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Live Coverage of John Lewis Lying in State at the Capitol; Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) Speaks at Capitol; Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) Speaks at Capitol. Aired 2-2:30p ET
Aired July 27, 2020 - 14:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: (voice-over): You see House Speaker Nancy Pelosi there, waiting inside of the Capitol Rotunda as the casket of Congressman John Lewis is brought inside after a journey from Montgomery this morning, and through the nation's capital, through key locations in this town where Congressman Lewis, his activism was transformed into legislation as he moved from one phase of his life to another, spending decades as a member of the House of Representatives.
So we are awaiting this moment. As you see, there are socially distanced members of Congress and of the Senate. You see the Senate majority leader there, Mitch McConnell, next to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
I want to bring in Dana Bash as we await this moment. She is there, on the grounds of the Capitol complex, not far away in the cannon -- actually, we do not have Dana right now.
But we are awaiting this ceremony. As you can see, this is something that, under ordinary circumstances, you would have more people in attendance. But because of times being as they are -- you see the Senate minority leader, Chuck Schumer there -- times being what they are, this is an invited group of lawmakers, and they are here to pay tribute to John Lewis.
Let's listen in.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ready (ph) in (ph) place (ph). Forward march.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ladies and gentlemen, the honorable Nancy Pelosi, speaker of the United States House of Representatives.
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): Good afternoon. It is an official, personal and very sad honor to welcome our colleague John Lewis back to the Capitol, to welcome his family and his many friends, to acknowledge his sacred life.
Please stay standing for the invocation by Reverend Dr. Grainger Browning Jr., Ebenezer AME Church.
GRAINGER BROWNING JR., REVEREND, EBENEZER AME CHURCH: Let us bow our heads in a word of prayer.
Eternal God our father, I become before you today in the name of Jesus, thanking you for the many different faiths and beliefs and religions that make up your beloved community, that come to celebrate the life and the legacy of John Lewis.
We come today, thanking you for the faith foundations that his mother and father established in Troy, Alabama. We thank you for his leadership of Snick and the March on Washington. We thank you for how he was bloodied for us, bruised for us, he marched for us, sat in for us, and was willing to give up his life that we might have life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
And on today, as his colleagues and friends and especially family members come, as he lays in state in this hallowed rotunda, we come on this day, recommitting ourselves to march as he marched, to ballot boxes and to -- this year, for mailboxes and for voting rights and for civil rights and for human rights. And we'll keep doing that until that day justice rolls down like mighty waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.
And finally on July 17th, we want to say thank you that he crossed another bridge, not the Edmund Pettus Bridge that we pray that one day will be named for John Lewis Memorial Bridge, but the bridge from earth to glory. And when he got there, Elijah Cummings and the congressional cloud of witnesses welcomed him home, as they marched down that street paved of gold.
We want to say thank you, from Emmett Till to George Floyd, said, thank you for allowing our deaths not to be in vain.
And when he got to the lily-white throne, we want say thank you.
He heard you say, well done, thy good and faithful servant. You have done the good fight, and you have kept your eyes on the prize. And now, into the joy of the lord.
And after you said that, Gabriel told the angels to lift every voice and sing.
And we heard Dr. King in the background, saying, free at last, free at last. The consciousness of Congress is free at last.
In Jesus' name we pray, amen.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- moment, the honorable Mitch McConnell, majority leader of the United States Senate.
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): Please be seated.
In his memoirs, John Lewis described a childhood home that was quite different from the place he lies today.
That farmhouse in Pike County, Alabama had no running water or electricity. It stood on the first land his father's family had ever owned, in a part of the country where segregation had led to almost total isolation along racial lines.
It would have been hard to conceive, back then, that the young child tending his family's chickens would, by age 23, be leading the movement to redeem American society. That he'd be addressing hundreds of thousands of Civil Rights marchers from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.
I was lucky enough to be there that day. I marveled at the massive crowds. 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 wondered how many dared imagine that young man would come to walk the halls of the Congress.
