The Inspiration to Lead Us into Good Trouble

John Lewis was a model for how to lead

Representative John Lewis stepped up to lead the nation to a better reality of racial equality. He was a pillar of moral leadership that touched those far beyond his reach with his wisdom, clarity of vision, and persistence. He will be sorely missed but his encouragement, resonating in his call for Good Trouble, will lead us and push us to reach a promised land.

Representative John Lewis passed away on Friday due to pancreatic cancer.

John Lewis stirred the souls of many. His life reminds us of Moses, the Biblical prophet, leading the Israelites out of bondage in Egypt, across the wilderness to the promised land. Moses never crossed the River Jordan but he brought his people to its edge where they could see the promised land just ahead. Lewis brought us to an edge wherein we can see racial equality ahead. It’s a promised land we can reach if we continue to try, continue to make Good Trouble.

Today, the civil rights movement presses on in the guise of Black Live Matter, calling for equality and respect and love. Lewis was persistent, having been jailed repeatedly, even after taking office as a U.S. Representative, in the pursuit of justice. Civil rights movements are energized today because Lewis brought the fruits of his labors wherein, he could lead his people into Good Trouble.

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John Lewis led persistently for decades

As Katharine Q. Seelye, writing for the New York Times, reported:

On the front lines of the bloody campaign to end Jim Crow laws, with blows to his body and a fractured skull to prove it, Mr. Lewis was a valiant stalwart of the civil rights movement and the last surviving speaker from the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in 1963.

More than a half-century later, after the killing in May of George Floyd, a Black man in police custody in Minneapolis, Mr. Lewis welcomed the resulting global demonstrations against police killings of Black people and, more broadly, against systemic racism in many corners of society. He saw those protests as a continuation of his life’s work, though his illness had left him to watch from the sidelines.

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U.S. House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi, released a statement saying, in part:

Every day of John Lewis’s life was dedicated to bringing freedom and justice to all. As he declared 57 years ago during the March on Washington, standing in the shadow of the Lincoln Memorial: ‘Our minds, souls, and hearts cannot rest until freedom and justice exist for all the people.’ How fitting it is that even in the last weeks of his battle with cancer, John summoned the strength to visit the peaceful protests where the newest generation of Americans had poured into the streets to take up the unfinished work of racial justice.

John Lewis urged us to do something, to make a difference

John Lewis was a master of messaging as he painted a vision of a better future for everyone. He urged us to dip into a vast resource of inner strength and resolve to do something, to make a difference. Here are but a few of his encouraging words:

I want to see young people in America feel the spirit of the 1960s and find a way to get in the way. To find a way to get in trouble. Good trouble, necessary trouble.

Be hopeful. Be optimistic. Never lose that sense of hope.

Never give up. Never give in. Never become hostile… Hate is too big a burden to bear.

The messages Lewis relied on were always inclusive, always reaching out to welcome others in, to encourage the good fight – the Good Trouble – to continue.

John Lewis held voting to be a sacred act

One of his deepest concerns revolved around our ability and freedom to vote. It was a driving force that gave purpose to many speeches, many marches, and many moments of sacrifice and agony. Here are a few more quotes of his that highlight how precious voting was to him:

To make it hard, to make it difficult almost impossible for people to cast a vote is not in keeping with the democratic process.

The vote controls everything that you do.

The vote is the most powerful nonviolent tool we have.

The vote is precious. It’s almost sacred, so go out and vote like you never voted before.

I have listened to Representative Lewis many times and I share his sentiment about the preciousness of voting. It is this reverence for this power given to the people that drives the push for Equal Voice Voting (EVV). The gift of voting gives our voices the freedom to be heard, the promise to be heard. EVV ensures that when we elect a president, all votes matter! Lewis was, still is, an inspiration to persist to make this vision come true.

Representative Lewis, Mr. Lewis, Brother Lewis, has walked with many over many miles, many bridges, and past many lines of resistance. His wise and persistent voice urges all of us to do something, to stand up, be counted – Vote!

Representative Lewis will not be forgotten. His memory continues to lead.

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By Jerry Spriggs and the Equal Voice Voting Team

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