namely that he was gentle and humble. “As exceptional as John was, John never believed that what he did was more than any citizen of this country can do,” Obama explained.
Obama also addressed current political troubles when he started talking about voting rights. Expressing his frustration, Obama said: “There are those in power who are doing their darnedest to discourage people from voting by closing polling locations, and targeting minorities and students with restrictive ID laws, and attacking our voting rights with surgical precision—even undermining the postal service in a run-up to an election that’s going to be dependent on mail-in ballots so people don’t get sick.”
He went on to suggest that we make Election Day a national holiday so that people like single mothers can have the chance to vote without fear of missing work. This idea garnered much applause and several in attendance stood to their feet in encouragement.
The bottom line, Obama emphasized, is that “democracy has to be tended to; we have to work at it. It’s hard.” This is what Lewis did so well: He worked for it. He was willing to die for it. In other words, he was a true American patriot.
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. 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.
John Lewis was born on February 21, 1940. He passed away July 17, 2020.
You can watch the full funeral here: