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At John Lewis’ Atlanta funeral, a legacy of heroism and hope

On Thursday, luminaries and locals alike joined in a final farewell for John Lewis at Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church, the historic location where Lewis himself worshiped. Speakers including three former presidents -- Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama -- shared their remembrances of the lifelong civil rights leader. Judy Woodruff shares some of the highlights.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    For the final farewell to John Lewis today, local activists and national luminaries joined his friends and family at Atlanta's Ebenezer Baptist Church, where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. preached and where Lewis himself worshiped.

    The funeral service for Representative John Lewis included remembrances from four former U.S. presidents, three in person, including Republican George W. Bush, who said Lewis and his faith elevated America's politics.

  • Former President George W. Bush:

    Listen, John and I had our disagreements, of course, but in the America John Lewis fought for and the America I believe in, differences of opinion are inevitable elements and evidence of democracy in action.


    We the people, including congressmen and presidents, can have differing views on how to perfect our union, while sharing the conviction that our nation, however flawed, is at heart a good and noble one.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    From former President Bill Clinton a reminder that John Lewis, the activist, was also a committed bridge-builder.

  • Former President Bill Clinton:

    As a young man, he challenged others to join him with love and dignity to hold America's house down and open the doors of America to all its people.

    He got into a lot of good trouble along the way, but let's not forget, he also developed an absolutely uncanny ability to heal troubled waters.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Former President Jimmy Carter sent a written message, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi remembered the lawmaker she served with for decades, with whom she returned to Selma many times.

  • Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.:

    That is what John Lewis was all about, nonviolently insisting on the truth.

    He insisted on the truth in Nashville, in Selma, in Washington, D.C., at the Lincoln Memorial. He insisted on the truth wherever he went. And he insisted on the truth in the Congress of the United States. He always talked about truth marching on. He always worked for a more perfect union.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Pioneering activist James Lawson said Lewis was leaving a legacy of working against oppression of all sorts.

  • James Lawson:

    Racism, sexism, violence, plantation capitalism, those poisons still dominate far too many of us in many different ways.

    John's life was a singular journey from birth, through the campaigns in the South, through Congress to get us to see that these forces of wickedness must be resisted.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    It was left to the last of the former presidents to speak today, Barack Obama, to deliver the eulogy. He chose to link Lewis' causes to the politics of now.

  • Former President Barack Obama:

    There are those in power who are doing their darndest to discourage people from voting by closing polling locations, and targeting minorities and students with restrictive I.D. laws, and attacking our voting rights with surgical precision, even undermining the Postal Service in the run-up to an election.

    He knew that every single one of us has a God-given power, and that the fate of this democracy depends on how we use it.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    The Obama eulogy was in keeping with Lewis' forward-looking final words to Americans, written shortly before he died, but published today in The New York Times and other outlets.

  • He wrote:

    "In my life, I have done all I can to demonstrate that the way of peace, the way of love and nonviolence is the more excellent way. Now it is your turn to let freedom ring. When historians pick up their pens to write the story of the 21st century, let them say that it was your generation who laid down the heavy burdens of hate at last, and that peace finally triumphed over violence, aggression and war."

    Late today, John Lewis was laid to rest in his beloved Atlanta.

    And how much this country owes that one man, John Lewis.

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