Remembering and Reflecting on Congressman John Lewis
This week, our nation said goodbye to a national treasure and the world one of its greatest fighters and defenders of freedom and justice. I lost a beloved friend, colleague, and mentor. The Congress lost its ‘conscience.’
To honor Congressman John Lewis (GA-05), I introduced the Congressman John R. Lewis Election Day Act of 2020, H.R.7820. If enacted into law, this measure would make November 3, 2020 a national holiday in remembrance of the Civil Rights icon. Throughout his entire life, John Lewis put his body, freedom, and life on the line in the pursuit of justice, civil rights, and equal access to the ballot box. Now, it’s up to all of us to continue his lifelong work to build brighter futures for all Americans—and that begins by ensuring every voter can freely, easily, and expeditiously cast their ballot this upcoming election.
In addition to writing H.R. 7820, I was proud to support, and pleased to see unanimous approval of, the renaming of the Voting Rights Advancement Act, H.R. 4, as the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Act. This comprehensive, much-needed piece of legislation, of which I am an original cosponsor, seeks to restore the full protections of the landmark Voting Rights Act (VRA) of 1965 by modernizing the VRA formula to guarantee any voting changes do not adversely affect voters by requiring officials to publicly announce all voting changes at least 180 days before an election. Moreover, H.R. 4 expands the government’s authority to oversee fair, free elections at localities where there is deemed to be a substantial risk of discrimination or voter intimidation. John Lewis’ sacrifices were instrumental in the passage of the VRA in 1965, so it is fitting that the bill to restore its protections is now named for him. The bill was passed by the U.S. House of Representatives on December 6, 2019 but has stalled in the U.S. Senate since.
During my time in Congress, I have had the unbelievable privilege to work with John Lewis on enshrining voting rights and protections, curbing gun violence, economic empowerment, and a whole host of issues important to workers, families, and small businesses. I will never forget joining Lewis in crossing the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama to commemorate the 50th anniversary of ‘Bloody Sunday’ and traveling across Central Ohio with him to discuss the importance of the Voting Rights Act. Likewise, I will never forget the sights and sounds of the past few days at the official Lying in State Ceremony as well as the Celebration of Life in his adopted hometown of Atlanta, Georgia.
Although he may no longer be here with us, his legacy is an inspiration to people all across the country and around the globe and surely will be for generations. In that spirit, we must keep fighting for social justice, voting rights, quality education and affordable healthcare for every soul. To paraphrase Lewis, we must “never, ever be afraid to make some noise and get in good trouble, necessary trouble.”