On Thursday the world watched on as America said goodbye to the late civil rights leader and U.S. Representative John Lewis. It was a memorable occasion marked with kind words and solemn tears, and at its core, it was a reminder that Lewis’s life’s work did not end at his passing, but continues even now in his death. Former President Barack Obama made that point decidedly clear when he offered the eulogy at the great icon’s service.
“If politicians want to honor John…there’s a better way than a statement calling him a hero,” Obama said throwing a clear jab at Mitch McConnell and Senate Republicans. “You want to honor John? Let’s honor him by revitalizing the law that he was willing to die for.”
Tributes rang out in the wake of Lewis’s passing from politicians on both sides of the aisle. But Democrats have been vocal about what they believe could be the greatest salute to the life he lived. Obama, in his remarks, touched upon that, suggesting that the Voting Rights Act currently in jeopardy, be named after the man who nearly gave up his life to ensure it came to fruition.
“And by the way, naming it the John Lewis Voting Rights Act… fine tribute. But once we pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, we should keep marching to make it even better,” said Obama, “by making sure every American is automatically registered to vote, including former inmates who have earned their second chance. By adding polling places and expanding early voting and making Election Day a national holiday.”
Lewis was a man of integrity, the “Conscience of the Congress,” as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called him, and every day he fought to protect our democracy. Obama not only delivered a eulogy, he offered a directive for every person who wishes to carry on Lewis’s legacy.
“Democracy isn’t automatic. It has to be nurtured, it has to be tended to, we have to work at it,” he said. “If we want our children to grow up in a democracy — not just with elections, but a true democracy, a representative democracy, a bighearted, tolerant, vibrant, inclusive America — then we’re going to have to be more like John.”