An icon remembers a national turning point

John Lewis is the last man standing among a group of leaders who stood before the world and called for the right of all people to enjoy the fruits of freedom.

He has told his story to Bill Moyers, who also recalls the day when 250,000 people gathered on the Washington Mall to hear the words of those who spoke to them.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington. Lewis was the youngest speaker that day, Aug. 28, 1963, to address the crowd. He also is the last man still living. Lewis is now a U.S. representative from Georgia.

He was beaten within an inch of his life two years later at the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala.

On the program — which is attached to this blog — Lewis returned to the Mall with Moyers. He told a small group of students about that day in Selma. Rep. Lewis spoke of a man who had been one of those who beat him. The gentleman, Lewis said, came to the congressman’s office to apologize for the damage he did. The man’s son began crying, Lewis said; the man cried; Lewis cried. They called each other “brother” and forgiveness was delivered.

The nation will remember the March on Washington in a few weeks. The march is best remembered for the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech. As important as that speech was — and is to this day — it was a part of a bigger drama.

John Lewis was one of that drama’s key players.


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