Renowned actress Alfre Woodard joined lawmakers Saturday (July 17) at the General Dynamics-NASSCO shipyard in San Diego to christen the USNS John Lewis one year after the civil rights icon died at age 80. Woodard, who is the sponsor for the 742-foot vessel, shared kind words about her friend Lewis at the ceremony and stuck to tradition by smashing a bottle of Champagne against the hull of the massive ship.
“John Lewis lives in all the spaces where people reach out their hands to pull others up to the lives that they deserve,” Woodard said. “And now he lives in the name and the embodiment of this mighty sailing vessel and its mission of fortifying and sustaining those who have committed themselves to the service of our nation.”
“Like the man himself, the presence of the USNS John Lewis, may it inspire justice as a mission, peace as a goal, and compassion as a way of moving. This lady sales in a legacy as deep as the waters she traverses,” she added. The event was one of several put together Saturday to honor the late Georgia congressman’s life and legacy. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, congresswoman Maxine Waters, congresswoman Joyce Beatty, and Georgia U.S. Rep. Nikema Williams were among nearly 30 members of Congress in attendance.
Congresswoman Pelosi called Lewis a “warrior” during her speech and said that it’s “fitting” to “honor John Lewis with this formidable ship.” “One of the mottos of the Navy is ‘Semper Fortis’ — ‘Always Courageous’ — and John Lewis was indeed always courageous,” said House Speaker Pelosi. “This ship will be a beacon to the world reminding all who see it of the persistence and courage of John Lewis.”
The vessel was built to transfer fuel to U.S. Navy carrier strike group ships at sea. John Lewis-class oilers, in the future, will be named for other civil rights leaders such as, Sojourner Truth, Harvey Milk, Robert F. Kennedy, Lucy Stone, and more according to the Navy.
Watch the ceremony below: