Opinion | John Lewis: an inspiration to America

The late John Lewis is a shining example of modern American leadership.



The casket carrying civil rights icon and U.S. Congressman John Lewis arrives at the Alabama State Capitol in Montgomery, Ala., on Sunday July 26, 2020.

Hannah Pinski

On July 17, 2020, Representative John Robert Lewis from Georgia’s 5th Congressional District passed away at age 80. However, he was not an average American politician. And although he has received over fifty honorary degrees from prestigious universities and colleges and multiple awards from national and international institutions, his character is what makes him an icon in American history. 

John Lewis’ work, leadership, and strength represents what future politicians should follow and what the American government needs today. 

In his early life, Lewis was a civil-rights leader and fought tooth-and-nail for social justice during the 50s. He first started his work as a student at Fisk University where he organized sit-in demonstrations at segregated counters in Tennessee, and later one became one of the original thirteen Freedom Riders in 1961. Lewis’ commitment and leadership led him to becoming the Chairman of the Nonviolent Coordinating Committee from 1963-1966 and was recognized as one of the Big Six Leaders of the Civil Rights Movement.  

Lewis continued to be resilient despite over forty arrests and multiple physical attacks and injuries. However, it is his commitment to remain an advocate for the philosophy of non-violence is what makes him a role model for future leaders of America. He never gave in to the phrase “fighting fire with fire,” but instead continued to push for a peaceful fight as he became the Director of the Voter Education Project and changed the political climate by attracting almost four million members of minority groups to the polls. 

Lewis’ involvement with the Civil Rights Movement transformed American society and culture. Despite his work alongside many others, we are still fighting against systemic racism, but the impact he left serves as a catalyst for today. 

The strength that he had to keep on fighting regardless of being beaten, dragged, and cursed shows that we must continue to fight despite the obstacles in order to become an equal and just society for all. The leaders of today should look up to him as an example of how to guide this movement if we ever want to successfully end systemic racism. His commitment to a philosophy of non-violence is a remarkable resemblance of the resilience that we need when we fight against police brutality. 

John Lewis is not just a role model for the Black Lives Matter Movement, he represents the bigger picture of the great leadership that America currently lacks. Right now, America is in a global pandemic, fighting racism, and trying to end police brutality. Too often we are seeing our ‘leaders’ put their own political agenda before American citizens. Leaders are now asking ‘what’s best for me?’ instead of ‘what’s best for everyone else?’ 

What America needs right now is someone like John Lewis who exhibits the qualities of an excellent leader and inspires America to be better. Someone who is willing to put their beliefs and good intent before their own personal well-being. If we are ever going to push through this pandemic and stand for equality and justice for all, we need leaders like John Lewis to inspire American citizens and help repair the damage that has occurred in America.

Columns reflect the opinions of the authors and are not necessarily those of the Editorial Board, The Daily Iowan, or other organizations in which the author may be involved.