Congressman John Lewis was honored today by receiving the nation’s top civilian honor from President Barack Obama-the presidential Medal of Freedom. Lewis joined former U.N. Ambassador and Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young and Reverend Joseph Lowery former president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference as only the third person in Atlanta to ever receive the honor.
Congressman Lewis was honored for his work in civil rights. He marched alongside Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. attended sit-ins in Nashville, Rock Hill, S.C. and other cities, and was nearly beaten to death by police on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Alabama, on what became known as Bloody Sunday.
Lewis was one 15 recipients of the presidential Medal of Freedom.
President Obama had this to say about Congressman Lewis today:
There’s a quote inscribed over a doorway in Nashville, where students first refused to leave lunch counters 51 years ago this February. And the quote said, “If not us, then who? If not now, then when?” It’s a question John Lewis has been asking his entire life. It’s what led him back to the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma after he had already been beaten within an inch of his life days before. It’s why, time and again, he faced down death so that all of us could share equally in the joys of life. It’s why all these years later, he is known as the Conscience of the United States Congress, still speaking his mind on issues of justice and equality.
Other recipients included former President George H.W. Bush, poet Maya Angelou, financier Warren Buffett and basketball great Bill Russell.
After the ceremony, Congressman Lewis talked about how emotional he felt.
Read more on how the day unfolded from the AJC and check out some of the photos of the event.