CommemoratingCongressman John Lewis

The McLean School community mourns the passing of Congressman John Robert Lewis. Known as the “moral compass” of both parties and a “titan” of civil rights, Congressman Lewis served for over three decades on Capitol Hill. Born the son of Alabama sharecroppers in 1940, Lewis began early in life what would be a storied walk, committed to social justice and the civil rights movement. As a young man, Lewis organized numerous activities to promote change, including sit-ins at segregated counters, bus boycotts, and other nonviolent protests in Nashville. A student and protégé of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Lewis, at the age of 23, was one of six principle speakers at the historic 1963 March on Washington. Two years later, he would lead, with other activist, the famous march for voting rights across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma. The marchers were met by heavily armed local and state police who brutally beat them with clubs, leaving Lewis with a fractured skull. Images from what would come to be known as “Bloody Sunday,” horrified the nation and galvanized support for the Voting Rights Act of 1965, signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson.

In March 2018, we were honored to have Congressman Lewis visit McLean School as part of the school’s Black History Month celebration, providing our community a rare opportunity of personal engagement with this central figure of the Civil Rights Movement. In preparation to receive the congressman, we provided multiple mediums to become educated and familiar with his work on Capitol Hill and in the cities and streets of America. In school lessons, as well as shared videos, movies, and documentaries brought our K-12 students up to speed and aware of the significance of this visit. While here, Congressman Lewis shared reflections of his desire as a young boy to be a preacher, his work with Dr. King, the horror of “Bloody Sunday,” his three decades of congressional service, and the note Barack Obama wrote to him (“It’s because of you, John”) at his inauguration as the first African American President of the United States. He told audiences that they must always lead with love, because hate was too heavy a burden to carry. He challenged us to never be quiet in the presence of wrong. “When you see something that is not right, not fair, not just, you have to speak up. You have to say something; you have to do something.” When speaking recently on the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, Lewis said, “A democracy cannot thrive where power remains unchecked and justice is reserved for a select few. Ignoring these cries and failing to respond to this movement is simply not an option – for peace cannot exist where justice is not served.” Congressman John Robert Lewis will forever be known as an American hero who changed the course of history and who committed his life to the fight for justice, equality, and basic human rights of all.  We were beyond fortunate to have Congressman Lewis visit our community and will share in the future, initiatives to further commemorate his time at McLean School. We invite you to view the NBC4 News coverage of the Congressman with our McLean community from that very important day.