A former “Freedom Rider” and the last living civil rights leader who spoke at the historic March on Washington rally more than 47 years ago still believes in “getting in the way” to fight injustice in the world.
That’s how U.S. Congressman John Lewis says he has always lived his life, offering that politics is a continuation of the principles that guided him as a leader in the Civil Rights Movement.
During a stirring and inspirational speech last week at the Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center in north suburban Skokie, Lewis, the legendary Georgia congressman, made clear that the evil of the Holocaust and the struggle of African Americans for civil rights in the United States can’t be compared — at least not in their entirety.
But there is some overlap, the congressman said, emphasizing that the survivors of the darkest of inhumanity are forever tied together by their experiences.
“We must recognize that our human suffering at the hand of humankind creates this unbroken and unbelievable bond that is unique,” the congressman said.

Lewis also noted the large number of Jewish men and women who contributed to the civil rights movement. They knew the ramifications of hate, intolerance and injustice, he said, and they decided they had to get in the way.

Last year, Lewis visited a memorial in Germany and came face to face with the darkest side of history.

“I asked myself, ‘How could this happen?’ ” he said. “How could human beings be so distorted, so confused about the truth that they actually believe they must eradicate their brothers and sisters to find peace? What is it about the human heart, what is in our DNA that could make us so evil and so blind?”