Rep. John Lewis on Friday said it is incumbent on Americans to do all in their power to ensure that young people in this country receive the best possible education.
Speaking to the Leadership Conference Celebrating African American History Month at Troy University, Lewis called education the key to unlocking the best possible future for the nation.
“We must see that all of our young people receive the best education possible for it is our young people that will lead us,” he said. “It is our young people who will get us to the point where we can redeem the soul of American and create that beloved community where we lay down the burden of race. We can do it, and we will do it.”
Lewis said Americans must go forward together, learning to live together.
“We must learn to live together as brothers and sisters, if not, as Dr. King suggested, we will perish as fools,” he said. “We have to look after each other and take care of each other, and we must never, ever give up on each other. It doesn’t matter if we are black or white, Latino American, Asian American or Native American, we are all one people, one family. We all live in the same house, and it is not just an American house, but it is a world house. We must never hate for, as Dr. King stated, hate is much too heavy a burden to bear.”
Lewis encouraged the audience to being willing to stand up, speak up and speak out to bring about an end to injustice.
“When you see something that isn’t fair, isn’t right or just, you have a moral obligation to stand up and say and do something,” he said. “You must not be quiet. Leaders must be the headlights and not the taillights. Don’t be afraid to lead. Don’t be afraid if someone tells you that you are not prepared or not ready or tells you to wait until it’s your time. The time is always right to do what is right.”
Lewis said he truly believes the country will “get it right.”
“Don’t give up. Keep the faith. Keep your eyes on the prize and be hopeful and optimistic,” he said. “Help our children. Help save our country. We don’t need to go backwards. We need to go forward, and we need to go forward together.”
Friday night’s address was one of several activities welcoming Lewis back to Pike County, where he was born in 1940. On Saturday, the City of Troy will honor Lewis during a ceremony at the Troy Public Library, including a proclamation of John Lewis Day in the city, the unveiling of a historic marker and portrait and a screening of the PBS documentary, “John Lewis: Get in the Way.”
Launched in 2002 by Troy University and the City of Troy, the Leadership Conference Celebrating African American History Month is intended to promote dialogue that fosters multicultural collaboration and equip diverse leaders with tools to better serve their organizations and communities. This year’s theme is “Change Agents: Civically Engaged, Academically Oriented and Financially Capable.”
The conference will continue on Saturday with morning sessions and a closing luncheon featuring a keynote address by Rep. Terri Sewell, who represents Alabama’s seventh Congressional District.