I unfortunately never had the opportunity to meet Congressman John Lewis. However, friends and colleagues consistently shared with me that he was a true leader who led with his soul. Across the political spectrum, we hear a deep respect for his integrity, character, faithfulness. In fitting tributes he is remembered for being the “true chaplain of congress”, “the moral compass”, “the soul of America”. John Lewis’s words bear this out, “We are one people; we are only family. And when we finally accept these truths, then we will be able to fulfill Dr. King’s dream to build a beloved community, a nation, and a world at peace with itself.”
From a very early age John Lewis used his heart, his mind, his soul and his tenacity to bring forth change. His rise in the political arena was never about him, but rather an ends to a means of transforming the country, the world. “When I was 15 years old and in the tenth grade, I heard of Martin Luther King, Jr. Three years later, when I was 18, I met Dr. King and we became friends. Two years after that I became very involved in the civil rights movement. I was in college at that time. As I got more and more involved, I saw politics as a means of bringing about change.”
John Lewis rose to one of the highest levels of political power all the while continuing to advocate for those who are marginalized, oppressed and have the least amount of power. “It is my hope that we are on our way to greater change. To respect the dignity and the worth of every human being, and it doesn’t matter the color or their background or whether they’re male or female, gay or straight. We have come to a point, and said ‘We are one people. We’re one family.’ We all live in the same house — not just American house, but the world house.“
Presiding Bishop Michael Curry often suggests, “The opposite of love is not hate, but rather selfishness.” Racism, discrimination, oppression, taken to jail and being beaten on multiple occasions – all this from a faithful center of selflessness, John Lewis always led with his soul, with love. Love manifested in his clarion call that all of us are part of the same family, all of us deserve the dignity of being respected.
Lead with love, separate from selfishness, hold fast that we are one people, one family, respect the dignity of every human being.