Obama eulogizes John Lewis, urges Americans to vote
Former President Barack Obama delivered a powerful and politically charged eulogy on Thursday at the funeral of the late Congressman and civil rights icon John Lewis. Obama was one of three former presidents to speak. Others included Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.
“I’ve come here today because I, like so many Americans, owe a great debt to John Lewis and his forceful vision of freedom,” Obama said.
Obama and Lewis had a close relationship and a special bond. Obama first met Lewis while in college. Years later he was signing “Because of you, John,” on the late congressman’s inauguration program as he became the first African American president.
The former president reminded those in attendance and a national television audience that Lewis had dedicated his life to fighting for the right to vote. He encouraged Americans to continue, as he highlighted threats to voting access. Though he never mentioned the name Donald Trump, it was clear who Obama was hinting at.
“Even as we sit here, 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 the run-up to an election,” he said.
Obama went on to call for making Election Day a federal holiday, allowing Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico to have voting representation in Congress and expanding early voting.
He also called on Congress to restore the full Voting Rights Act, part of which was struck down by the Supreme Court in 2013, and named it after Lewis.
“You want to honor John? Let’s honor him by revitalizing the law that he was willing to die for,” he said. “Once we pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, we should keep marching to make it even better, by making sure every American is automatically registered to vote, including former inmates who have earned their second chance.”
Obama also denounced the violence that protesters are seeing today in America comparing them to what Lewis went through during the civil rights movement.
“Bull Connor might be gone, but today we witness with our own eyes, police officers kneeling on the necks of Black Americans. George Wallace may be gone, but we can witness our federal government sending agents to use tear gas and batons against peaceful demonstrators.”
Obama acknowledged that he knew he was speaking at a celebration of life for Lewis and that some might take issue with his speech but he said that was exactly why he was doing it.
“There are some that might say, ‘we shouldn’t dwell on such things,’ but that’s why I’m talking about it. John Lewis devoted his time on this earth fighting the very attacks on democracy, and what’s best in America, that we’re seeing circulate right now,” he said.
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