Last week, President Barack Obama delivered one of the most captivating, heartfelt and inspiring speeches in recent memory at John Lewis’ memorial service. He provided us with an impassioned call to action to continue Congressman Lewis’ fight for freedom and equality.
President Obama’s eulogy was a call to action and a roadmap to save our democracy.
(If you didn’t have the chance to watch, you can read Obama’s full John Lewis eulogy here.)
Most Inspiring Quotes from Barack Obama’s John Lewis Eulogy
President Obama described our ideal democracy in the image of Representative John Lewis himself: big-hearted, tolerant, vibrant and inclusive.
I love this quote about protesting and politicking. It’s the idea that we must work to make change both from within the system and outside it.
Given Lewis’ lifelong fight for voting equality, it’s no surprise that President Obama spoke of its importance.
But, some of the most noteworthy words were not Obama’s own, and rather when he quoted Representative Lewis.
Barack Obama’s Marching Orders to Save our Democracy
President Obama made clear we must pass the Voting Rights Act to guarantee equal access and opportunity to vote for all citizens. He explains
Like John, we have got to fight even harder for the most powerful tool we have, which is the right to vote. The Voting Rights Act is one of the crowning achievements of our democracy. It’s why John crossed that bridge. It’s why he spilled his blood. And by the way, it was the result of Democratic and Republican efforts. … But once the Supreme Court weakened the Voting Rights Act, some state legislatures unleashed a flood of laws designed specifically to make voting harder, especially, by the way, state legislatures where there is a lot of minority turnout and population growth. That’s not necessarily a mystery or an accident. It was an attack on what John fought for. It was an attack on our democratic freedoms. And we should treat it as such.President Barack Obama
But Obama didn’t stop there, he adds more ingredients to the recipe for repairing our democracy. Here are his suggestions:
- Pass the Voting Rights Restoration Act
- Automatic voter registration, including reformed felons
- Add polling places, expand early voting options, make Election Day a national holiday
- Statehood for DC and Puerto Rico
- End partisan gerrymandering
- End the filibuster*
Making progress on any of these issues can have a positive impact towards a more inclusive and fair democracy. Enacting all of them will be truly transformative for the future of our country. So, let’s get to work!
*What does it mean to end the filibuster?
Most of Obama’s recommendations are self-explanatory, with the exception of the call to end the filibuster. What the heck is it and what does getting rid of it have to do with improving our democracy?
The Senate filibuster rule “allows the minority to impose a three-fifths supermajority requirement on nearly all legislation.” In other words, legislation may pass by a vote of 51-49 but the filibuster requires a vote of 60 Senators to move legislation. As you can imagine, it’s nearly impossible to get three-fifths of the Senate to agree on anything. So this rule has the effect of killing good Senate legislation. My beloved Crooked Media has been persuasively calling for an end to the filibuster rule for years.