At the funeral for late civil rights leader John Lewis , Barack Obama voiced his support for voting reform ahead of the 2020 elections.
During his speech, Obama spoke highly of the work Lewis accomplished during his lifetime. He called for making Election Day a national holiday, restoring voting rights to former prison inmates, automatically registering Americans to vote upon turning 18, and full enfranchisement for the citizens of Washington, DC, and Puerto Rico. He also referred to the filibuster, a rule that requires 60 senators to pass legislation instead of just the majority, a "Jim Crow relic."
"John never believed that what he did was more than any citizen of this country can do," Obama said during his eulogy. "I mentioned in the statement the day John passed, the thing about John was just how gentle and humble he was. And despite this storied, remarkable career, he treated everyone with kindness and respect because it was innate to him. This idea that any of us can do what he did, if we’re willing to persevere."
Throughout his lifetime, Lewis was instrumental in the furthering of voter and racial equality. Obama's eulogy saw him stress that there is still much work to be done in the fight for equality. "Bull Connor may be gone, but today we witness with our own eyes police officers kneeling on the necks of Black Americans,” Obama said. “George Wallace may be gone, but we can witness our federal government sending agents to use tear gas and batons against peaceful demonstrators.”
Recently, Donald Trump has continually spoken out against mail-in ballots ahead of the elections, even going so far as to suggest that the elections be delayed on Thursday. "There are those in power who are doing their darnedest to discourage people from voting — by closing polling locations, and targeting minorities and students with restrictive ID laws," Obama added. "And attacking our voting rights with surgical precision, even undermining the postal service in the run-up to an election that’s going to be dependent on mail-in ballots so people don’t get sick."
When Lewis was only 25, he helped lead a march for voter's rights in Selma, Alabama. He and the marchers alongside him were brutally attacked by state and local authorities, leaving him with a fractured skull. "The Voting Rights Act is one of the crowning achievements of our democracy," Obama explained. "That's why John crossed that bridge. It's why he spilled his blood."
The former U.S. president continued to express his support for peaceful protesters, stating that he was "hopeful" real change could happen too. "We can't treat voting as an errand to run if we have some time," he remarked. "We have to treat it as the most important action we can take on behalf of democracy."
Obama was one of three former U.S. presidents to eulogize Lewis at the funeral, with George W. Bush and Bill Clinton also delivering speeches.
See reactions to Obama's striking eulogy below.