Jul 27, 2020
John Lewis Memorial Service Transcript at US Capitol July 27
A memorial was held on July 27 at the US Capitol for Representative John Lewis, the first Black lawmaker to lie in state at the Capitol Rotunda. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell spoke about John Lewis’ work and legacy. McConnell said: “But even though the world around him gave him every cause for bitterness, he stubbornly treated everyone with respect and love, all so that, as his friend Dr. King once put it, we could build a community at peace with itself”. Read the transcript of the memorial service here.
Speaker 1: (02:23)
[inaudible 00:00:02]. Good afternoon. It is an official, personal, and very sad honor to welcome my colleague, John Lewis, back to the Capitol, to welcome his family and his many friends to acknowledge his sacred life. Please stay standing for the invocation by Reverend Dr. Grainger Browning, Jr., Ebenezer AME Church.
Grainger Browning, Jr.: (02:53)
Let us bow our heads in a word of prayer.
Grainger Browning, Jr.: (02:56)
Eternal God, our father, I come before you today in the name of Jesus, thanking you for the many different faiths and beliefs and religions that make up your beloved community that come to celebrate the life and the legacy of John Lewis. We come today thanking you for the faith foundations that his mother and father established in Troy, Alabama. We thank you for his leadership of Snick in the March on Washington. We thank you for how he was bloodied for us, bruised for us. He marched for us, sat in for us and was willing to give up his life that we might have life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. And on today as his colleagues and friends and especially family members come, as he lays in state in this hallowed rotunda, we come on this day, recommitting ourselves to march as he marched to ballot boxes and to, this year, for mailboxes and for voting rights and for civil rights and for human rights.
Grainger Browning, Jr.: (03:50)
And we’ll keep doing that until that day justice rolls down like might waters and righteousness like a mighty stream. And finally, on July 17th, we want to say thank you that he crossed another bridge, not the Edmund Pettus Bridge that we pray that one day will be named the John Lewis Memorial Bridge, but the bridge from earth to glory. And when it got there, Elijah Cummings and the congressional cloud of witnesses welcomed him home as they marched down that street paved of gold. We want to say thank you from Emmett Till to George Floyd, said, “Thank you for allowing our deaths not to be in vain.”
Grainger Browning, Jr.: (04:25)
And when he got to the lily white throne, we want to say thank you. We heard you say, “Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have done the good fight and you have kept your eyes on the prize. And now enter into the joy of the Lord.” And after you said that, Gabriel told the angels to lift every voice and sing. And we heard Dr. King in the background saying, “Free at last. Free at last. The consciousness of Congress is free at last.” In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
Speaker 2: (04:55)
[inaudible 00:00:04:57], the honorable Mitch McConnell, Majority Leader of the United States Senate.
Mitch McConnell: (05:07)
Please be seated.
Mitch McConnell: (05:18)
In his memoirs, John Lewis described a childhood home that was quite different from the place he lies today. That farmhouse in Pike County, Alabama had no running water or electricity. It stood on the first land his father’s family had ever owned in a part of the country where segregation had led to almost total isolation along racial lines. It would have been hard to conceive back then that the young child tending his family’s chickens would, by age 23, be leading the movement to redeem American society. That he’d be addressing a hundreds of thousands of civil rights marchers from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. I was lucky enough to be there that day. I marveled at the massive crowds. The sight gave me hope for our country. That was John’s doing. Even on that day as his voice echoed across the mall, I wonder how many dared imagine that young man would come to walk the halls of the Congress.
Mitch McConnell: (06:39)
America’s original sin of slavery was allowed to fester for far too long. It left a long wake of pain, violence, and brokenness that has taken great efforts from great heroes to address. John’s friend, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. famously said, ” The arc of the moral universe is law, but it bends toward justice.” But that is never automotive. History only bent toward what’s right because people like John paid the price to help bend it. He paid that price at every Nashville lunch counter, where his leadership made segregation impossible to ignore. He paid it in every jail cell where he waited out hatred and depression. He paid that price in harassment and beatings from a bus station in South Carolina to the Edmund Pettus Bridge.
