Obama Makes Sweeping Call To Action On Voting Rights In John Lewis Eulogy

Written by on July 30, 2020

Former President Barack Obama issued a sweeping name to motion on voting rights in his eulogy for civil rights icon and longtime Georgia congressman John Lewis, calling for an finish to the filibuster, automated voter registration, permitting previously incarcerated folks to vote, increasing early voting and making Election Day a nationwide vacation.

“If you wish to honor John, let’s honor him by revitalizing the legislation that he was keen to die for,” Obama stated, calling out the hypocrisy of politicians who posted tributes to Lewis whereas dedicating their careers to enacting voting restrictions and attempting to dismantle and intestine the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

“And, by the way in which, naming it the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, that could be a nice tribute. However John wouldn’t need us to cease there, simply attempting to get again to the place we already have been. As soon as we move the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, we should always hold marching to make it even higher.”

Obama’s eulogy was an implicit rebuke of President Donald Trump in addition to Chief Justice John Roberts, who wrote the Supreme Court docket opinion that gutted the Voting Rights Act in 2013 and whose defining achievement on the bench has been the erosion of voting rights.

It was solely becoming for the primary Black president to take heart stage at Thursday’s memorial service for Lewis. The civil rights titan died of most cancers on July 17. 

“I’ve come right here at present as a result of I, like so many Individuals, owe an awesome debt to John Lewis and his forceful imaginative and prescient of freedom,” Obama started. 

The previous president traced the complete arc of Lewis’ lengthy and storied profession, which started when Lewis was on the entrance strains of the civil rights motion as a school scholar.

“Generally we act as if this was inevitable. Think about two folks, Malia’s age, youthful than my oldest daughter, on their very own, to problem a whole infrastructure of oppression,” Obama stated. “John was solely 20 years outdated, however he pushed all 20 of these years to the middle of the desk, betting every little thing, all of it, that his instance might problem centuries of conference and generations of brutal violence and numerous each day indignities suffered by African Individuals.”

He went on to explain Lewis’ lengthy congressional profession and his work till the very finish of his life. 

“As an outdated man, he didn’t sit out any combat,” Obama stated. “He knew that the march shouldn’t be over, that the race shouldn’t be but gained.”

President Barack Obama, Rep. John Lewis, and former President George W. Bush hold hands on March 7, 2015, during a cerem

President Barack Obama, Rep. John Lewis, and former President George W. Bush maintain palms on March 7, 2015, throughout a ceremony marking the 50th anniversary of the “Bloody Sunday” occasions on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama.

All through the eulogy, Obama drew parallels between Lewis’ life’s work and the present political second, together with the violent police response to the anti-racism and anti-police brutality protests across the nation this summer time — exhibiting how the previous is prologue and that historical past continues to repeat itself.

“He knew from his personal life that progress is fragile, that we’ve got to be vigilant towards the darker currents of this nation’s historical past, of our personal historical past, the place there are whirlpools of violence and hatred and despair that may all the time rise once more,” Obama stated.

He referred to former Alabama governor and infamous segregationist George Wallace. “As we speak, we witness with our personal eyes, law enforcement officials kneeling on the necks of black Individuals. George Wallace could also be gone, however we will witness our federal authorities sending brokers to make use of tear gasoline and batons towards peaceable demonstrators.”

“We could now not need to guess the variety of jellybeans in a jar to forged a poll. However at the same time as we sit right here, there are these in energy who’re doing their darnedest to discourage folks from voting by closing polling places and concentrating on minorities and college students with restrictive ID legal guidelines and attacking our voting rights with surgical precision, even undermining the postal service within the run-up to an election that’s going to be depending on mail-in ballots so folks don’t get sick,” he continued.

“I do know it is a celebration of John’s life. There are some who would possibly say we shouldn’t dwell on such issues. However that’s why I’m speaking about it,” Obama defined.

On Thursday morning, Trump, who was not current on the service and who Lewis warned was not a “reliable president,” falsely advised he might transfer the date of the November election as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic might imply that extra folks vote by mail.

As he typically does, Obama didn’t identify Trump, however the present president loomed massive as his predecessor warned of the significance of the November election and urged Individuals to not take their proper to vote without any consideration.

“Even when we do all this, even when each bogus voter suppression legislation is struck off the books at present, we’ve bought to be sincere with ourselves, that too many people select to not train the franchise,” Obama stated. “We will’t deal with voting as an errand to run if we’ve got a while. We’ve to deal with it as a very powerful motion we will tackle behalf of democracy — and like John, we’ve got to provide all of it we’ve got.”

Obama additionally argued that whereas Lewis’ life was extraordinary, it additionally mirrored the methods abnormal folks can change the world. “America was constructed by John Lewises,” he stated.

“The lifetime of John Lewis was, in so some ways, distinctive. It vindicated the religion in our founding, redeemed that religion, that the majority American of concepts, the concept any of us, abnormal folks with out rank or wealth or title or fame, can by some means level out the imperfections of this nation and are available collectively and problem the established order, and determine that it’s in our energy to remake this nation that we love till it extra intently aligns with our highest beliefs,” Obama stated.

“What a radical concept,” he added. “What a revolutionary notion, this concept that any of us abnormal folks, a younger child from Troy, can stand as much as the powers and principalities, and say: ‘No, this isn’t proper, this isn’t true, this isn’t simply. We will do higher.’”

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