Civil rights icon John Lewis addresses students at summit
Lewis encouraged students to get into “good” trouble through protesting
The Kennedy Political Union and the Intercultural Greek Collective hosted Georgia Congressman and civil rights leader John Lewis on Saturday as part of the D.C., Maryland and Virginia Multicultural Greek Summit.
Prior to the speech, The Eagle and other student media organizations interviewed Lewis in a closed round table session. During the interview, Lewis spoke briefly about his sit-in in the House of Representatives last year that aimed to bring attention to and emphasize the importance of gun-control legislation.
“The great majority of my colleagues believe it was quite successful,” Lewis said. “We were able to occupy the floor of the House for 26 hours, and people noticed it all over America and around the world. I think one day, not in the too distant future, we’re gonna see meaningful pieces of legislation introduced in the Senate and the House and we’re gonna pass them. We’re losing too many people because of gun violence.”
During his speech, Lewis talked about his experiences growing up in the rural town of Troy, Alabama and his first encounters with Jim Crow segregation laws.
“[I would] go downtown on a Saturday afternoon to the movie, all of us little black children had to go upstairs to the balcony, and all of the little white children went downstairs to the first floor,” Lewis said. “I would come home and ask my mother, ask my father, my grandparents, my great grandparents, ‘Why?’ and they would say ‘That’s the way it is. Don’t get in the way, don’t get in trouble.’”
Lewis closed his speech by encouraging students to get into more “good” and “necessary” trouble through protesting and fighting social injustice. He then addressed modern America and how change is possible.
“I know there are people saying ‘Nothing has changed,’ but let me tell you: The signs that I saw when I was growing up, those signs are gone and they will not return,” Lewis said. “The only places that you will see those signs today will be in a book, in a museum, in a video. There are forces trying to take us back, but we’re not going back, we’re going forward.”
Lewis stressed the importance of voting and protecting voting rights.
“The vote is the most non-violent instrument or tool that we have at our disposal,” Lewis said. “The ballot is the most powerful instrument that we have and we should use it, people are dying for it.”
Lewis finished his speech by encouraging the audience to make the world a better place.
“You have a moral obligation, a mission and a mandate, to do what you can to make our country, make our world a better place, to help usher in a loving community where no one is left out or left behind,” Lewis said. “Just go for it.”