America's original sin of slavery was allowed to fester for far too long. It left a long wake of pain, violence and brokenness that has taken great efforts from great heroes to address.
John's friend, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., famously said, "The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice."
But that is never automatic. History only bent toward what's right because people like John paid the price to help bend it. He paid that price at every Nashville lunch counter, where his leadership made segregation impossible to ignore. He paid it in every jail cell, where he waited out hatred and oppression. He paid that price in harassment and beatings from a bus station in South Carolina, to the Edmund Pettus Bridge.
John Lewis lived and worked with urgency because the task was urgent. But even though the world around him gave him every cause for bitterness, he stubbornly treated everyone with respect and love. All so that, as his friend Dr. King once put it, we could build "a community at peace with itself."
Today, we pray and trust that this peacemaker himself now rests in peace.
All of John's colleagues stand with his son John-Miles, their family, and the entire country in thanking God that he gave our nation this hero it needed so badly. May all of us that he will leave behind under this dome pray for a fraction of John's strength to keep bending that arc on toward justice.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ladies and gentlemen, the honorable Nancy Pelosi, speaker of the United States House of Representatives.
PELOSI: To the family of John Lewis, welcome to the Rotunda.
Under the dome of the U.S. Capitol, we have bid farewell to some of the greatest Americans in our history. It is fitting that John Lewis joins this pantheon of patriots, resting upon the same catafalque of President Abraham Lincoln. John revered President Lincoln; his identification with Lincoln was
clear, 57 years ago, at the shadow of the Lincoln Memorial, where John declared, "Our minds, souls and hearts cannot rest until freedom and justice exist for all people," words that ring true today.
Mr. Leader, I too was there that day, our student years.
Between then and now, John Lewis became a titan of the Civil Rights movement, and then the conscience of the Congress. Here in Congress, John was revered and beloved on both sides of the aisle, on both sides of the Capitol. We knew that he always worked on the side of the angels, and now we know that he is with them, and we are comforted to know that he is with his beloved Lillian.
It may be a comfort to John's son, John-Miles, the entire Lewis family, Michael Collins, the entire staff that so many mourn their loss and are praying for them at this sad time.
God truly blessed America with the life and leadership of John Lewis. We thank you for sharing him with us. May he rest in peace.
John Lewis often spoke of a beloved community -- a vision that he shared with the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. -- of the community connected and uplifted by faith, hope and charity. And indeed, John had deep faith, believing that every person has a spark of divinity, making them worthy of respect. And he had faith in the charity of others, which is what gave him so much hope.
As he wrote in his book, "Release the need to hate, to harbor division and the enticement of revenge. Release all bitterness, hold only love, only peace in your heart, knowing the battle for good to overcome evil is already won."
John the optimist. Through it all, John was a person of greatness. He also was a person of great humility, always giving credit to others in the movement.
John committed his life to advancing justice and understood that to build a better future, we had to acknowledge the past. Exactly one year ago, it was a privilege to be with John and members of the Congressional Black Caucus -- Madam Chair Karen Bass -- to -- on a pilgrimage to Ghana to observe 400 years since the arrival of the first slaves from Africa.
Some of the descendants of those slaves would build this Capitol, where John now lies in state on the Lincoln catafalque.
I wish you could have seen the response that John received when he was introduced to the Ghana parliament. My colleagues are shaking their heads, it was overwhelming, overwhelming.
I wish you could have seen him at the Door of No Return, which enslaved people were sent through onto the death ships to cross the Atlantic. I wish you could have seen what it meant to him. He knew that the Door of No Return was a central part of American history, just as is the Edmund Pettus Bridge, the March on Washington, the Selma march to Montgomery are.
When John made his speech, 57 years ago, he was the youngest speaker at the March on Washington program. 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.
