July 23, 2020

GUEST ROOM | An Open Letter to Rep. John Lewis

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Thank you. You allowed me to see the future and the past in the same gaze and have given me a guiding light that I would never have seen otherwise. Your writings on the Civil Rights Movement have not only fueled my passion for history but granted me something that I would never have envisioned: An avenue to fight for the basic liberties that every person should possess.

I have no words to truly convey the impact that your book had on my vision of social change. But, I attempt to speak to it because I wish to, in any minimal sense, express that I would not be as passionate or as understanding as I am now without it. It is the distinct realization that my world would be entirely different without your influence that truly implored me to write this letter. Across that Bridge has not only become an idolized piece of literature for me; it persists to be a constant reassurance that there will forever be hope where there is empathy. When I read it, I am reminded that it is hope that has persevered throughout the various processes of America, and as an extension, the world.

I have been trying to put these words on paper for a while and wrote the last few parts almost a year ago. However, I could not find the precise words to finish this letter, knowing that there is so much I still do not know and will never know. Now, I feel like some of the words have come back to me, sprung by the fearless actions of all of those around me, fighting for the freedom that is still not granted to them. I know that there is a change willing itself into the roots of America right now, just as it has done countless times in the past. This time, however, I refuse to read about it in my history books. I absolutely refuse to not be a meaningful ally in the fight for change.

Due to your book, Across That Bridge, which addresses the state of our nation right now, my consciousness of the definition of America, both in the past and the present, is wholly altered. I have developed a more personal grasp over my identity and values, but more importantly, I can now comprehend and express what I truly wish for the future of America. This future, the one that millions of civilians aspire to observe, is one of diversity. The truth of the various movements of the past will endure, unveiled by the most resolute of people, but it is up to the entire nation to recognize those principles. In a time where even the suggestion of thorough inclusion may be looked down upon by the nation’s administration, the path of the glory of the people seems arduous. Yet, this formidable force can only be met with the exceptional power of love that millions of Americans currently possess. The fortitude of those that seek to hate will never overcome those that seek to love. 

Recognizing what is wrong is easy, once we all start to see human beings as equal to one another. But, discovering a solution: That is an arduous process. It’s imperative that we recognize that the world will not change in an instant, but that we must influence diversity. These stringent codes of oppression will remain until America, as a society, chooses to be an expounder for those that are discriminated against.

The right side of history will radiate through generations of human beings, forever gleaming when given the chance. There will be people that oppose it with every fiber of their being but it will remain formidable, anticipating the arrival of those who previously rejected its proposals.

We can no longer afford to rely on this myth that the youth will save our generation. The pull of inevitable justice is too small to truly influence the immediate change we want today. The elderly and the young must contribute to form a more perfect union, one in which every man and woman is equal. Freedom is a constant struggle and cannot be won unless every generation puts in an equal amount of work for the greater purpose which summons us all.  I have not come to this conclusion on my own, but rather, through your principles, history, and battle for the future.

You have inspired even the fiercest of opposition to come to terms with their own conscience, proving that the right side of history is always recognizable. The moral duty that is placed upon all of us to answer this call to history now could not have been possible without you and your enduring commitment to the right side of history. As we now happen upon one of the most momentous times of our nation, I am compelled to say that without you, it would not be possible to be here. Without the empathy and drive for a better future that you inspired in millions, our nation would be drastically different.

I am sorry our nation is so embroiled in the same hatred you saw more than 60 years ago at the time of your passing. I’m so sorry we haven’t come further. Yet, there is a glimmer of hope that resounds throughout the nation now, and I am so sorry you will not get to see it fulfilled. You have changed the lives of millions, including mine. Thank you for your words, your actions, and your empathy. Thank you is not enough for the inspiration that you were to millions across the world. May the world remember your moral authority, your eminence in the making of history, and most of all, your compassionate and commanding way of life. You have changed the world and it is forever indebted to you.

 

Komala R. Anupindi is a sophomore in the College of Human Ecology. Comments can be sent to opinion@cornellsun.com. Guest Room runs periodically throughout the summer.