If I had to cast a vote for the nation’s pre-eminent civil rights icon, it would have to be — without question — a gentleman from Georgia, U.S. Rep. John Lewis.
This great man spoke over the weekend at the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala. He was among a large crowd of Americans marking the 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday, when marchers were attacked at that bridge by Alabama police officers.
Rep. Lewis was one of them. He was beaten within an inch of his life by policemen with clubs.
He was part of what was supposed to be a non-violent march in search of voting rights for all Americans, notably African-Americans.
Lewis spoke today, 50 years after that event, and presented himself as just one man who sought to bring justice for his fellow Americans.
He’s such a towering figure today that he totally belies his relatively short physical stature.
Lewis is the last known survivor of those who stood on the podium behind Martin Luther King Jr. during Rev. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. He was at the forefront — even at such a young age — of non-violent protest marches.
He was beaten, but never defeated. And then, when it came time for him to seek public office, he launched his effort to win election to the U.S. House of Representatives, where he would help write the laws that affect all Americans.
I was proud for Rep. Lewis that he was able today to speak loudly and forcefully from the bridge where 50 years ago he was bloodied. This great man demonstrated the immense power of one’s principle and conviction.
There can be no greater testament to the cause for which this courageous man fought and bled.