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Spirit of History

Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) was 23 years old during the civil rights March on Washington on Aug. 28, 1963.

“In 1963, I was on the outside protesting, looking in. I could not even register to vote in my native state of Alabama,” Lewis recounted last week. “Now, because of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, because of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, I am on the inside making laws.”

Lewis spoke last week during a ceremony with Congressional leaders in Statuary Hall marking the upcoming 40th anniversary of the march.

He and other civil rights leaders at the time, including the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., helped organize the march — an idea, Lewis recounted, that President John F. Kennedy thought would hurt the chances for passing a civil rights bill.

“As the leaders of our people — as Members of Congress — we must all recall the passion, the vision and the determination that made the United States the greatest nation on earth.

“Call it the spirit of our Founding Fathers. Call it the spirit of Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt or FDR. Call it the spirit of the March on Washington. Call it the spirit of history.”