Congressman John Lewis Tells Voters to 'Vote Like We've Never Voted Before'

U.S. Representative John Lewis had some cautionary words for his Dallas supporters on Saturday.

“We must take our country back and save our democracy," Lewis said. "I don’t want to go back. I want to go forward and create one America.”

Lewis said our differences don't matter because we're all living together under one roof.

"We all live in the same American house," Lewis says. "It doesn’t matter if we’re black, white, Latino, Asian American or Native American. We’re one people. We’re one family. We all live in the same house.”

Lewis is the Democratic representative for Georgia's 5th District and civil rights icon who served as one of the "Big Six" leaders who helped organize peaceful marches and protests throughout the South in the mid-1960s. His appearance drew about 200 people to Fretz Park. The event also featured words of encouragement to get out and vote from other Democratic candidates and political leaders, including U.S. Senate candidate Beto O'Rourke, Congressman Marc Veasey, Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson and U.S. House candidate Colin Allred.

O'Rourke, the El Paso native and U.S. representative whose campaign against incumbent Sen. Ted Cruz has attracted more than $60 million in donations, spoke with a bit of a hoarse voice, a symptom of traveling nonstop across the state to meet with voters and speak at gatherings almost daily.

"Every single one of you is making every single one of us so proud at this moment," O'Rourke says. "When the country has not been more divided at least in my lifetime and driven by partisanship, pettiness, meanness and smallness. You've brought your strength and courage and your big, beautiful heart that could only come from Texas."

The only way the state of Texas and the nation can change the dialogue and stench of partisan bickering is to go out and vote, and O'Rourke says the state has seen a noticeable increase in voter turnout that needs to keep growing if it can expect any changes in Washington, D.C.

"The hope that you have given to me and one another and so many at this time when we couldn't need it more than we do, this is the moment when we turn that into action and into votes," O'Rourke said. "And I want to tell you, the people of Dallas County like the people in 253 other counties are taking our hope and our promise and the potential of this country and you are putting it into action."

A group of supporters pose for a picture with civil rights icon John Lewis.EXPAND
A group of supporters pose for a picture with civil rights icon John Lewis.
Danny Gallagher

Johnson also encouraged the crowd to get out and vote and get others to vote because it's "the only weapon we have."

"We need every vote," she says. "Every vote counts, and it's up to us. This election can be the beginning of a new day for Texas and a new day for this nation. A day that is in our hands. A day that's so close but it still takes all of us."

Johnson cited Lewis' efforts and physical sacrifices as the reason she and others like her still have the right to vote even in the face of voter ID laws that opponents claim are aimed at suppressing minority votes.

"We've been given the right to vote," Johnson said. "The man you're going to hear [Lewis] was out there fighting for the rights of minorities that gave me a right to vote. We still need to use that right to vote. Our future depends on it. We don't like the country we see now, and we can change it. We must change it. We've got to change it and the only way we can change it is to vote. I beg you. I plead with you. Make this America again."

Allred, the Democrat running for Congress in Texas' 32nd District, said voting will give his constituents the chances and changes his Republican opponent, U.S. Rep. Pete Sessions, hasn't delivered.

"For far too long, my community, the place I love and made my life possible has not had the representation it deserves from Pete Sessions," Allred says. "For far too long, we've had a member of Congress who doesn't understand the importance of investment in healthcare, education and our own people, of what happens when we give people a chance."

The crowd reached a fever pitch when Lewis took the stage and spoke about the struggles he and his family went through while living in rural Alabama under the thumb of Jim Crow laws.

He said the signs marked "Whites Only" and "Coloreds Only" that littered his hometown of Troy, Alabama, confused and infuriated him even at a young age.

“I asked my father, mother, grandparents and great grandparents why and they said, 'Boy that’s why it is. Don’t get in the way. Don’t get in trouble,'" Lewis said. "But in 1955, when I was 15 years old, I heard of Rosa Parks. I heard the words of Martin Luther King Jr. The actions of Rosa Parks and the words and leadership of Martin Luther King inspired me to get in trouble, what I call good trouble."

He encouraged the crowd to do the same in the current midterm election.

"It’s time for all good people in this state to get in trouble and vote like we’ve never ever voted before," Lewis said.

U.S. Rep. John Lewis, left, poses for a photo with one of his supporters.EXPAND
U.S. Rep. John Lewis, left, poses for a photo with one of his supporters.
Danny Gallagher

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