My heart is saddened. Our hero is gone. His impact though, will ever last. Last night John Lewis died, but for 80 years he showed us truly how to live; how to love; how to serve; and how to be an agent of justice.
I was graced to be able to talk to John Lewis in his final days; to say goodbye; to tell him I love him and speak of the profound impact he had on my life.
To say he was a hero of mine is an understatement—he literally changed the trajectory of my life starting from the year I was born. It was that year, in 1969, that my family became the first black family to move into Harrington Park, New Jersey thanks to the Fair Housing Council which fought for families like mine that were persistently denied housing in white neighborhoods.
My entire childhood was spent in this small NJ town where I was able to receive a great public education that put me on a path to college, law school and my life of public service. Years ago I spoke with the principal lawyer who was indispensable to my family’s triumphant integration of my community and asked why he decided to do this pro bono work amidst a busy, demanding career.
He told me the specific moment — he was watching TV when breaking news came on showing the horrific footage of civil rights activists, led by John Lewis, trying to march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge only to be savagely beaten by Alabama State Troopers. He decided he needed to do whatever he could to help black families facing discrimination—and that led him directly to helping my family.
John’s life bent the arc and trajectory of my own. He was there in so many ways; on so many occasions; from my birth to his death, to influence me, nurture me, advise me, in recent years to collaborate with me and always, always, like he was with our nation, to inspire me and challenge me to get in the way; to cause good trouble; and to truly love others – all others.
John is gone, but he will be ever present with us. We are his legacy.
May we approach his profound grace and summon his fathomless humility; may we love as courageously as him and willingly suffer and sacrifice as freely and determinedly as he did.
I love you, John Lewis. Thank you. Rest in power.