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Rep. John Lewis Cannot Attend VRA White House Signing

July 26, 2006
Press Release

Although Rep. John Lewis has attended every presidential signing ceremony of the Voting Rights Act since it was first signed by Pres. Lyndon Johnson in 1965, he will not be able to be present at this one for personal reasons. He will be attending a funeral in Massachusetts.

"The reauthorization of the Voting Rights Act," said Congressman Lewis, "is a historic occasion. It demonstrates our willingness as a nation to continue to meet our democratic destiny, to continue to open up the political process so that all American citizens can fully participate.

"I was there 41 years ago when President Lyndon Johnson first signed the act on August 6, 1965, and since that time we have witnessed a non-violent revolution under the rule of law, a revolution of values, a revolution of ideas. But justice is not a state, it is an act, and each generation must do its part to confirm its commitment to equality and fairness in America.

"With this signing, the members of the Congress and the President have done their part. The President's clear message that he would sign this bill, from the very beginning of the public debate, was helpful to its passage. Also instrumental was the powerful, overwhelming record of persistent voting rights discrimination amassed and fiercely defended by Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI) and fellow committee member and chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, Mel Watt (D-NC).

"The Voting Rights Act has always enjoyed a majority of support in the Congress, on both sides of the aisle, ever since its first passage in 1965. That 40-year commitment reveals our determination as a legislative body to protect the integrity of the democratic process in America.

"I would have liked to have been able to offer these sentiments to the president personally, and I am deeply appreciative of his invitation. Unfortunately, my chief of staff's father died on Saturday. And when I searched my soul, I decided that since the work on this reauthorization was done, that I should support someone in a time of great need who has given all he has to support me."