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Congressman John Lewis Lies In State At Capitol Rotunda; Trump On Lewis Ceremony: No, I Won't Be Going. Aired 2:30-3p ET
Aired July 27, 2020 - 14:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANNOUNCER: Ladies and gentlemen, Dr. Wintley Phipps.
ANNOUNCER: Ladies and gentlemen, Dr. Wintley Phipps.
ANNOUNCER: Ladies and gentlemen, James Clyburn, majority whip, the United States House of Representatives.
REP. JAMES CLYBURN (D-SC): God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.
Living one day at a time. Accepting hardships as a pathway to peace. Taken as he did the sinful world as it is. Not as I would have it.
Trusting that he will make all things right if I surrender to his will. That I may be reasonably happy in this life, and supremely happy with him forever in the next.
ANNOUNCER: Ladies and gentlemen, please remain in your seats until you're escorted to pay your respect by the sergeant-at-arms.
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: This is the final good-bye for Congressman John Lewis from so many of his colleagues in the capitol. We just watched a service honoring him for a small gathering of socially distanced lawmakers there who were invited to this ceremony.
I want to bring in Bakari Sellers to talk about what we just witnessed.
It was so touching, Bakari, just to hear everything, from the Reverend Browning Jr, who said he is now on bridge from earth to glory, to Mitch McConnell saying that John Lewis led the movement to redeem American society and he paid the price to bend the arc of the moral universe toward justice.
And House Speaker nanny Pelosi reminding everyone that he understood the power of young people to change the future, which really speaks to the final public moment that we saw of John Lewis going to Black Lives Matter Plaza and sending that message is really his final message.
But I think it was John Lewis' words themselves that we were able to hear that perhaps were the most moving on this day where so many of his colleagues are saying good-bye to him, Bakari.
BAKARI SELLERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, you have a whole lot of emotions going through your head. But what I think about most at this moment is Reverend Phipps) and him sing "Amazing Grace" and you sway back and forth as the spirit moves you and fills you. That rendition was so emotional and pitch perfect and so right in the rotunda.
And then you got to be a bad man to eulogize yourself. That tells you what kind of life John Lewis lived. The words are the words that he's going out on, listening to that speech again and the power of his voice and the inflection and the oratory and the greatness and the faith and hope that John Lewis so eloquently brings every single day.
And the last thing that I recognize and I was watching my good friend and a hero of mine, Congressman Jim Clyburn, give the benediction, final words. And I think about the fact that John Lewis was 80 years old. Jim Clyburn was 80 years old. Emmett Till would have been 79 on Saturday.
And I just think about all of the pain and the trauma that news men have seen throughout their lives. I look at all of the blood that has been shed from the Edmund Pettus Bridge and all of the things that had to happened from the '64 and '65 Voting Rights Act and King assassinated in April of '68 and how much men and women have been through so we have the progress that we have today.
I think about Mother Emmanuel Church in the moment in the state of South Carolina and the blood that was shed.
And when you see John Lewis resting today, you just want him to rest in power because he did so much work.
And then when you have Mitch McConnell and others who are up there, you do realize that we still have so much work to do. Because the difference between John Lewis and others, who do not
espouse the same beliefs, is that John Lewis understood that justice and freedom were verbs. He understood that freedom is not free in this country. And he lived a life as such. So the void is going to be huge.
But one of the things about John that we always knew is that he wasn't concerned about who would fill the void because he knew young people were going to stand up and fill that void.
So he was always on the side of those of us who were out here causing good trouble, those of us who always ask for forgiveness but never ask for permission. He always believed in the power of young people.
So the country is going to be in good hands because of the young people. But they stand on the people, of the shoulders like John Lewis today.
KEILAR: And just to follow on what you were saying there, you really did make me think about all of the trauma that he saw and so many others saw in their fight for justice and for freedom.
But those words that he spoke, we heard him speak again, don't become bitter, don't hate, he said. Even after everything that he saw, he said that we all live in the same house and he talked about building community, Bakari.
He had a message of reconciliation and bringing people along, and creating a community that was peaceful.
SELLERS: Yes, but let's not act as if John Lewis was not angry.
SELLERS: Anger is not a sin. John Lewis was angry. But his anger was one of righteous indignation. And he was not docile or passive, but he had the righteous anger.
The difference is that John Lewis could have lashed out at his enemies. But instead, he believed in what Abraham Lincoln called the better angels of our nature.
You're talking about a generation of people who said the death of Medgar Evers, the death of Jimmy Lee Jackson, who saw four little girls in Birmingham that were bombed. Who say his good friend, Martin Luther King Jr, assassinated, saw Malcolm X assassinated, and saw the death of Goodman, Churney (ph) and Cheney, the deaths of Henry Smith and Samuel Hammond and Middleton.
These individuals saw all of the pain so they could attempt to make this country bend its moral arc to one of justice and they know they would not have any success but for that blood that was shed.
What makes John Lewis so great is that all of the blood that was shed, all of that pain, he didn't retreat. He didn't lash out. But what he did was he utilized that to try to get into good trouble and bring people together.
See that is a special type of faith because, I can tell you, I ain't that far on my Christian journey yet to be turning the other cheek. I'm not that far on my journey yet to make sure that I could stand as tall as John Lewis did. So that is what we have to aspire to.
Because through all of that pain, through all of the that blood that was shed and the anger, he never lashed out.
Instead, he used that righteous indignation to go to the halls of Congress and attempt work with people like Mitch McConnell, to attempt to work with the John Boehner, and these individuals who did not see the world as he saw it but believed they wanted America to be better.
He's leaving us with the task that the work is not done. But he's just tired right now so he needs to rest.
KEILAR: That is what he said, Bakari. Get in the way. Right? He wasn't talking about playing by the rules. He was talking about breaking them with a clear goal in mind.
And I do want to bring in John Avlon to talk a little bit what we're seeing and also what we will see later in the day.
We're going to be seeing the vice president and the second lady, they will be coming a little later this evening, John, to pay their respects.
We did just hear from the president as he was departing the White House that he is not, no, I won't be going, no, he said. And it would be quite frankly, John, odd, if the president were to come pay his respects.
JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Unfortunately, yes. But he's a man who cannot measure to the same moral stature of John Lewis.
But simply that declaration, that he would not come pay his respects, the consistent refusal to play the role that presidents are obligated to do to try to unite the nation however imperfectly.
And the way that contrasts, Brianna, with the words we hear from John Lewis echoing under the dome one last time that Bakari, you mentioned, never be bitter. Never be hostile. Never hate. We're one family. One people. One love. We must try to build a beloved community.
And the example President Trump sets. not just through his hate tweets, not through his pandering to the opposite of the better angels of our, but it is the exact opposite of those words of wisdom of John Lewis.
And it is why he was so revered by both sides of the aisle and perfectly followed but respected deeply and became a living legend and one of the greatest Americans of our time.
KEILAR: We pay our respect to John Lewis. His legacy commands our respect. And our coverage will continue now with Brooke Baldwin right after