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“Find a Way to Get in the Way:” Congressman John Lewis Speaks at American University

The DMV Multicultural Greek Summit, held by the American University Intercultural Greek Collective, hosted Congressman John Lewis (D-GA) as its keynote speaker Saturday, November 18th.

Congressman Lewis was one of the “Big Six” Civil Rights leaders. He marched on the bridge at Selma, spoke at the March on Washington, was one of the original Freedom Riders, and was chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). An alum of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Rep. Lewis shared his wisdom and experience as a civil rights leader.

In light of the heinous racist acts that have occurred on AU’s campus, Her Campus American asked the congressman what advice he would give to students.

Her Campus American University: “What kind of advice can you give to students and young people who want to make a change, as you have?”

Congressman Lewis: “I say to students and young people all over America: read the literature, watch the videos, and you too can do something. You too can make a contribution, but do it in an orderly, peaceful, nonviolent fashion. It’s protected by the constitution, it’s protected by the first amendment, and we should use it. Use it to bring about change. Use it as a form to educate, to inspire, and to move a nation. And moving a nation, maybe you can help move the world and change the world.”

Later, the Congressman spoke about his experiences in the Civil Rights Movement including his first meeting with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in the First Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama. The Congressman told students:

“Hate is too heavy a burden to bare. If we can get it right here in America maybe we can emerge as a model for the rest of the world. We must get it right. You can help get help get it right. We’ve only made a down payment on getting it right.”

“There are forces [today] trying to take us back, but we’re not going back, we’re going forward. The spirit of history is on the side of what is right…

I say to you, as leaders of the twenty-first century: you must be hopeful, you must be optimistic, and you must lead. You must be a headlight and not a tail light.

Be unafraid, be brave, be courageous, be bold, speak up, speak out, organize the unorganized.” 


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