Because of you, John. Barack Obama
January 26, 2009 7:30 PM   Subscribe

The President's hero is a 68-year old preacher, fearless civil rights activist, and Congressman named John Lewis.

He got arrested on the bridge at Selma. He promised a serious nonviolent revolution, to "burn Jim Crow to the ground, nonviolently." Hear him tell the story, on Fresh Air, for UNC's Oral History Project.
posted by l33tpolicywonk (24 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Thank you, Mr. Lewis, Sir. And thank you to everybody who was on that bridge.
posted by cashman at 7:40 PM on January 26, 2009 [2 favorites]

He gave the convocation at my school one year. He's pretty awesome.
posted by naoko at 7:44 PM on January 26, 2009

As the article notes, Lewis was originally a Hillary Clinton supporter. John Lewis certainly has done a lot for civil rights, but his endorsement of Obama came very late and had Obama lost I wonder if the title of this post would be, "Because of you, John, Barack Obama lost."

Lewis' fellow civil rights activist and Georgian, Andrew Young, also originally endorsed Hillary, saying that Hillary had Bill Clinton behind her and that Bill Clinton was every bit as black as Barack (video here).
posted by Frank Grimes at 7:52 PM on January 26, 2009

If John Lewis' biggest mistake in life is endorsing HRC, I think we can all find it in our hearts to forgive him.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 7:55 PM on January 26, 2009

It had to be a preacher, didn't it.
posted by turgid dahlia at 7:56 PM on January 26, 2009

I thought the tearing-up moments were over. But, damn, the last line of that New Yorker article did it again.
posted by marsha56 at 8:39 PM on January 26, 2009 [1 favorite]

(notices post title. slaps forehead.) Duh!
posted by marsha56 at 8:55 PM on January 26, 2009

This guy is awesome. I still marvel over pictures of him from the Civil Rights Era- even in my teens and twenties, I could tell just how young he was, and was always awed by his moral clarity, conviction and bravery.

Also, doesn't deserve to be pigeonholed with someone like Andrew Young.
posted by foxy_hedgehog at 2:02 AM on January 27, 2009

He also set up a chain of socialist retail outlets which operate like a communist peasant co-operative. Typical that Obama would pick an anti-religion, extremist commie racial pot stirrer. Good luck America because now GWB's gone, the US of A is going down the pan quicker than the zipper on a Clinton intern's dress.

/freerepublic feed ends here. Normal service will resume shortly. Thank you for your patience
posted by MuffinMan at 3:24 AM on January 27, 2009

It had to be a preacher, didn't it.

Given the importance of Christianity in the civil rights movement, why wouldn't it be?

John Lewis isn't a preacher, really, but let's leave that aside for now.
posted by ibmcginty at 4:38 AM on January 27, 2009

John Lewis was my congressman for a few years, until we moved to our current place just down the road but out of his district. When I couldn't vote for him this time around, it felt a little weird for some reason. We're lucky to have him representing the area.
posted by sadiehawkinstein at 6:17 AM on January 27, 2009

While I was waiting in line outside the AT&T store for the iPhone 3G, John Lewis pulled up in a campaign van and walked down the line shaking everyone's hand. I had no idea who he was.
posted by designbot at 6:34 AM on January 27, 2009

There were two pieces that came out right after the election--in the New Yorker and in the Newsweek series about how much John McCain admired John Lewis, and how shaken he was when Lewis accused McCain of "sowing the seeds of hatred and division” during his campaign. The Newsweek piece seems to conclude that it was the shock of Lewis's comments that were responsible for the abrupt change in tone during the last weeks of the McCain campaign.
posted by gladly at 7:03 AM on January 27, 2009 [4 favorites]

He's my congressman. It more than makes up for Saxby Chambliss being my senator.
posted by catlet at 7:52 AM on January 27, 2009

Catlet beat me to it; he's my congressman too and I am so happy that I vote for him now and not John Linder.
posted by pointystick at 8:07 AM on January 27, 2009

As a non-American, I hadn't heard of him until his comments regarding the election rhetoric - which were spot on, and really needed to be said. The McCain campaign's attempt to discredit him was disingenuous and lied about what he had said. But everything I have learned about Lewis since has made me admire him, especially as he has publically defended gay right and gay marriage as civil rights issues just like racial discrimination.

But there is something I don't understand about the American system - with such a respected elder statesman, how is it that he has not run for Senator, but spent his whole career as a congressman?
posted by jb at 8:15 AM on January 27, 2009

But there is something I don't understand about the American system - with such a respected elder statesman, how is it that he has not run for Senator, but spent his whole career as a congressman?

As a congressman, he just needs to win votes in one (majority African-American, urban, Democratic) district. To be a senator, he would have to win votes across the entire (majority white, rural, Republican) state of Georgia.
posted by designbot at 9:04 AM on January 27, 2009

As well, some people just like the environment in the House better than that of the Senate.

Especially people who have risen to positions of power in the House. Being a subcommittee chairman on Ways and Means in the House means wielding a lot more real power than being a freshman Senator.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:14 AM on January 27, 2009

chain of socialist retail outlets which operate like a communist peasant co-operative

I know you were being ironic, MuffinMan, but I've always wondered how it is that projects like this can be characterized as in anyway "socialist" or "communist" when there's no state-sponsorship behind them and they operate essentially for profit like other businesses... This is basically just a privately held corporation whose workers are also the shareholders. To me, this approach represents a far more equitable, democratic and open way of doing business--not to mention bringing all sorts of interesting built-in performance incentives to bear--than the mainstream corporate models with their anonymous boards of elite oligarchs, supreme leader CEO figureheads and hordes of faceless worker drones earning just enough to make their minimum credit card debt payments. Thanks for that link.

posted by saulgoodman at 11:00 AM on January 27, 2009

btw, i realize the retailer's not actually related to the same john lewis as the fpp, just thought yours was an interesting aside. /minor derail
posted by saulgoodman at 11:06 AM on January 27, 2009

That sounds an awful lot like syndicalism to me, saul.
posted by Pope Guilty at 8:17 PM on January 27, 2009

Apologies for the diversion: John Lewis (the retailer) is a bit of a marvel in British retailing because of its partnership structure - i.e. where senior employees essentially own a stake in the company. Supposedly a bit fuddy duddy it is actually a bit of a trendsetter in some respects. It embraced CSR before it became fashionable. As it answers to no shareholders so it plans more long term, can take more risks and is able to ride out downturns more easily.

Perhaps more interestingly its customer service model breeds loyalty among a massive middle class and older consumer bracket. It's not uncommon to see mothers and adult daughters shopping together there. And as the population ages and customer service / customer loyalty becomes more important it's in a prime position.

It's not without some weaknesses: despite its price matching commitment it will never compete directly with the discount players doing well now, nor can it shave costs as aggressively as other retailers but its still performing pretty robustly.
posted by MuffinMan at 12:48 AM on January 28, 2009

Congressman Lewis is also mentioned in this article from the current Smithsonian Magazine; the first picture in the accompanying slide show is his mug shot. Definitely someone I am proud to have represent my state, even if I live nowhere near his district.
posted by TedW at 6:40 AM on January 28, 2009

As designbot points out, Lewis has a "majority African-American, urban, Democratic district," rather than a whole state. Since Reconstruction, the US has elected exactly 3 black senators: Carol Mosley-Braun and Barack Obama of Illinois, and Edward Brooke of Massachusetts. (As in independence, abolitionism, gay marriage, expanding health insurance, and all things, Massachusetts leads and the nation follows).
posted by ibmcginty at 7:27 AM on January 28, 2009

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