Words are incredibly powerful and US Representative John Lewis knew that at a very young age. In 1963 when he was only twenty-three years old, Lewis, along with the Big Six leaders of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom (Martin Luther King, Jr., A. Philip Randolph, Whitney M. Young Jr., James Farmer, and Roy Wilkins), led more than 250,000 to Washington, D.C. to deliver a clear message: civil rights are everyone’s rights and the wait for these rights is over. Lewis made an impassioned speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and said in front of the largest crowd to ever march on Washington, “To those who have said, ‘Be patient and wait,’ we have long said that we cannot be patient. We do not want our freedom gradually, but we want to be free now!”
Lewis was getting into “good trouble, necessary trouble”—words that he lived by, and he encouraged others to do the same. In other words, fight for what’s right, work to change what’s wrong, and use the power of words and votes to make change happen. Representative Lewis carried this belief throughout his life, leading civil rights movements and getting into plenty of “good trouble” in the US Congress where he served as a US Representative for Georgia’s 5th congressional district since winning the seat in 1986. To his congressional colleagues, he was often thought of as “the conscience of the U.S. Congress,” someone who chose morals and human decency over politics. He, after all, was fighting for and protecting human and civil rights to build what he said is “The Beloved Community” of America.
Lewis passed away on July 17th, 2020, but his legacy of getting into “good trouble” continues with the restoration of the Voting Rights Act, which was recently renamed the “John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act” and passed onto the Senate for a vote. Rest in peace, Representative Lewis. Thank you for getting into “good trouble” and fighting for all of us.