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Lewis's Motorcade Makes Its Way To U.S. Capitol. Aired 12:30-1p ET
Aired July 27, 2020 - 12:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN LEWIS, FORMER UNITED STATES REPRESENTATIVE: It is better to reconcile and not to divide. It is better to build and not to tear down. It will remind all of us that the dream of Martin Luther King Jr. is not get accomplished.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Live pictures here this procession carrying the casket there, the hearse carrying the casket of John Lewis, the former congressman from Georgia, civil rights icon, American hero. The procession soon will pause in front of the Martin Luther King Memorial, one of many stops on this special day.
Dr. King, of course, is a man who played a pivotal role in the early life of John Lewis just moments away. Now you see Maine Avenue will get off the highway and be at that Memorial within a matter of minutes. CNN's Lauren Fox is there for us. Lauren, this is a very important stop, first up in Washington D.C.
LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: Well, that's right, John. And remember that this was someone that Representative Lewis really leaned into as a mentor when he was a young man. And he was trying to get into the State College in Troy, Alabama. He said he sent his application, he sent his transcript, and then he never heard anything back.
So he wrote a letter to Dr. King and he received a round trip bus ticket in return to meet with Dr. King in Montgomery, a meeting that had a tremendous impact on his life and how he looked at nonviolent activism for the rest of his career and for the rest of his time fighting for equal justice in this country.
Of course, this is just one of the places that the motorcade will drive by today, as a way to sort of take a moment to remember the impact that this place had on Congressman John Lewis but also the impact that the Congressman had on this city.
We also expect that he will drive by the Lincoln Memorial. Of course, that is the site of where he gave that speech in 1963, the youngest speaker, during the March on Washington when he was just 23 years old, John. He will also be moving past that Museum, the National Museum of African American History that he fought so hard to create introducing a bill every year that he was in Congress in an attempt to make sure that the history of African-Americans in this country would be remembered.
He said during, you know, when this museum came to be, and he spoke at the opening quote, giving up on dreams is not an option for me. In 2003, it was finally passed and signed into law by George W. Bush that this museum would exist. So just a day to remember not just the impact that he had on Capitol Hill, but the impact he had on this city.
And there's a small group of individuals who have come to pay their respects here at this memorial. As you noted before, you know, there are people lining up along the streets as they wait for the motorcade to remember and say goodbye to Congressman John Lewis, John?
KING: Lauren Fox for us across from that important memorial. They're just seconds away from you, Lauren, depending on the pace of the traffic here. It's actually remarkable seeing as you watch this play out that Lauren just noted. He's going to be right close to the Lincoln Memorial.
He's also to his left, to the hearse's left right now across that water, is the Jefferson Memorial, to the right in just seconds will be the Washington Monument, then the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial. Two of our founding fathers, Mr. Jefferson, Mr. Washington were slave owners. As you watch the procession go right now up through, it's just a remarkable moment.
And Van Jones and Nia-Malika Henderson are still with us. And I want to just apologize when they get there and stop. I just want to see how the moment plays out. I may interrupt you and ask you to just pause. You see the Treasury Department there as well. And you see the Washington Monument on the left of your screen.
Van Jones, Dr. King was a mentor. He was a friend. And then for John Lewis after the tragic events of 1968, it was left to him to continue to try to spread the message march, but be peaceful march but do not choose violence but please march.
VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes. You know, he actually inherited two mentals, I think he was aware of one Dr. King killed in '68. But also Bobby Kennedy, he was, you know, a part of Bobby Kennedy's campaign. And so I think he saw himself as someone trying to keep that hope alive, to coin a phrase, and to move it forward.
You know, one thing I just want to point out is, you know, this idea of a pilgrimage, is kind of his final pilgrimage, I'm not sure all the viewers know, every single year, he would go back to Selma, and he would, he would reenact what happened and he would talk to people and he used that opportunity to go to that bridge to build bridges. He always brought Republicans with him. He always brought people who had been opponents with him. And they had to kind of absorb that John Lewis' magic in that spirit of reconciliation. And then he would go back and try to change laws.
