“Never become bitter. Never become hostile. Never hate. Live in peace. We’re one. One people and one love,” Lewis said, as the socially distanced crowd of lawmakers and family members rose to their feet and gave him a standing ovation.
Broadcast and cable networks aired the ceremony, and further coverage this week as Lewis lies in state at the Capitol on Monday and Tuesday. His body then will be flown to Georgia on Wednesday, where he will lie in state at the state Capitol, before a funeral on Thursday in Atlanta.
Lewis, who died on July 17, was, as Pelosi noted, the “conscience of Congress,” a revered figure among his colleagues not only for his background as a civil rights icon but as a politician of genuine warmth. Some of his fellow House members wore masks that read, “Good Trouble,” a reference to Lewis’ commitment to non-violent protest, while Wintley Phipps brought some to tears with his rendition of Amazing Grace.
Lewis is the first African American lawmaker to lie in state in the Rotunda.
In the recording of his words, from a speech he gave to Emory University in 2014, Lewis recalled how Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, Jr. inspired him to “get in trouble.”
“So I come here to say to you this morning on this beautiful campus with your great education, you must find a way to get in the way,” Lewis said. “You must find a way to get in trouble. Good trouble. Necessary trouble.”
Pelosi recalled traveling with Lewis and the Congressional Black Caucus to Ghana last year to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the arrival of slaves from that country to the U.S.
“Some of the descendants of those slaves would build this Capitol, where John lies in state, on the Lincoln Catafalque,” she noted.
Before Lewis’ casket was brought to the Capitol, his family led his hearse through a procession through Washington, including a stop at the Lincoln Memorial, where Lewis was the youngest speaker at the March on Washington on Aug. 28, 1963, and then to the corner of 16th & I, which was renamed Black Lives Matter Plaza in the wake of protests following the death of George Floyd. A large portrait of Lewis was placed at the corner, in front of the building that houses the Motion Picture Association.
“When he made his speech [at the March on Washington] 57 years ago, he was the youngest speaker,” Pelosi said. “How fitting it is that in the final days of his life, he summoned the strength to acknowledge the young people peacefully protesting in the same spirit of that March, taking up the unfinished work of racial justice. Helping complete the journey begun more than 55 years ago.”
McConnell recalled witnessing the 1963 March on Washington when he was an intern in the Senate.
“I was lucky enough to be there that day. I marveled at the massive crowds,” McConnell said. “The sight gave me hope for our country. That was John’s doing. Even on that day, as his voice echoed across the Mall, I wonder how many dared imagine that young man would come to walk the halls of the Congress.”
Joe Biden plans to visit the Capitol to pay his respects later on Monday. Asked whether he plans to pay tribute to Lewis, President Donald Trump told reporters, “No. I won’t be going. No.”