“Democracy is not a state. It is an act, and each generation must do its part.”
I implore you to take the time to read the inspiring essay Congressman John Lewis wrote just before his death that was published in the New York Times today. It brought me to tears, and I feel compelled to help share his clarion call to our Nation. Indeed, we do need to “Redeem the Soul of our Nation.”
Upon Rep. Lewis’s passing, my mother shared with me and my children how meeting him changed her life.
“I want you to know he was a very important person in my life; only one contact, but life-changing. In 1961, he came to the Baptist Conference where I had a summer job between sophomore & junior years in college. He had just come off the Freedom Rides and was seeking support. I had never heard of segregation or Jim Crow laws. His passion & determination to open up equal services was infectious! It seemed a fair expectation to me, and gave a new purpose to my life.
Subsequently, the next two summers I worked with Black children in low income neighborhoods, in Chicago and San Diego — and I changed my career goal from teaching to social work.
In 1965 I went to Montgomery, AL, for the last 2 days of the Selma to Montgomery March, the same one that had begun at the Pettus Bridge where John Lewis was beaten by sheriffs. I participated in many other Marches for civil rights in Chicago and Cleveland. Equal justice has been a lifelong pursuit of mine, in various forms. All due to a path that John Lewis started me on. Currently, I am very pleased that Asheville has passed a resolution agreeing to work on reparations for harm done to African Americans here over the years.”
Like my mother and father, I became a social worker and an activist for racial justice. Like John Lewis, I became an elected official as part of that path. What a legacy this one man has left us, and each one of us can choose to carry on his legacy, to be the kind of person who “stands up for what they truly believe,” by meeting the call he lays out for us in his essay.
I am particularly struck by Rep. Lewis’s great and enduring hope, even after his lifelong struggle for justice—a struggle that, for him, never resulted in the peace that he sought.
Facing such a critical election year, we must heed Rep. Lewis’s reminder that “Democracy is not a state. It is an act, and each generation must do its part.”
We must hear his call to “…use your power to make a difference in our society,” to make some “good trouble.”
Lewis challenges all of us to “answer the highest calling of your heart and stand up for what you truly believe.”
How will we meet this calling? During such a critical year. Such a critical time for our state and nation.
Yes, we must “Redeem the Soul of our Nation.”
John Lewis was the type of public servant that I strive to be, one who believes in working together with all people for the good of all people. But also one who understood the role of power in making change.
I believe Rep. Lewis would love Article I, Section 2 of the North Carolina Constitution which reads “All political power is vested in and derived from the people; all government of right originates from the people, is founded upon their will only, and is instituted solely for the good of the whole.”
Let’s use our power to make some good trouble… for the good of the whole.