It should feel like a sad morning when we lose two Medal of Freedom award recipients – two of the many great people who gave their blood to make our country more like the home I want it to be. Rep. John Robert Lewis and Rev. Cordy Tindell Vivian both walked across that bridge in Selma as young men, rewarded for their efforts with brutal beatings. They both participated in numerous peaceful marches and lunch counter sit-ins. They were spat upon, kicked, beaten and jailed. Lewis said he had been jailed 40 times. They both went on to work to make life better for others, Lewis through government, Vivian through the ministry.
I never met either of these men. So rather than feeling sad about their passing, I feel enormous gratitude that there have been, and always will be, those among us who have the guts to stand up for what’s right. In 2018 Lewis said to students “When you see something that is not right, not fair, not just, you have a moral obligation to do something, to say something.”
Growing up in the deep south, he couldn’t understand the segregated water fountains, movie theaters, bathrooms. His mother said “Don’t get in the way. Don’t get in trouble.” But he said he was inspired to get in trouble. Good trouble.
By recognizing America’s flaws, and fighting to eliminate them, Lewis and Vivian and many others helped to make our country greater. This is no time to give up the fight.
And by the way – Hell yes, let’s rename that bridge. Call it the John Lewis Bridge. Call it C.T.Vivian Bridge. Call it the Hosea Williams Bridge. Call it the Lewis Vivian Williams Bridge. Or call it my personal favorite, recognizing all of the brave heroes who crossed it, giving their blood to change the country for the better, Bloody Sunday Bridge. Name it almost anything other than its current name of a white nationalist slavery supporter who was a confederate general and leader of the Ku Klux Klan. Let’s make a commitment to make America greater and to honor of those who gave their blood to do the same.