Remembering and Celebrating John Lewis

8.6.20

“I have said it before, and I will say it again: In this country we are one family.  We are one house – the American house, the people’s house. And when one member of the house falls ill, it will affect us all – whether we want to admit it or not.”

The world is better today than it would otherwise be because of John Lewis. His was a life well lived, and that is why the Chronic Disease Coalition joins with countless other organizations and tens-of-millions of people across the county and around the globe who mourn the loss  – and celebrate the life – of civil-rights giant, Congressman John Lewis.  Lewis’ accomplishments are well known but bear repeating. He was one of the original Freedom Riders and was a pivotal figure using peaceful, nonviolent protests to shepherd civil-rights progress including voting rights and the removal of Jim Crow laws.

Lewis’ extreme courage in the face of brutal physical attack and backlash is awe-inspiring. He peacefully and famously marched across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama in 1965 and was assaulted by police. He was beaten and jailed because of his work on civil-rights on many other occasions yet never lost his courage, his will or his dedication to peaceful progress. So much of what we have today and the progress we have made as a country we owe to John Lewis and other civil rights leaders of his era. At the same time, the memory of Lewis and others from his generation remind us of how much more we need to do.

We also must acknowledge his vital role as a patient leader and patient advocate. In a long congressional career spanning nearly forty years, Lewis served as a stalwart voice and advocate for chronic disease patients. Most recently he noted the disproportionate impact that COVID-19 has had on chronic disease patients and communities of color. At a committee meeting in May of this year, Congressman Lewis said “I have said it before, and I will say it again: In this country we are one family.  We are one house – the American house, the people’s house. And when one member of the house falls ill, it will affect us all – whether we want to admit it or not.”

We along with countless others are saddened to have lost John Lewis to pancreatic cancer. Yet we are so grateful for the life he lived and the progress he helped orchestrate. The Chronic Disease Coalition says ‘thank you, Congressman Lewis. And Godspeed!’