Mitch McConnell: (07:43)
John Lewis lived and worked with urgency because the task was urgent. But even though the world around him gave him every cause for bitterness, he stubbornly treated everyone with respect and love, all so that, as his friend Dr. King once put it, we could build a community at peace with itself. Today we pray and trust that this peace maker himself now rests in peace. All of John’s colleagues stand with his son, John Miles, their family, and the entire country in thanking God that he gave our nation just hero it needed so badly. May all of us that he will leave behind under this dome pray for a fraction of John’s strength to keep bending that arc on toward justice.
Speaker 2: (08:57)
Ladies and gentlemen, the honorable Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the United States House Of Representatives.
Nancy Pelosi: (09:08)
To the family of John Lewis, welcome to the rotunda. Under the dome of the US Capitol, we have bid farewell to some of the greatest Americans in our history. It is fitting that John Lewis joins this pantheon of patriots resting upon the same catafalque of President Abraham Lincoln. John revered President Lincoln. His identification with Lincoln was clear 57 years ago at the shadow of the Lincoln Memorial, where John declared our minds, souls and hearts can not rest until freedom and justice exist for all people. Words that ring true today. Mr. Leader, I too was there that day, my student years.
Nancy Pelosi: (09:57)
Between then and now John Lewis became a titan of the Civil Rights Movement and then the conscience of the Congress. Here in Congress, John was revered and beloved on both sides of the aisle, on both sides of the Capitol. We knew that he always worked on the side of the angels, and now we know that he is with them. And we are comforted to know that he is with his beloved Lillian. And may it be a comfort to John’s son, John Miles, and the entire Lewis family, Michael Collins, the entire staff that so many mourn their loss and are praying for them at this sad time. God truly blessed America with the life and leadership of John Lewis. We thank you for sharing him with us. May he rest in peace.
Nancy Pelosi: (10:50)
John Lewis often spoke of a beloved community, a vision that he shared with the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, of a community connected and uplifted by faith, hope, and charity. And indeed John had deep faith, believing that every person has a spark of divinity making them worthy of respect. And he had faith in the charity of others, which is what gave him so much hope. And as he wrote in his book, “Release the need to hate, to harbor division, and the enticement of revenge. Release all bitterness. Hold only love, only peace in your heart, knowing the battle for good to overcome evil is already won.” John, the optimist. Through it all, John was a person of greatness and he also was a person of great humility, always giving credit to others in the movement.
Nancy Pelosi: (11:49)
John committed his life to advancing justice and understood that build a better future, we had to acknowledge the past. Exactly one year ago, it was a privilege to be with John and members of the Congressional Black Caucus, Madam Chair, Karen Bass, on a pilgrimage to Ghana to observe 400 years since the arrival of the first slaves from Africa. Some of the descendants of those slaves would build this Capitol, where John lies in state on the Lincoln catafalque.
Nancy Pelosi: (12:25)
I wish you could have seen the response that John received when he was introduced to the Ghana Parliament. My colleagues are shaking their heads. It was overwhelming. But I wish you could have seen him at the door of no return, which enslaved people were sent through on to the death ships to cross the Atlantic. I wish you could have seen what it meant to him. He knew that the door of no return was a central part of American history, just as is the Edmund Pettus Bridge, the March on Washington, the Selma March to Montgomery are. When John made his speech 57 years ago, he was the youngest speaker at the March on Washington program. How fitting it is that in the final days of his life, he summoned the strength to acknowledge the young people peacefully protesting, and in the same spirit of that march, taking up the unfinished work of racial justice, helping complete the journey begun more than 55 years ago.
Nancy Pelosi: (13:34)
We have all seen the photographs of John being brutally beaten in Selma, which painted an iconic picture of injustice. What a beautiful contrast to see John and the Mayor of Washington who’s with us today at the Black Lives Matter Plaza, standing in solidarity with the protestors, an iconic picture of justice that will endure and will inspire a nation for years to come.
Nancy Pelosi: (14:03)
John firmly focused on the future, on how to inspire the next generation to join the fight for justice, and his quote, “To find a way to get in the way.” As one of the youngest leaders of the Freedom Rides, March on Washington as I said, and March to Montgomery, he understood the power of young people to change the future. When asked what someone can do who was 19 or 20 years old, the age that he was when he set out to desegregate Nashville, Lewis replied, “A young person should be speaking out for what is fair, what is just, what is right. Speak out for those who have been left out and left behind. That is how the movement goes forward,” John said. Imagine the great joy he had traveling the country to share that message of action with young people. No need to imagine. It is my personal privilege right now for me to yield to our beloved colleague, the distinguished gentleman from Georgia, Congressman John Lewis.
