It isn't frequent that a career civil servant is eulogized by one, let alone three, former presidents at his or her funeral. But that's what happened today for John Lewis, a man who embodied the American ideal of equality and persistence.
Lewis' passing reminded me of the patriots who put their lives at risk in the civil rights era, and how few of them are left. But it also reminds me that the civil rights era never really ended, because we're still having a conversation that was never resolved. That's why John Lewis served in Congress to the very end.
The last words of John Lewis are moving and real, and contain a sense of optimism that I hope I can have when my time comes. His parting words encourage us to pursue a better future:
You must also study and learn the lessons of history because humanity has been involved in this soul-wrenching, existential struggle for a very long time. People on every continent have stood in your shoes, through decades and centuries before you. The truth does not change, and that is why the answers worked out long ago can help you find solutions to the challenges of our time. Continue to build union between movements stretching across the globe because we must put away our willingness to profit from the exploitation of others.
Truth seems like an abstract concept in politics, and the mental gymnastics that people practice to avoid an uncomfortable reality obscures the truth. But that's just it... it might be obscured, but you can't keep it hidden. History has shown over and over again that what is right and true will eventually persist. America's stain is its failure to deliver the ideal that "all men are created equal," but our acknowledgment of that is the basis for realizing it in our lifetime.
My non-American friends frequently look at our nation with disbelief at what things have become in recent years, but it's remarkable to see them look at John Lewis and see, with great respect, what our potential is. The best thing we can do to honor the man is to follow in his footsteps, and not be complicit in allowing the status quo to continue. We can't continue to allow there to be two Americas. It is on every one of us to demand an end to the systemic racism that has cursed us for centuries. John Lewis thought it was possible, despite being literally nearly beaten to death. If he can believe in our potential, we all can.