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Rep. John Lewis' Floor Statement on Outcome of Helsinki Summit

July 18, 2018
Press Release

Rep. Lewis made this statement on the House floor today:

Mr. Speaker, I come to the House Floor because today is the birthday of my friend, our partner in the fight for justice and equality – Nelson Mandela.  During the height of the Civil Rights Movement and the early days of the labor movement, you had to make a decision:  Which side are you on?

So, Mr. Speaker, on this day of all days, I cannot – I will not – stay silent when our nation, our democracy, and the American people are under attack.  We fought too hard and too long to stand on the sidelines when so much is at stake.  When you see something that is not right, that is not just, you have to find a way to get in the way.  You have to get in good trouble, necessary trouble.

Now, is the time to wake up!  It is time to be brave, bold, and courageous.  During the American Revolution, people suffered and died for the dream of democracy, for the sacred right to vote, and for the ability to choose their representatives.  Hundreds and thousands of men and women lost their lives to preserve our union and to defend our values. 

What I saw on Monday – and what I saw – was a shame, an embarrassment, and a disgrace to their legacy, their memory, and what they sacrificed.  During times like these, I encourage every person to take some time and have what I call an executive session with themselves and their very souls.  Because today, Mr. Speaker, each of us faces the question of what it means to be patriotic. 

Ask yourself – do you stand with the American people, or do you stand with a dictator?  Do you stand with democracy, or do you stand with a czar?  Do you stand with friends and allies?  Or do you stand with someone who approves violent attacks on the media, human rights advocates, and struggling democracies?

Mr. Speaker, the American house is on fire.  It is burning!  And if we are not mindful – if we are not watchful – this fire will consume us all.

The United States Constitution begins with the words, “We the People.”  You see the Founding Fathers’ very first priority – the very first Article – was to outline the role and responsibilities of the United States Congress in our system of checks and balances.

The people who elected us are sounding the alarms.  Never before has our constitutional mandate been more important.  Never before have the pillars of our democracy been under attack.

Mr. Speaker, each and every one of us swore an oath of office.  Whether Democrat or Republican, we all have an equal mission, an obligation, and mandate to uphold this promise. 

Mr. Speaker, the time has come, and the question is simple:  Will you show up for duty? 

Congress must speak up, we must speak out, and, Mr. Speaker, we must act.  If you fail to do so, history – and American voters – will not be kind.

This threat is occurring in real time – on your watch – and the ball is in your court.

The clock is ticking, and there is no time to waste.  Mr. Speaker, I yield back.


Link to video clip: