The public received shocking news on Friday (July 17) night that civil rights icon and Congressman John Lewis passed away at 80 years old. Since then, countless people — whether they be colleagues, friends, supporters — of the late freedom fighter shared their condolences on social media.
Former President Barack Obama was one of them. Taking the time to write a beautiful, thoughtful piece on what Lewis meant to him and his political career, 44 didn’t hold back to express just how much influence Lewis’ fearlessness had on him as a law student turned senator turned president of the United States of America.
“America is a constant work in progress. What gives each new generation purpose is to take up the unfinished work of the last and carry it further — to speak out for what’s right, to challenge an unjust status quo, and to imagine a better world,” Obama’s message began.
“John Lewis — one of the original Freedom Riders, chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, the youngest speaker at the March on Washington, leader of the march from Selma to Montgomery, Member of Congress representing the people of Georgia for 33 years — not only assumed that responsibility, he made it his life’s work. He loved this country so much that he risked his life and his blood so that it might live up to its promise. And through the decades, he not only gave all of himself to the cause of freedom and justice, but inspired generations that followed to try to live up to his example.”
Obama then went on to speak about Lewis as not just a politician, but a compassionate human being. “Considering his enormous impact on the history of this country, what always struck those who met John was his gentleness and humility. Born into modest means in the heart of the Jim Crow South, he understood that he was just one of a long line of heroes in the struggle for racial justice” the 44th president added.
“Early on, he embraced the principles of nonviolent resistance and civil disobedience as the means to bring about real change in this country, understanding that such tactics had the power not only to change laws, but to change hearts and minds as well.”
The beautiful message closed: “Not many of us get to live to see our own legacy play out in such a meaningful, remarkable way. John Lewis did. And thanks to him, we now all have our marching orders — to keep believing in the possibility of remaking this country we love until it lives up to its full promise.”
You can read the full note here.
Take a look at other reactions to Lewis’ passing below, as well.