WASHINGTON — Former President Barack Obama delivered an impassioned eulogy for the late congressman and civil rights chief John Lewis on Thursday and referred to as on Congress to honor Lewis’ legacy by increasing the Voting Rights Act.
Talking in Atlanta, the nation’s first Black president warned that the identical forces that empowered and motivated among the most notorious segregationists in American historical past are nonetheless at work in the present day.
Lewis, mentioned Obama, “knew that the march shouldn’t be over. That the race shouldn’t be but received,” and “we have now to be vigilant in opposition to the darker currents of this nation’s historical past.”
“Bull Connor could also be gone, however in the present day, we witness with our personal eyes cops kneeling on the necks of Black Individuals,” mentioned Obama, referring to the police killing of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man in Minneapolis this spring.
“George Wallace could also be gone, however we are able to witness our federal authorities sending brokers to make use of tear fuel and batons in opposition to peaceable demonstrators,” he continued, referring to the Trump administration’s violent response to racial justice protests within the wake of Floyd’s loss of life.
“We could not must guess the variety of jellybeans in a jar with the intention to solid a poll, however at the same time as we sit right here, there are these in energy who’re doing their darndest to discourage individuals from voting by closing polling places and focusing on minorities and college students with restrictive I.D. legal guidelines and attacking our voting rights with surgical precision,” mentioned Obama. “Even undermining the postal service within the runup to an election that is going to be depending on mail-in ballots so individuals do not get sick!”
There was little doubt to whom Obama was referring right here. Earlier within the day, Trump continued his monthslong warfare on mail-in voting with a tweet claiming with out proof that widespread mail-in ballots would end in an “inaccurate and fraudulent” election, earlier than suggesting that maybe the election must be delayed.
Trump additionally lately appointed a political donor with no related expertise to the place of U.S. Postmaster Basic. The appointee, Louis Dejoy, lately unveiled an working plan that will decelerate mail supply, at the same time as states throughout the nation ramp up mail-in voting to assist shield residents amid the coronavirus pandemic.
To be able to honor Lewis’ legacy, Obama referred to as on elected officers to go additional than merely renaming the landmark 1965 Voting Rights Act the John Lewis Voting Rights Act.
“As soon as we move the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, we should always preserve marching to make it even higher,” mentioned Obama, “by ensuring each American is mechanically registered to vote, together with former inmates who’ve earned their second likelihood.
“By including polling locations and increasing early voting and making Election Day a nationwide vacation. So if you’re any individual who’s working in a manufacturing facility otherwise you’re a single mother who’s acquired to go to her job and does not get break day, you possibly can nonetheless solid your poll,” Obama continued.
“By guaranteeing that each American citizen has equal illustration in our authorities, together with the Americans who reside in Washington, D.C., and in Puerto Rico; they’re additionally Individuals. By ending among the partisan gerrymandering, so that every one voters have the ability to decide on their politicians, and never the opposite manner round,” mentioned Obama.
“And if all this takes eliminating the filibuster, one other Jim Crow relic, with the intention to safe the God-given rights of each American, then that is what we should always do,” he mentioned.
Former Presidents George W. Bush and Invoice Clinton additionally paid homage to Lewis, who died earlier this month at age 80.
“John Lewis at all times seemed outward, not inward,” mentioned Bush, a Republican who was the final president to resume the Voting Rights Act. “He at all times considered others. He at all times believed in preaching the gospel, in phrase and in deed, insisting that hate and worry needed to be answered with love and hope.”
Clinton inspired individuals to honor Lewis’ legacy by persevering with to get into “good bother,” a phrase Lewis usually used to explain the results of combating in opposition to oppression. Lewis, he mentioned, “left us with marching orders” within the type of an op-ed Lewis wrote shortly earlier than he died, which was printed Thursday in The New York Instances. “Salute, go well with up, and march on,” mentioned Clinton.
Trump, who had an acrimonious relationship with Lewis, didn’t attend the funeral. Nor did he pay tribute to Lewis whereas the late congressman rested in state within the Capitol this week. Trump did, nevertheless, order flags to be flown at half workers for a day in Lewis’ honor.