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Memorializing the Honorable John Lewis

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. COHEN. Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the time.

I say to the gentleman from North Carolina that I remember that the last time I saw John Lewis was March 5, his birthday; and the gentleman offered the prayer. That meant a lot to me, and it showed me the respect that you had for him and that he had for you. It was a beautiful moment.

There was not a more perfect person that has probably served in the Congress and, certainly that I have known in my life, than John R. Lewis. He had every quality that you would desire in a human being and couldn't even imagine a person to have them altogether.

He was a hero of the civil rights movement and cared greatly about the injustices that he had seen as an African American, and that is what launched him on his civil rights struggles. But once he got moving, it was people of different issues of discrimination that he championed; whether it was gay and lesbian; whether it was Native Americans; whether it was women, or just simple people being victims of gun violence, John Lewis took up the cause and he stood up for everybody.

He did not know color. He did not know gender. He did not know any differences in people. He loved all people.

It was such an honor to serve with him.

Early in my career, the American Bar Association presented the Day Award to John Lewis, Richard Lugar and myself. The award was nothing compared to the fact that I was with John Lewis that day. It made me feel much greater than I ever could become.

I had the great honor to travel with him to South Africa for the 50th anniversary of Robert F. Kennedy's Ripple of Hope speech in Cape Town. I saw and I sat across from he and Bishop Desmond Tutu, and I knew I was seeing two angels together, two special souls united.

Mr. Lewis loved two people in life that were his heroes; one was Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and the other was Robert Kennedy. The purpose of that speech on that trip was to honor Robert Kennedy and the 50th anniversary of that speech.

In that speech, Robert Kennedy said: ``It is from numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped. Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.''

Robert Kennedy might as well have been speaking about John Lewis that day in 1964, because that is what John Lewis did; and he was more than a ripple of hope, he was a tsunami of hope. He was in every good cause there was, and he sacrificed himself physically in South Carolina, in Alabama, in Mississippi, for civil rights. And he sacrificed himself even when he was a Member of Congress for different causes, getting arrested.

And when he was on death's doorstep, he got himself to Washington, D.C., to appear at Black Lives Matter Plaza and give hope and encouragement and support to the young people that were striving for the causes that he had strived for his whole life.

I value every single moment I spent with Congressman Lewis. It was an honor to know him. I miss him.

And just the other day, I looked up at the scoreboard, and when I didn't know quite how to vote on some issues, I would look to John Lewis and see how he voted. And he wasn't there.

He was my hero.


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