So this idea of him being on this final pilgrimage, going past all these monuments, you know, for those of us who went on some of those pilgrimages with him in Selma, you know, it's powerful. And the last thing I want to say is, this is not the only time that he's being celebrated in an extraordinary way.
At the 50th anniversary, when President Obama went to give that speech in honor of everything he had done, I have never seen this before. Usually everybody goes on stage and you welcome the President. The one time ever seen it done in reverse, President Obama, Michelle Obama went on stage, and they welcomed John Lewis, the most powerful man in the world standing there applauding this, you know, small mighty figure coming on stage in front of the whole world
So he's been an extraordinary person and given that extraordinary love for a long time, but today is especially powerful.
KING: Van Jones just watching now as the motorcade pulls up. We expect just a pause, not a stop here as they pass and you see as Lauren Fox noted, some residents trying to capture a little moment of history, standing in the shadow of the Martin Luther King Memorial, watching one of his key lieutenants passed by in that hearse, as you see go through here.
Nia-Malika Henderson, as we watch this play out, it's sad. I don't know if that's the right word. But because of the contentious times, because just going to pause for a second here as you can -- you see the white marble there that is the Martin Luther King Memorial.
The hearse passing by, the road does not passing a way that you can see, the facade of the wonderful memorial that you see the -- this is the first stop, appropriately the first stop to this procession through the streets of Washington. See them slowing down but continue -- continuing to move on here. They will pass soon the Lincoln Memorial and Vietnam Veterans Memorial you do see the motorcade coming to a stop here.
Nia-Malika Henderson, they're also not far from the White House. And the reason I said sad was that it was I'm not criticizing anyone for what they said on that moment. That's not what I mean. But when Congressman Lewis passed, there were those asking the President of the United States to say nothing, saying that they did not want his voice, his tweets, his words, to ruin the moment, if you will, to ruin the tributes on this day where we pay tribute to this hero.
That is, I'm going to use it again, to say sad statement on the course of our discourse on any issue, but especially on an important issue of race and civility that an American hero can pass and it is controversial for the President of the United States to say anything.
[12:40:12] NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: Yes. And John Lewis himself was saddened by this fact. He, of course did not go to the inauguration of Donald Trump. He lamented the lack of moral clarity, moral leadership in this White House fitting that he is pausing by the memorial to Martin Luther King as well as other founding fathers of this nation and that is who he was.
He was one of the founders, and it's fitting that we celebrate him in this way today. He was certainly saddened by what he has seen as a real, I think degradation of the political discourse. He of course, was a deeply Christian man. The entire civil rights movement of your Christian movement planned in the basements of churches all throughout the South.
And so that is what led him that that Christian faith and the idea that you lead with love, right? That there is always room for redemption that you might hate what people do hate the kinds of things they inspire others to do, but you don't hate the person. And so here he is going through the streets of Washington.
He gave 30 years of his public service to serving those folks in Georgia. And I think certainly saw that a lot of the work he was doing more work to do if you traveled throughout the south towns like Selma. Many of us have been there, so much work to do, so much racial inequality, educational inequality, economic inequality.
So he was constantly in this fight, encouraging others to get into this fight that he brought -- he was brought into by Martin Luther King and had long life. Unlike Martin Luther King, right, Martin Luther King didn't live into to be 40. And a lot of those folks who joined the movement, didn't have long lives. He lived to be 80 years and we're grateful that we got to see it.
KING: Eighty great years, well lived in a lot of good trouble, as Congressman Lewis would say. You see, they have just left the Martin Luther King Memorial. It is a very short drive. They will pass the Lincoln Memorial not far away. That would be stop two. Stop three, is the Black Lives Matter Plaza. The New Black Lives Matter Plaza here in Washington D.C., which is steps from the White House, steps from the White House.
