Former president Barack Obama on Thursday delivered the eulogy for Representative John Lewis, the civil rights icon who died July 17 at the age of 80, by both extolling Lewisâs courageous acts and heavily criticizing Republicans in power â including some not-so-veiled references to President Trump.
After speaking at length about Lewisâs accomplishments, Obama noted that the congressman continued to be an activist even as he grew older, because of âthe whirlpools of violence and hatred and despair that can always rise again.â
âBull Connor may be gone, but today we witness with our own eyes police officers kneeling on the necks of Black Americans. George Wallace may be gone, but we can witness our federal government sending agents to use tear gas and batons against peaceful demonstrators,â Obama said, raising his voiceâs volume as those in attendance began to applaud.
âWe may no longer have to guess the number of jelly beans in a jar in order to cast a ballot, but even as we sit here, there are those in power who are doing their darnedest to discourage people from voting by closing polling locations and targeting minorities and students with restrictive ID laws and attacking our voting rights with surgical precision, even undermining the postal service in a run-up to an election thatâs going to be dependent on mail in ballots so that people donât get sick,â Obama continued.
Obama also called for a raft of structural political reforms, including ending the Senate filibuster, enfranchisement for convicted felons, and statehood for D.C. and Puerto Rico.
âAnd by the way, naming it the John Lewis Voting Rights Act â that is a fine tribute. But John wouldnât want us to stop there, just trying to get back to where we already were. Once we pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, we should keep marching to make it even better, by making sure every American is automatically registered to vote â including former inmates whoâve earned their second chance. By adding polling places and expanding early voting and making election day a national holiday so if you are somebody who is working in a factory or you are a single mom whoâs gotta go to her job and then get time off, you can still cast your ballot. By guaranteeing every American citizen has equal representation in our government, including the American citizens who live in Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico. Theyâre Americans. By ending some of the partisan gerrymandering so all voters have the power to choose their politicians, not the other way around. And if all this takes eliminating the filibuster â another Jim Crow relic in order to secure the God-given rights of every American â then thatâs what we should do.â
He also criticized lawmakers who have âunleashed a flood of laws designed specifically to make voting hard, especially by the way state legislators where thereâs a lot of minority turnout.â
âThatâs not necessarily a mystery or an accident,â he said, adding that it was âan attack on what John fought for, an attack on our democratic freedoms. And we should treat it as such.â
Obama also seemed to throw shade at top Republicans like Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who was not in attendance at the funeral. (House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat, spoke earlier during the service.)
âIf politicians want to honor John â and Iâm so grateful for the legacy and work of all the congressional leaders who are here â thereâs a better way than a statement calling him a hero. You want to honor John? Letâs honor him by revitalizing the law that he was willing to die for,â Obama said, receiving a standing ovation from those in attendance.
The former president also acknowledged that he might be criticized for focusing on politics during Lewisâs eulogy, but emphasized he was doing so in honor of Lewis, who risked his life for equality.
âI know this is a celebration of Johnâs life. There are some who might say we shouldnât dwell on such things. But thatâs why Iâm talking about it,â he said. âJohn Lewis devoted his time on this earth fighting the very attacks on democracy and whatâs best in America that weâre seeing circulate right now.â
Obama was one of three former presidents who memorialized Lewis at the funeral service in Atlanta: George W. Bush and Bill Clinton also delivered moving speeches about the congressman.
News – Barack Obama just gave a fiery eulogy for John Lewis. Hereâs what he said – The Boston Globe