By Alex Sharp
For the fourth consecutive year students from Laura Moore’s AP Government class had the opportunity to meet with Congressman John Lewis during their school trip to Washington D.C.
Lewis, the son of sharecroppers from Alabama, has represented Georgia’s fifth district in the United States House of Representatives since 1987 and is currently serving his seventeenth term on Capitol Hill.
Prior to the beginning of his political career Lewis was a prominent leader of the Civil Rights Movement.
At the age of twenty one Lewis volunteered to become a freedom rider. By riding buses across the South, the freedom riders challenged the non enforcement of United States Supreme Court rulings that deemed segregated buses unconstitutional. Lewis along with the other freedom riders were constantly harassed, threatened, and beaten for their efforts.
When he was twenty three years old Lewis became the chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), one of the foremost organizations of the Civil Rights Movement. He was the youngest member of the “Big Six” leaders of the civil rights movement along with Asa Philip Randolph, James Farmer Jr., Whitney Young Jr., Roy Wilkins, and Martin Luther King Jr.
At the historic 1963 March on Washington in which Martin Luther King Jr gave his “I Have a Dream” speech, Lewis was a keynote speaker and stressed to the audience of over 200,000 people the importance of civil rights protests: “How long can we be patient? We want our freedom and we want it now. We do not want to go to jail. But we will go to jail if this is the price we must pay for love, brotherhood, and true peace.”
During his meeting with Frontier students Lewis discussed the importance of creating “good trouble” when injustices present themselves. Lewis cited challenging racist Jim Crow laws as an example of “good trouble.” During the 1960s Lewis was arrested some 40 times for disobeying these laws.
Lewis also stressed to Frontier students that no matter how difficult it may seem, creating positive change in the world is possible. He said that America today is exponentially more accepting than the America he grew up in but that there is still work to be done.
Laura Moore views meeting John Lewis as an invaluable experience for her students. “He’s somebody that really walked the walked at the beginning of the Civil Rights movement. He got beaten up, got arrested, and still focused on non violence. He’s my hero” said Moore.
Students in Moore’s AP government class were blown away by the opportunity to meet such an important figure.
Some students were especially interested in Lewis’ stories about important historical events such as the Selma to Montgomery march. “Our meeting with John Lewis was a look back into the history of our nation through one of the people who helped shape it” said Eric Trueswell.
Other student were inspired by Lewis’ thoughtful personality. “In our brief meeting we could recognize he had an extremely kind soul and a type of charisma that no one else possesses” recalled Carsten Carey.
“He had an aura of calmness, kindness, and wisdom” added Jack Trosin.
One thing all of the students in AP government can agree upon is that meeting John Lewis is an experience they won’t soon forget.