Former President Barack Obama gave a characteristically stirring speech to eulogize the late Representative John Lewis, who passed away on July 17 at age 80 from pancreatic cancer. During his eulogy, Obama touched on a number of current political issues related to the Civil Rights battles of the 1900s that turned Lewis into a legend.
Among these was the Trump administration’s sending of federal agents to cities like Portland, Oregon, where protesters against police brutality and the killing of Black people like George Floyd have battled them every night for weeks.
Obama specifically called out the use of tear gas and batons against protesters, which local police have also used for many decades to quash civil dissent.
“George Wallace may be gone, but we can witness our govt sending agents to use tear gas and batons against peaceful demonstrators,” he said.
He also brought up issues of voter suppression, which are particularly relevant as the coronavirus pandemic continues to rage in the U.S. as we approach the 2020 presidential election.
“Even as we sit here, there are those in power who are doing their darndest to discourage people from voting by closing polling locations and targeting minorities and students with restrictive ID laws, and attacking our voting rights with surgical precision,” he said to a standing ovation.
Obama pointed out the widely reported delays in USPS service, which many on the left have accused the Trump administration and the wider Republican party of deliberately orchestrating in a year when mail-in ballots will be essential to voting.
“Even undermining the postal service,” he continued, “in the run up to an election that’s gonna be dependent on mail-in ballots so people don’t get sick.”
The former president went on to reject the idea that it’s inappropriate to bring up political issues in a eulogy, pointing out that these were the things John Lewis dedicated his life to and risked his life for.
“John Lewis devoted his time on this Earth fighting the very attacks on democracy, on what’s best in America, that we’re seeing circulate right now.”
Obama finished his eulogy strong, calling Lewis a “gift” and a “gentle soul” who we were lucky to have.
For many, this speech reminded them about why they loved Obama so much in the first place.
Obama put on a mask after his speech.