We all have our person. The one that provides encouragement and inspiration. That is a positive, productive leader. A hero. Dr. Clayton Lawrence, president and CEO of Lawrence Executive Alliance of Professionals (LEAP), LLC, recently reflected on what a pleasure it was to spend a moment with the late Congressman John Lewis, who passed away July 17, 2020, at 80 years old.
This exemplary role model and national hero is the epitome of both the mission of LEAP, LLC, and its partner organization, LEAP Foundation DC, both of which respond to a call to action to provide for others and to build bridges between hope and achievement. He was a man who stepped above and beyond, encouraging equal rights and clearing a path for today’s youth to grow to be bold, courageous and informed leaders.
Mr. Lewis’ official biography found at johnlewis.house.gov puts it best when it describes him as a man who was dedicated to protecting human rights, securing civil liberties and building what he called “The Beloved Community” in America.
Called “one of the most courageous persons the Civil Rights Movement ever produced” and “the conscience of the U.S. Congress,” this southern native became inspired by the activism surrounding the Montgomery Bus Boycott and the words of the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. He risked his life for what he believed in – justice. He became one of the Big Six leaders of the Civil Rights Movement, alongside Martin Luther King, Jr., James Farmer, Jr., A. Philip Randolph, Roy Wilkins and Whitney Young, Jr., and, although he was arrested and physically beaten several times, he marched on in his quest for freedom and equal rights.
He is a national and international award recipient, including the Medal of Freedom, the Lincoln Medal and the Martin Luther King, Jr. Non-Violent Peace Prize, among others, and he helped author the MARCH series, a graphic novel trilogy that is used in schools to teach young activists about the Civil Rights Movement.
Mr. Lewis had served in the United States House of Representatives for Georgia’s 5th congressional district since 1987, where he used his platform to continue his life’s pursuit.
There could not be a better time to reflect upon the valiant efforts of Mr. Lewis, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to disproportionately affect racial and ethnic minority groups, with high rates of death in African American and other populations. Also of great significance, the country is beginning to study the ways in which systemic racism is a public health crisis. Mr. Lewis’s work will continue to shed a light on all of these topics as we continue the march for justice.
A light has grown dim and we are reminded now, more than ever, that the road to justice and equality has never been an easy one. We will continue to fight in honor of those who were unjustly slain and for those heroes, such as Mr. Lewis, who have served as shining stars, leading the way toward a future that sees no color and is rich in opportunity for all.