Dana Bash is still with us as well. And Dana, you were with Congressman Lewis on the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. King, someone whose life and legacy shaped his fellow hero, Congressman Lewis.
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. I was lucky enough to be on one of those pilgrimages that Van was talking about. It was two years ago 2018. And they always go to Selma. But then they also take different trips depending on what's happening that year. And it was the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination.
So we went to Memphis and went to the Lorraine Motel, which is now a memorial for MLK. And it was the first time John Lewis had ever been there, the night that King, his mentor and friend was assassinated. John Lewis was with RFK was with Robert Kennedy, working and helping on his campaign, and he had never gone until that moment.
And as you can imagine, it was incredibly emotional for so many reasons, not the least of which he was at that time, 78-year-old man who had lived a very long life, mourning, the friend who brought him in to this incredible movement.
KING: You see now the motorcade at the Lincoln Memorial driving up there, an American hero of the 1860s being visited by an American hero of the 1960s. Who then of course, after being in the civil rights movement, served in the Congress for 33 years.
That sky, it is a warm day here in Washington, a hot day here in Washington, but it is a beautiful day here in Washington as a man who was living history, John Lewis, is taking us on a tour of some of the nation's capital and the historic places here, retracing steps that were important to him. It's just a remarkable scene to reflecting pool behind the Lincoln Memorial.
As Congressman Lewis passes in front, Van Jones, please.
JONES: You know, you think about that march on Washington and it's these kind of, you know, going back now and past that old, you know, place, how young he was and how young Dr. King was.
KING: The youngest speaker, right?
JONES: Yes, yes. Dr. King was 33 or 34. He was, John Lewis, even younger than that. This was a young person's movement. Dr. King, consider the old man was barely in his 30s at the March on Washington. And this guy was a kid, already a national leader, already a part of the so called big six, because he had already taken so many risks.
And this was before Selma, Selma 65. He's already a national figure. He's a national figure is being beaten on that bridge. It's just hard to get your brain wrapped around what that generation accomplished, what people like Ella Jo Baker, Fannie Lou Hamer, Dr. King, Bayard Rustin, and so many others whose names we'd forgotten were able to accomplish.
But I so appreciate what Nia-Malika said, he got to live out his full life and still be of service. And so we get to put him to bed at the end of his life as opposed to so many who were put to bed at the beginning. Hey, that's an excellent point. And I don't I don't know if we have this, I'm asking a lot of the control room today, don't move away from the live pictures. But there's any way to just put up an image of the march on Washington and Congressman Lewis there.
They are now rolling away slowly to go to the Black Lives Matters Plaza there. But Van we talked about this the Sunday after the Congressman passed that Nia-Malika Henderson mentioned this earlier, you show the Lincoln Memorial there on the day of the march on Washington, the elders took young John Lewis into one of the holding rooms inside the monument to ask him to tone down his speech. There was a fabulous story about this in the "Washington Post". Please, if you're studying history on this day, use the internet find that story in the "Washington Post" about how they were urging him because he was more radical because he was more aggressive because he was more confrontational in his youth to please tone down the rhetoric a little bit.
So this is a remarkable moment in our history here. We're going to move on now. I'm sorry, Van, I'll come back to you right now as this moves on. I want to go ahead to our Joe Johns who is standing at the next stop, which has become now a painted street in the middle of America's current racial reckoning, steps from Lafayette Park, a few steps more to the White House. You see it right there.
This is now Black Lives Matter Plaza, as they call it in Washington D.C. Our Joe Johns is right there.
JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: John, this is been seen as sort of a bridge between the youthful activism of John Lewis and the youthful activism of today. We are expecting to see the procession in just a few minutes.
What I want to do is point out to you what's going on in this intersection. If you look over my shoulder, you can see a mural of large photograph of John Lewis that apparently is his last public appearance. We're told it was here at Black Lives Matter Plaza on June 7th. As you can see, he's wearing a mask with arms crossed.
