Civil rights icon John Lewis: Hillary in White House ‘is a must for America’

Charles Mostoller

A day after receiving the National Constitution Center’s 2016 Liberty Medal, civil rights icon John Lewis stopped by a West Philly voter registration event to campaign for Hillary Clinton.

“Her election is a must for America if we want to continue forward, not go back,” Lewis said in an interview earlier that day with Metro. “There are forces in America, in spite of all of the changes, in spite of all the progress made, that want to take us back to another place. We cannot go back, we have to go forward.”

Rep. Lewis, 76, was the latest political heavyweight to visit Philadelphia in support of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign after Clinton herself spoke at Temple University Monday and President Barack Obama led a rally for Clinton on the Parkway last week.

“I truly believe that she would be one of the great presidents,” Lewis said. “In a meeting with her, in a plane with her, you can feel her spirit. You know how smart she is.”

The Georgia congressman is famed for delivering a speech at the 1963 March on Washington alongside Martin Luther King Jr., leading a march into Selma in 1965, and lobbying for the Voting Rights Act passed that same year. He’s still an activist, recently leading a sit-in on the House of Representatives floor for new gun control legislation after the massacre at an Orlando nightclub.

On Monday night, he received the National Constitution Center’s Liberty Medal for his decades of work in civil rights. The medal was previously awarded to Mikhail Gorbachev and the Dalai Lama. “It’s good company,” Lewis quipped.

But just a day after he was back to politicking with his visit to the Clinton campaign’s newest office in the shopping center at 52nd Streetand Lancaster Avenue. The campaign now has 55offices in Pennsylvania, seen as a key battleground statein the November election. He also encouraged residents to register to vote or to check their registration status.

Lewis has known Clinton for decades and praised her dedication and commitment even in the face of casual sexism. He recalled her testimony as senator on health care before a committee he sat on as leaving many of his male colleagues “threatened” by her intelligence.

“I want the American people to get to know her, to believe in her, to trust her. I think words like, ‘Oh she can’t be trusted, and she’s this, she’s that’—those people don’t know her. They think they do, but they don’t know her.”

He said Clinton’s experience working with Democrats and Republicans would help her get things done in Washington. Even in a climate of frequent Black Lives Matter protests, Clinton would be best for the nation, he said.

“There’s no better person in this campaign that can help solve some of these problems and issues than Hillary Clinton,” he said.

Lewis didn’t go to any great lengths to demonize Clinton’s Republican opponent Donald Trump, but it’s clear he sees Trump’s candidacy as a serious threat.

“There’s something mean-spirited about him. He puts down people,” Lewis said. “People all over the world fear for the world if this man becomes president … He cannot, and must not, become president of the United States.”

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