Former President Barack Obama’s speech celebrated the life and legacy of Congressman John Lewis.
During the eulogy, Obama called on legislators to strengthen voter rights – including making Election Day a holiday, automating voter registration, and undoing policies of voter suppression and gerrymandering.
“I like so many Americans owe a great debt to John Lewis and his forceful vision of freedom…John Lewis was getting something inside his head, an idea he couldn’t shake, took hold of him, that nonviolent resistance and civil disobedience were the means to change laws, but also change hearts and change minds and change nations and change the world.”
“He believed that in all of us, there exists the capacity for great courage, a longing to do what’s right, a willingness to love all people, and to extend to them their God-given rights to dignity and respect,” he said. “And it’s because he saw the best in all of us that he will continue, even in his passing, to serve as a beacon in that long journey toward a more perfect union.”
“So we’re also gonna have to remember what John said: “If you don’t do everything you can do to change things, then they will remain the same. You only pass this way once. You have to give it all you have.” As long as young people are protesting in the streets, hoping real change takes hold, but we can’t casually abandon them at the ballot box, not when few elections have been as urgent on so many levels as this one. We can’t treat voting as an errand to run if we have some time; we have to treat it as the most important action we can take on behalf of democracy. Like John, we have to give it all we have.”