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Many people refer to the World War II veterans as part of the greatest American generation. I am not here to argue that. However, I will say that with passing of Rep. John Lewis and Rev. C.T. Vivian on July 17, 2020, I'm reminded that passing of the most influential generation in American history is upon us. The veterans of the American Civil Rights Movement did more to shape our country domestically than any global war ever could.
Lewis was the last of the "Big Six", the six most prominent civil rights leaders of the Movement. He was the only one of the six to be elected to public office, thus positioning himself as the protector of the advances they fought and, in the case of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., died for. John was respected by many in both parties as the American hero he was and the conscience of a nation he evolved to be.
He never stopped being civilly disobedient. He never yielded on an issue of principle. Most importantly, he never gave up, even as his 80-year-old body was failing him.
The same can be said about Rev. Vivian. Vivian, Rev. Ralph Abernathy, Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth, Rev. James Bevel, Rev. Hosea Williams, Diane Nash, Andrew Young, Bob Moses, Julian Bond, Ella Baker and Rev. Joseph Lowery formed the support team for the Movement. They were the lieutenants that made things happen, whether it was recruiting, organizing, project managing, as we call it today, advance work, or media drops. Vivian then in his later years became more of a leader in his own right, pushing the concept of racial reconciliation, hosting workshops in every corner of this nation.
Yet, until his dying day, he never stopped being civilly disobedient, he never yielded on an issue of principle, and he never gave up on his hope for America to be truly a more perfect union.
In historical irony, for Vivian and Lewis to pass away on the same day, it is to me as profound as John Adams and Thomas Jefferson both passing away on July 4, 1826. Lewis and Vivian's legacy will be forever cherished by those of us who were given the opportunity to serve publicly. By simply continuing to "do the work", they helped shepherd a change in America.
Although these good and faithful servants are receiving their reward, let us truly show our appreciation for them by stepping up, continuing to "do the work", and never giving up the fight or the hope.