“If you’re not hopeful and optimistic, then you just give up. You have to take the long hard look and just believe that if you are consistent, you will succeed.” – John Lewis
As a leader and hero of the civil rights movement, through the violent freedom marches for voter registration from Selma to Montgomery to the March on Washington, John Lewis has held fast to his principles. Now 76 years young and serving in congress for almost 30 years, he says, “If you ask me whether the election [of Obama] … is the fulfillment of Dr. King’s dream, I say, ‘No, it’s just a down payment.’ There’s still too many people 50 years later that are being left out and left behind.” Recently he stood up by sitting down to lead a House protest on gun reform.
Today this legend was in Hackensack to support Josh Gottheimer (D) for Representative in CD5 against incumbent Scott Garrett (R) who:
• refused to pay his dues to the Republican Party because the Party has supported LGBT candidates,
• was the only member of the NJ delegation to vote for flying the Confederate Flag at veterans’ cemeteries, and
• was the only member of the NJ delegation to vote against renewing the Voting Rights Act.
Many in the packed audience came to hear and show respect to Rep. Lewis. Some had specific concerns like Ruth Mator who believes Scott Garret does not serve the disabled population and Gottheimer would, and Bonnie Chalek, Mom’s Demanding Action for Gun Sense, who likes Gottheimer’s policies. Clifton Arrington, a civil rights activist, stated succinctly, “I am totally against Garrett – no ifs, ands or buts about it.” Rep. Bill Pascrell (D CD9) said, “We cannot have divisive people in in Congress or in the White House. He added that 12,500 individuals in Bergen County have already voted. Rep. Frank Pallone (D CD6) said that with Gottheimer we would get somone who truly represents CD 5. Assemblyman Gordon Johnson (D-LD37) was particularly concerned about turning out the African-American vote.
A humble, modest but charismatic and determined John Lewis upon his entrance received a standing ovation. He first spoke about his childhood raising chickens to whom he practiced his preaching. The chickens never said “no,” he explained, as opposed to many of his colleagues in the House. He described the first time he was arrested in 1960. The day before he had purchased his first suit at Sears & Roebuck in order to be properly attired. He went on to praise Gottherimer as one who “has a heart and passion and will not leave anyone behind. So go forth. That’s what I did. That’s what you must do. Never give up. Never give in. Get out and vote.”
As a former senior advisor to the Chair of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, Gottheimer says, “I believe that everyone should be treated equally no matter what their background, race, sexual orientation, or station in life. We will only succeed as a nation if everyone is included and treated with respect and dignity.”
Both Gottheimer and Lewis share the dream of equality.
After the event Lewis went to New York to support another fan – a woman seeking the presidency who also shares the dream.
For more on Gottheimer go to Gottheimer for Congress website. For more on John Lewis read Walking with the Wind: A Memoir of the Movement.