Democrats paid tribute to Rep. John Lewis, the civil rights icon, in an emotional video montage Thursday, underscoring his life’s work and one of the convention’s main themes: the right to vote.
Lewis, a giant of the civil rights movement, died in July after a battle with cancer. The longtime lawmaker from Georgia, an advocate of nonviolent protest whose skull was fractured by Alabama state troopers on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, was the last surviving speaker from the 1963 March on Washington.
On Thursday, the fourth evening of their virtual national convention, several Democratic lawmakers, current and former, offered their gratitude for his contributions to democracy and civil rights and his lifelong battle against voter suppression.
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Stacey Abrams, who narrowly lost the 2018 governor’s race amid claims of voter suppression, said she’d remember Lewis for “navigating thorny issues of policy” by “encouraging people to be better than they can be.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Lewis “was a role model for members of Congress, whether they were freshmen or whether they had been here a long time, because he brought with him a kind of heft, a weightiness of purpose.”
Keisha Lance Bottoms, the mayor of Atlanta, which Lewis represented in Congress, celebrated him in an introduction of the tribute as someone who “walked gently amongst us — not as a distant icon, but as a God-fearing man, doing what he could do to fulfill the as-yet-unfulfilled promise of America.”
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And all pointed to Lewis’ heroic civil rights leadership, which included fighting for people to exercise their right to vote.
“We have cried out for justice, we have gathered in our streets to demand change, and now, we must pass on the gift that John Lewis sacrificed to give us. We must register, and we must vote,” Bottoms said. “Congressman Lewis would not be silenced. And neither can we.”
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“Our votes can be our voice. We cannot wait for some other time, some other place, some other heroes,” she said. “We must be the heroes of our generation, because we, too, are America.”
The tribute ended with a musical performance by John Legend and Common.
Adam Edelman is a political reporter for NBC News.
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