ICYMI: Senator Reverend Warnock Commemorates the Lives, Legacies of Congressman John Lewis and Lillian Miles Lewis at Third Annual Good TroubleGala

Senator Reverend Warnock served as Congressman John and Lillian Lewis’ pastor at Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church

 Senator Reverend Warnock’s bill, the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, was named in honor of the Congressman and his decades-long fight for voting and civil rights 

Senator Reverend Warnock: “I could not have imagined, as a student, that I would one day become the pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church, spiritual home of Dr. King and that I would be John Lewis’ pastor and Lillian Lewis’ pastor. But I was always very clear that while I was their pastor, they were the mentors”

NEW: Ossoff, Warnock secure funds preserving John Lewis’ congressional papers – MORE HERE from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Above: Senators Reverend Raphael Warnock, Jon Ossoff, and Congresswoman Nikema Williams at the Good Trouble Gala

Washington D.C. — On Monday, U.S. Senator Reverend Raphael Warnock (D-GA) joined fellow supporters of the John Lewis and Lillian Miles Lewis Foundation at its annual Good Trouble gala and celebrated the lives and legacies of the late Congressman and his wife, who were both parishioners of Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church where the Senator serves as Senior Pastor. This year’s event marked the third annual celebration by the Foundation in honor of the Lewises and supports its year-round efforts to ensure ordinary citizens have the tools they need to create their own version of ‘Good Trouble’.

Senator Warnock delivered greetings at the event, joined by his Georgia congressional colleagues U.S. Senator Jon Ossoff (D-GA) and U.S. Representative Nikema Williams (D-GA-05), who now represents Congressman Lewis’ former district. Former President Bill Clinton delivered the keynote address.

Senator Warnock has long championed the work of Congressman Lewis’ life, specifically, the Congressman’s long push to protect the sacred right to vote. In addition to working with Congressman Lewis to organize “Souls to the Polls” voter drives during the Congressman’s life, in February, the Senator reintroduced the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act in honor of the Congressman, which would update and restore critical safeguards of the original Voting Rights Act of 1965 the Congressman pushed to make law. Senator Warnock is also a lead sponsor of the Freedom to Vote Act, legislation that would improve access to the ballot for all Americans, advance commonsense federal election standards and campaign finance reforms, and protect our democracy.

Additionally, Senators Warnock and Ossoff announced on Wednesday that they secured nearly $600,000 in federal investments in the recently passed government funding bill to support the Foundation’s efforts to digitize and preserve Congressman Lewis’ papers. [Read more HERE in the AJC.]

Above: Senator Warnock and members of the Good Trouble Foundation

Read the transcript of Senator Warnock’s remarks at the gala below:

“I was a student at Morehouse College— don’t’ question us, we might sing the hymn. And as students, we decided to raise our voices on an issue that we thought was very important. It was primarily a student event, but at this prayer vigil, we wanted some of the leaders in the Atlanta area, who we admire so much to come and join us.

“I’m not sure what happened to our communications that day, but none of them showed up, except John Lewis.

“He had not long come to the House and serving as a member of Congress, he came and joined that prayer vigil at the Martin Luther King Jr. International chapel. Honestly, I don’t really remember what he said that night, but his own presence, his presence was his own eloquent witness and I think he showed up because he remembered that he started out as a young person.

“23 years old, speaking at the march on Washington, 25 years old, crossing that Edmund Pettus Bridge, and he just showed up to encourage young people who were trying to find their voice, because he thought it was so important for all of us to get into some good trouble.

“I could not have imagined as a student, that I would one day become the pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church, spiritual home of Dr. King and that I would be John Lewis’ pastor and Lillian Lewis’ pastor. But I was always very clear that while I was their Pastor, they were the mentors.

“I remember Lillian Lewis, I didn’t know her in her strength, I knew her in her weakness, hospital visits, sitting bedside, talking to her, even then, you can see the light in her eyes, the passion and the commitment to the lifelong commitment to building the beloved community.

“On the night before I officiated Congressman Lewis’s funeral, having preached Lillian Lewis’s eulogy. As I prepared to preside over that funeral, I asked myself, what was John Lewis thinking when he was crossing that Edmund Pettus Bridge? With nothing but a trench coat, a backpack, blunt force on the other side of that Edmund Pettus Bridge, what gave him the courage? What was he thinking about? Was he thinking that one day he’d be the recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom? Of course not. Could you imagine that at the end of his life, three American presidents would show up on both sides of the aisle to pay him tribute. I know, that’s not why he did it. I believe that John Lewis was just trying to stay alive that day. So, he could live and fight the next day. Because he always kept the long view. Somehow, as he crossed that bridge, by some stroke of grace, mingled with human determination. He crossed the bridge, and at the same time, built a bridge to the future.

“Here all of us are gathered here tonight, bearing witness to the fact that he was on the right side of history, thank God for the memory and the legacy and the commitment of John and Lillian Miles Lewis, they built the bridge that all of us are not able to cross.

“Not long ago, among those who cross that bridge, and a moment, a defining moment in our country, in which the voices of hate throws up because people who have no vision, traffic in division, they don’t know how to lead us, so they are trying to divide us.

“In a moment, because John Lewis built that bridge, who could have imagined that out of Georgia, a state in the Old Confederacy, a young black man who grew up in the housing projects, and a young Jewish man, the son of an immigrant, both in different ways mentored by John Lewis, a Black man, and a Jewish man would get elected from Georgia in one fell swoop, it’s because of John Lewis.

“We owe it to him to continue to build that bridge and while there are many who celebrate his name, and we welcome that, we have to remind our colleagues in Congress, that if you really truly love John Lewis, then pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. If you love John Lewis, pass the Freedom to Vote Act. You cannot remember him and dismember him at the same time.

“I believe that a vote is a kind of prayer for the world we desire for ourselves and for our children. With our lips and with our legs, let’s keep praying until freedom comes.”