Hi, I’m Congressman John Lewis.
Tomorrow, our nation will commemorate the life of Martin Luther King, Jr. It’s a day of special significance to me. As a young man, it was Rev. King who inspired me to join the civil rights movement.
His words sparked an amazing journey. As Chairman of the the Student Non-Violent Coordination Committee, I spoke during the March on Washington, and led protestors across Edmund Pettus bridge in Selma, Alabama on “Bloody Sunday.” Years later, I continued working toward a more just and equal nation by registering nearly 4 million new voters as head of the Voter Education Project, and later, as a U.S. Congressman.
Last year, decades after I was beaten while marching peacefully for the right of people of color to vote, we witnessed the inauguration of the first African American president of the United States.
So tomorrow is a day to remember how far we’ve come, and how close we are to fulfilling Dr. King’s dream. It’s a day to reflect on how regular people, organizing their friends and neighbors and their communities — even if the opposition is fierce and progress slow — can transform a nation.
But it is also a day to reflect on how many barriers still remain for Americans simply trying to vote.
Our nation has put behind us the days when people were beaten, put in jail, were asked questions they could never answer to register to vote.
But just last month, a federal court found that voter suppression continues today. Minority voters are still intimidated at the polls, and there are still politically-motivated challenges to voters’ right to cast a ballot.
And the court found that voter protections are just as necessary today as they were ten, or twenty, or thirty years ago.
The court’s finding was important. But courts alone won’t guarantee the right to vote. It takes an extra measure of dedication from each of us to expand and strengthen this great democracy. It’s why the Democratic National Committee created the Voting Rights Institute, and why, this year, Democrats are investing more than ever before in a nationwide voter protection program.
So tomorrow, let’s honor the sacrifice of Dr. King and the brave men and women who have made progress possible. And let’s rededicate ourselves to ensuring that every eligible American — regardless of class, color, or creed — can cast a ballot and have it counted.