Now, why is this a bridge? Well, it's a bridge for a number of reasons, including because of the demonstrations because of the fact that this is the place where the President of the United States cleared a group of peaceful protesters in order to walk over to St. John's Episcopal Church and do a photo op, a very infamous photo op, by the way, holding a Bible.
But it's more than that. When you look at the life of John Lewis, this is a man who is an activist in so many different ways, from the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, even to Congress. So we're looking forward to seeing the procession pull up here. There's been some hope that there will be a moment for the mayor of Washington D.C., who sort of created Black Lives Matter Plaza here to hand over a replica sign of Black Lives Matter Plaza, a street sign to the procession.
We don't know though if the hearse or I should say the procession is going to stop long enough to do that, John.
KING: Joe Johns standing by for us. And Joe, I'm watching on the other side of the screen. You can't see this, the live pictures, they are just moments away from you, as they pass by the nation's mall and they're prepared to turn up.
Van Jones I had to cut you off a moment ago about the history. I'm going to say something here. They are now where Joe Johns is, where this hearse, where you see the hearse today and we're Joe Johns is in between them is the White House. I know the President of the United States is traveling today. I'm not sure if he's left the White House yet. But what a moment it would be for all Americans if the President of the United States, Democrat or Republican doesn't matter, on this day with salute this hearse as it drove by his house. But that will not happen.
Van Jones, are you -- Nia-Malika Henderson to that point -- Van, I heard you come back in there. All right, some technical issues as we work through this day. Again, you're seeing the hearse right now traveling past the nation's mall right there. If you've ever been to Washington D.C., it is a spectacular place full of the monuments to Washington monument to the right there.
You see the motorcade up front beginning to turn. I believe that 17th Street where they will go up past the White House complex, past the White House complex. Van, this is not a day for politics. It's not why I said it. But this, we're seeing so much history. This hearse now is about to pass, it's turning on 17th Street. The White House will be to its right as it goes up the street here to Black Lives Matter Plaza, the newly created Black Lives Matter Plaza here in Washington D.C.
If you look at the right hand of your screen, you see the flags flying up there. That is the beginning of the White House complex as it goes up the street here. This is an American hero who deserves to be saluted by his President, whether that President is a Democrat or Republican.
JONES: I agree. And what I would say is that the whole country is saluting that hearse. And I also just want to remind people, people may say, you know, Black Lives Matter, though more popular now, still so controversial they might say, you know, this is might, you know, why is this happening? This is something that maybe everybody can embrace.
Don't forget that John Lewis was not somebody that everyone could embrace. The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, the sort of Black Lives Matter of its day was considered very controversial. You know, and what happens is that over time, you know, hurt people holler.
If you're sitting on a white hot stove of injustice, you tend to holler. And at first people say, calm down, shut up, please be quiet. But over time the message gets through. You have mentioned that great story of the great A. Philip Randolph taking the young John Lewis to the side at the march on Washington.
There were a couple of phrases in there where John Lewis said, we're going to march through the south like Sherman and burn injustice to the ground. I mean, it was hot rhetoric. And A. Philip Randolph, who had been such a champion for literally generation said, please son, I spent my whole life to get us here. If you could just take this one paragraph off so we can all stay together.
And Burke Marshall, who was a part of the Kennedy administration, I was prepared to literally deeply -- unplug the entire rally. John Lewis didn't know that. But just based on the strength of A. Philip Randolph plea, the young man took out that one line still gave a very strong speech and they moved on together.
Generations can co author history if they're willing. The young people in Black Lives Matter right now some people see them as controversial. There are a bunch of young John Lewis's and Janetta Lewis's out there right now, who years to come will serve this country in similar ways and be embraced in similar ways. I'm glad that they're going by Black Lives Matter class.
