Jul. 18, 2020

Obama foundation for president Obama on the death of Hon John Lewis

Late last night, the world lost a legend.

In the statement President Obama released in light of the heartbreaking news of Representative John Lewis’ passing, he describes an inspiring conversation they had after their last public appearance together:

“It’s fitting that the last time John and I shared a public forum was at a virtual town hall with a gathering of young activists who were helping to lead this summer’s demonstrations in the wake of George Floyd’s death. Afterwards, I spoke to him privately, and he could not have been prouder of their efforts—of a new generation standing up for freedom and equality, a new generation intent on voting and protecting the right to vote, a new generation running for political office. I told him that all those young people—of every race, from every background and gender and sexual orientation—they were his children. They had learned from his example, even if they didn’t know it. They had understood through him what American citizenship requires, even if they had heard of his courage only through history books.” 

Their conversation happened just six weeks ago, following a town hall hosted by the My Brother’s Keeper Alliance that focused on the mental toll racism takes on people of color. Rep. Lewis and President Obama, along with founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative Bryan Stevenson, writer and survivor of police brutality Leon Ford, Jr., youth leader LeQuan Muhammad, and activist and author Darnell Moore, highlighted the importance of mental health and wellness for young leaders pushing for change. 

In a powerful moment, Rep. Lewis describes the courage he found in his faith and how this act of self-care allowed him to summon the strength he needed to keep fighting. It’s a testament to how he lived his life—and the example he set for future generations.

Our work is to inspire the next generation of leaders so that they can create a better world. Rep. John Lewis embodied that mission throughout his eighty years, and though we mourn his loss, we are lifted by his legacy—empowering young people to take up the baton of justice for years to come.

Rest in power. 

—The Obama Foundation