Speech ● Congress
For Immediate Release: 
February 15, 2011
Contact Info: 

Katie Grant, 202-225-3130

WASHINGTON, DC - Democratic Whip Steny H. Hoyer (MD) spoke at a reception today honoring Congressman John Lewis (D-GA), who was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom earlier today. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:

"The historian Taylor Branch called the men and women of America’s civil rights movement no less than 'the modern founders of democracy.' Today, a leader of that movement was awarded America’s highest civilian honor: the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

"John Lewis is humble enough to understand that the movement for racial justice was far greater than any one leader. It was the product of millions of men and women. They were people from every walk of life, but they shared this in common: an insistence that our nation at last live by its founding promises; and a dawning realization of the great things can be achieved when men and women come together to demand justice in a spirit of peace. And as we’ve just seen from the events in Egypt, that realization is as powerful around the world as it is here in America.

"John Lewis rose to leadership in America’s civil rights movement; and when he bravely confronted the state troopers standing in the way of a peaceful protest march, and made no resistance as they struck him down, he came to personify that movement’s spirit.

"John Lewis still bears the scars of that day. But he bears no resentment—because his life has been a testament of unshakeable dignity. It was the dignity with which he stood by Dr. King in the 1960s, and the dignity with which he has served as a leader and an inspiration in Congress, well into the 21st century. From then to now, John has held to the faith that our rights come from God—but that, sometimes, they must be retained, reaffirmed, and redeemed by the actions of men and women of faith and courage.

"Just as he helped inspire a movement and a nation, today John inspires all those who are lucky to call themselves his friends. John: congratulations on this honor. But more importantly, congratulations on the years of principled service that made this honor mandatory."