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Former President Barack Obama speaks during the funeral service of the late Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) at Ebenezer Baptist Church on July 30, 2020 in Atlanta. (Photo: Alyssa Pointer-Pool/Getty Images)

'Must-Watch' Obama Eulogy for John Lewis Includes Powerful Call for Americans to Rise Up for Voting Rights

"That seemed to me to be the most explicitly political Obama has been in his post-presidency."

Eoin Higgins

Former President Barack Obama on Thursday in a fiery eulogy of Rep. John Lewis, the civil rights movement hero who died July 17, highlighted the existential threat to democracy represented by the Republican Party as he called for expansion of voting rights, statehood for Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico, and the end of the filibuster to overcome legislative obstructionism in the U.S. Senate.

"There are those in power who are doing their darnedest to discourage people from voting—by closing polling locations, and targeting minorities and students with restrictive ID laws," said Obama. "And attacking our voting rights with surgical precision, even undermining the postal service in the run-up to an election that's going to be dependent on mail-in ballots so people don't get sick."

The former president called for the passage of the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, which would guarantee "that each American citizen has equal representation in our government, including the American citizens who live in Washington, D.C. and in Puerto Rico."

Obama also urged lawmakers to take relatively radical action to ensure the law's passage that went beyond the scope of even his own policy priorities while in office. 

"If all this takes eliminating the filibuster, another Jim Crow relic, in order to secure the God-given rights of every American, then that's what we should do," he said. 

The remarks came in the midst of the former president's impassioned remembrance of Lewis, who marched with Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. as a young man before later heading to the U.S. House of Representatives where he served for over 30 years.

"Spoke to a quarter of a million people at the March on Washington when he was just 23," said Obama. "Helped organize the Freedom Summer in Mississippi when he was just 24. At the ripe old age of 25, John was asked to lead the march from Selma to Montgomery."

Before his death, Lewis penned an opinion piece for the New York Times—an open letter to the youth of the country—to be published the day of his funeral. 

"Though I may not be here with you, I urge you to answer the highest calling of your heart and stand up for what you truly believe," Lewis wrote. "In my life I have done all I can to demonstrate that the way of peace, the way of love and nonviolence is the more excellent way. Now it is your turn to let freedom ring."


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