John Lewis: (15:15)
I grew up in rural Alabama, 50 miles from Montgomery, outside of a little place called Troy. My father was a sharecropper, a tenant farmer. But back in 1944 when I was only four years old, my father had saved $300. And with the $300, he bought 110 acres of land. My family is still on that land today. How many of you remember when you were four? What happened to the rest of us?
John Lewis: (15:49)
It was many, many years ago when we would visit the little town of Troy, visit Montgomery, visit Tuskegee, visit Birmingham. I saw those signs that said white men, colored men, white women, colored women, white waiting, colored waiting. I would come home and ask my mother, my father, my grandparents, my great grandparents, why. They would say, “That’s the way it is. Don’t get in the way. Don’t get in trouble.”
John Lewis: (16:21)
But one day in 1955, 15 years old in the 10th grade, I heard about Rosa Parks. I heard the words of Martin Luther King, Jr. on our radio. 1957, I met Rosa Parks at the age of 17. In 1958 at the age of 18, I met Martin Luther King, Jr. And these two individuals inspired me to get in the way, to get in trouble.
John Lewis: (16:53)
So I come here to say to you this morning on this beautiful campus, with your great education, you must find a way to get in the way. You must find a way to get in trouble, good trouble, necessary trouble. Use your education. You have wonderful teachers, wonderful professors, researchers. Use what you have. Use your learning. Use your tools to help make our country and make our world a better place where no one would be left out or left behind. You can do it and you must do it. It is your time. In a few short days, we will commemorate what we call the Mississippi Summer Project where more than 1000 students from all over America, many from abroad-
John Lewis: (18:02)
From all over America, many from abroad, made a trip to Mississippi to encourage people to register to vote. And that summer night of June 21st, 1964, three young man that I knew, two whites and one African American: Micky Schwerner, Andy Goodman and James Chaney went out to investigate the burning of an African American church that was used for voter registration workshop. These three young men detained by the sheriff, taken to jail, taken out of jail, turned over to the Klan, where they were beaten, shot and killed.
John Lewis: (18:42)
And I tell students today, these three young men didn’t die in Vietnam. They didn’t die in the Middle East or Eastern Europe. They didn’t die in Africa or Central or South America. They died right here in our own country, trying to help all of our citizens become participants in a democratic process.
John Lewis: (19:03)
As young people, you must understand that there are forces that want to take us back to another period, but you must say that we’re not going back. We made too much progress and we’re going forward. There may be some setbacks, some delays, some disappointment, but you must never ever give up or give in. You must keep the faith and keep your eyes on the prize. That is your calling. That is your mission. That is your moral obligation. That is your mandate. Get out there and do it. Get in the way.
John Lewis: (19:49)
In the final analysis, we all must learn to live together as brothers and sisters. We all live in the same house. And it doesn’t matter whether we all black or white, Latino, Asian American, or Native American. It doesn’t matter whether you’re straight or gay. We are one people. We are one family. We all live in the same house.
John Lewis: (20:17)
Be bold. Be courageous, stand up. Speak up. Speak out and find a way to create the beloved community, the beloved world, a world of peace, a world that will recognize the dignity of all human kind. Never become bitter. Never become hostile. Never hate. Live in peace. We’re one, one people and one love. Thank you very much. [silence 00:03: 58].
Speaker 3: (25:46)
Ladies and gentlemen, Dr. Wintley Phipps.
Dr. Wintley Phipps: (26:00)
[ singing 00:06:34].
Dr. Wintley Phipps: (26:28)
[silence 00: 11:48].
Speaker 3: (32:18)
Ladies and gentleman, Dr. Wintley Phipps.
Speaker 4: (36:00)
Speaker 5: (36:00)
Ladies and gentlemen, please rise for the benediction [inaudible 00:37:31] the Honorable James. E. Clyburn [inaudible 00:37:33] of the United States’ House of Representatives.
James. E. Clyburn: (37:50)
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference, living one day at a time, accepting hardships as a pathway to peace, taking, as he did, the sinful world as it is, not as I would have it, trusting that he will make all things right if I surrender to his will, that I may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with him forever in the next. Amen.
Speaker 5: (38:54)
Ladies and gentlemen, please remain in your seats until you are escorted to pay your respects by the sergeant-at-arms.