We have all seen the photographs of John being brutally beaten in Selma, which painted an iconic picture of injustice. What a beautiful contrast to see John and the mayor of Washington -- who's with us today -- at the Black Lives Matter Plaza, standing in solidarity with the protestors, an iconic picture of justice that will endure and will inspire our nation for years to come.
John firmly focused on the future, on how to inspire the next generation to join the fight for justice, and (ph) his quote, "to find a way to get in the way."
As one of the youngest leaders of the Freedom Rides, March on Washington -- as I said -- and March to Montgomery, he understood the power of young people to change the future.
When asked what someone can do who is 19 or 20 years old -- the age that he was when he set out to desegregate Nashville, Lewis replied, "A young person should be speaking out for what is fair, what is just, what is right. Speak out for those who have been left out and left behind. That is how the movement goes forward," John said.
Imagine the great joy he had, traveling the country to share that message of action with young people. No need to imagine. It is my personal privilege, right now, for me to yield to our beloved colleague, the distinguished gentleman from Georgia, Congressman John Lewis.
REP. JOHN LEWIS (D-GA): I grew up in rural Alabama, 50 miles from Montgomery, outside of a little place called Troy. My father was a sharecropper, a tenant farmer. But back in 1944, when I was only 4 years old, my father had saved $300 and with the $300, he bought 110 acres of land. My family still owns that land today.
How many of you remember when you were 4? What happened to the rest of us? It was many, many years ago, when we would visit the little town of Troy, visit Montgomery, visit Tuskegee, visit Birmingham. I saw those signs that said white men, colored men, white women, colored women, white waiting, colored waiting.
I would come home and ask my mother, my father, my grandparents, my great-grandparents why.
They would say, that's the way it is. Don't get in the way. Don't get in trouble. But one day in 1955, 15 years old, in the 10th grade, I heard about Rosa Parks. I heard the words of Martin Luther King Jr. on the radio. Nineteen fifty-seven, I met Rosa Parks at the age of 17. In 1958 at the age of 18, I met Martin Luther King Jr. And these two individuals inspired met to get in the way, 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. You must find a way to get in trouble, good trouble, necessary trouble.
Use your education -- you have wonderful teachers, wonderful professors. Researchers, use what you have. Use your learning, use your tools to help make our country and make our world a better place, where no one will be left out or left behind. You can do it, and you must do it. It is your time.
In a few short days, we will commemorate what we call the Mississippi Summer Project. For more than 1,000 students from all over America -- many from abroad -- made a trip to Mississippi to encourage people to register to vote.
On a summer night of June 21st, 1964, three young men that I knew -- two whites, and one African-American -- Mickey Schwerner, Andy Goodman, and James Chaney -- went out to investigate the burning of an African-American church that were used for voter registration workshops. These three young men were detained by the sheriff, taken to jail, taken out of jail, turned over to the Klan, where they were beaten, shot and killed.
And I tell students today, these three young men didn't die in Vietnam. They didn't die in the Middle East, or Eastern Europe. They didn't die in Africa or Central or South America, they died right here, in our own country, trying to help all of our citizens become participants in a democratic process.
As young people, you must understand that there are forces that want to take us back to another period. But you must say that we're not going back, we made too much progress and we're going forward.
There may be some setbacks, some delays, some disappointment. But you must never, ever give up or give in. You must keep the faith and keep your eyes on the prize. That is your calling, that is your mission, that is your moral obligation, that is your mandate. Get out there and do it, get in the way.
In the final analysis, we all must learn to live together as brothers and sisters. We all live in the same house. And it doesn't matter whether we are black or white, Latino, Asian-American or Native American. It doesn't matter whether you're straight or gay. We are one people, we are one family, we all live in the same house.
Be bold, be courageous. Stand up, speak up, speak out and find a way to create the beloved community, the beloved world, a world of peace, a world that recognize the dignity of all humankind. Never become bitter, never become hostile, never hate. Live in peace, we are one, one people and one love. Thank you very much.