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Barack Obama, Biden, Pelosi and others remember John Lewis

President Obama presented a 2010 Presidential Medal of Freedom to Rep. John Lewis.
President Obama presented a 2010 Presidential Medal of Freedom to Rep. John Lewis.Carolyn Kaster/Associated Press

As news of Rep. John Lewis’ passing emerged late Friday, notable political figures praised the civil rights icon and longtime congressman.

Former President Barack Obama released a statement on Lewis’ passing early Saturday morning, noting Obama had told Lewis he was one of his heroes when they met.

“When I was elected President of the United States, I hugged him on the inauguration stand before I was sworn in and told him I was only there because of the sacrifices he made,” Obama wrote.

Obama said he and Lewis had spoken recently in the wake of nationwide protests against racial injustice and police brutality after George Floyd’s death.

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“I told him that all those young people – of every race, from every background and gender and sexual orientation – they were his children. They had learned from his example, even if they didn’t know it,” Obama said.

He continued: “He loved this country so much that he risked his life and his blood so that it might live up to its promise. And through the decades, he not only gave all of himself to the cause of freedom and justice, but inspired generations that followed to try to live up to his example.

Joe Biden released a statement in which he said “John’s life reminds us that the most powerful symbol of what it means to be an American is what we do with the time we have to make real the promise of our nation – that we are all created equal and deserve to be treated equally.

“Through the beatings, the marches, the arrests, the debates on war, peace, and freedom, and the legislative fights for good jobs and health care and the fundamental right to vote, he taught us that while the journey toward equality is not easy, we must be unafraid and never cower and never, ever give up.”

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And in a Twitter message, Biden said that Lewis “was a giant walking among us.”

President Trump tweeted on Saturday afternoon that he was “Saddened to hear the news of civil rights hero John Lewis passing. Melania and I send our prayers to he and his family.”

“We have lost a giant,” former President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in a joint statement.

“John Lewis gave all he had to redeem America’s unmet promise of equality and justice for all, and to create a place for us to build a more perfect union together,” the statement continued.

“Today, America mourns the loss of one of the greatest heroes of American history: Congressman John Lewis, the Conscience of the Congress,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a statement.

“...Every day of John Lewis’s life was dedicated to bringing freedom and justice to all. ... In the Congress, John Lewis was revered and beloved on both sides of the aisle and both sides of the Capitol. All of us were humbled to call Congressman Lewis a colleague, and are heartbroken by his passing. May his memory be an inspiration that moves us all to, in the face of injustice, make ‘good trouble, necessary trouble,’” the statement said.

Former president Jimmy Carter said Lewis “made an indelible mark on history through his quest to make our nation more just.”

In a statement, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said: “You did not need to agree with John on many policy details to be awed by his life, admire his dedication to his neighbors in Georgia’s Fifth District, or appreciate his generous, respectful and friendly bearing.”

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“Dr. King famously said ‘the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice,‘” the statement continued. “But progress is not automatic. Our great nation’s history has only bent towards justice because great men like John Lewis took it upon themselves to help bend it. Our nation will never forget this American hero.”

Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh wrote on Twitter: “Tonight, we lost an American hero and civil rights leader who used his voice to propel our country forward. Tomorrow, and in every day that follows, we must double down on the work ahead to continue the fight for justice in his honor.”

New York Rep. Hakeem Jeffries wrote on Twitter: “We have lost a legendary civil rights icon and change agent extraordinaire.”

Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren wrote on Twitter: “John Lewis was and will always be an American hero and champion for civil rights, who inspired us all to make good trouble in the fight for justice.”

Suffolk County District Attorney Rachael Rollins said Lewis “showed generations of us how to be fearless and make good trouble.”

In a Twitter thread, Rep. Ilhan Omar, one of the first two Muslim congresswomen, said Lewis was a “civil rights legend” and “a moral voice for the whole nation.”

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“He called me ‘daughter’ and would tell me how incredible it was for me to be in Congress and visit Africa with him as a colleague,” she continued.

The Rev. Al Sharpton described Lewis as “a rare and great man” who “changed the world without hate, rancor or arrogance.”

“It is not enough to say he was a revered civil rights icon. He was a man of impeccable integrity who dedicated his life to fighting against racism, discrimination & injustice,” California Rep. Maxine Waters said about Lewis on Twitter.

Stacey Abrams remembered Lewis as a “Defender of justice. Champion of right. Our conscience.”




Amanda Kaufman can be reached at amanda.kaufman@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @amandakauf1.