KING: But when we lose an icon like this, one of the gifts if you will, it's a tough word, is that we do get to remember the history, we learn the history, we read the history in the tributes and learn new lessons. That is Pennsylvania Avenue, the hearse is crossing to the right, just moments ago, was the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, which is part of the White House complex. They are steps from the White House, which is where Black Lives Matter Plaza now is.
Lafayette Park, everyone remembers the protesters were cleared so the President could go to St. John's Church. It is right there where you now have this new Plaza for this new generation as Van notes of activists.
Nia-Malika Henderson, again, a tore through history for a man who until he was taken from us just days ago, was literally living history.
HENDERSON: He really was. And we are lucky that we get to see him celebrated in this way today through the streets of Washington D.C. in yesterday going over that bridge in Selma, for the last time and that hearse drawn carriage, just amazing images.
And you mentioned going by the White House, you know, in some ways, it is fitting that the President doesn't salute John Lewis. He there, he's cut from a different cloth, right. I mean, John Lewis, deeply spiritual man, someone who cares about justice and equality and has a real vision for this country that is inclusive, and that is very different from the vision that this current President has for this country.
And again, this is something that saddened John Lewis and it kept him busy, right? I mean that is what he was so hard at work doing for most of his life, right, beginning at the age of 15 and up until his last day, saluting the work of these Black Lives Matter protesters, who Van noted, aren't necessarily embraced.
And John Lewis, and that huge movement in the civil rights era wasn't necessarily embraced either, Martin Luther King, at the time of his death wasn't a real celebrated figure in the way he is now. And so here we have John Lewis, 80 years old, going to his rest, going to join Willie Mae and Eddie Lewis, his parents who never could have imagined right, that their son would end up celebrated in this way by an entire nation. KING: Nia-Malika Henderson you hear amazing -- you hear Amazing Grace. Let's listen. You see the scene downtown Washington D.C., even the street sign, the city is put up the streets on Black Lives Matter Plaza. You see the mayor of Washington D.C. right there presenting a plaque to members of the Lewis family.
Other dignitaries from the city are there as well. This is a new Plaza. And also is, moments ago when we had the wider shot, you can see the photograph as Joe Johns talked about earlier, with John Lewis arms crossed inspecting this remarkable scene. Visited now daily sometimes for demonstrations, others people just come to see steps from the White House in Washington D.C.
Just watching the pause right here and listening to the music. Members of the Lewis family in the procession as well, congressional staffers, you see in the center of your screen, the street sign that was installed recently on what otherwise would have been 16th Street in Washington D.C.
Again, you see the Washington Monument this shots a little shaky as the photographer there follows the live event. But you're going straight back to the White House is to your right. If you look at the picture, if you go down that street, you get to the White House and the mall behind it. This is the side of the last public event.
You see the motorcade, the hearse beginning to roll slowly there because of the large crowd on hand. It's the AFL CIO headquarters, I believe, right there, we see the Black Lives Matter sign as well.
Van Jones in they're St. John's Church. That is where the President came and held up the Bible. You see the White House right there in the middle of your scene. Van Jones your thoughts as we see this remarkable scene play out?
JONES: You know, it's hard not to get emotional. And for me, I know so many of the people of that generation. I was blessed as you know, I was born in 1968. I talked about it all the time. It was the year they tried to kill hope in America.
And can you imagine being a young John Lewis, having seen both of your heroes shot down in the same year within months of each other? And having seen your own friends, your personal friends murdered in the cell, fighting for civil rights?
I mean, people want to give up now because of the frustration and all of the outrages that are going on. But he never gave up. That's his legacy is the persistence, the consistency, know the good days, the bad days, you just keep pushing forward. And look at what he is inspiring around the world, right?
People around the world are looking at the great grandkid of an enslaved African kid of sharecroppers went to little black school called Fisk University, please give credit to those little black colleges that train that whole generation and look at what he's done. And look at where we are as a country.
We have a long way to go. But we have a roadmap now that he didn't have.