Rep. Lewis: 'I Gave A Little Blood Here And There'Congressman John Lewis is a senior statesman now, but he was just 23 when he spoke at the March on Washington. He tells host Michel Martin what went through his mind during that historical moment, and what young people can learn about the movement today.
Host Michel Martin interviews Rep. John Lewis in his Washington D.C. office. Historical photos and memorabilia line the walls.
Rep. Lewis was the youngest person asked to give a major address at the 1963 March on Washington.
Rep. Lewis stands near Martin Luther King Jr. during a gathering with President John F. Kennedy and other civil rights leaders.
John Lewis Drive
Rep. Lewis on a box of Wheaties.
Rep. John Lewis' name plate at the entrance of his Washington D.C. office.
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On this day in 1963, thousands of people converged on Washington D.C. to march for jobs and freedom. It was a special moment in the struggle for civil rights, one that ended with Martin Luther King Jr.'s historic 'I Have a Dream' speech. But also on that podium was John Lewis, the head of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee. At age 23, he was the youngest to speak that day. "Those who have said 'be patient and wait,' we must say that we cannot be patient," he told the crowd. "We do not want our freedom gradually, but we want to be free now."
Today, Lewis is a Democratic congressman from Georgia. He welcomed host Michel Martin into his Washington D.C. office for an interview.
On meeting President Kennedy after the March
"On that day, when the march was all over, and Dr. King had delivered his speech — his "I Have a Dream Speech" — President Kennedy invited all of us back down to the White House, and he was like a beaming proud father. He was just beaming. And he said, 'You did a good job, you did a good job,' as he shook each one of our hands — 'you did a good job.' And when he got to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., he said, 'And you had a dream.'
On why he had to revise his speech
"When you look back at the original text, it's pretty strong. I said, in the original text, in good conscience, we cannot support the administration's proposed Civil Rights bill. It's too little, too late. There was not anything in this bill that would protect old women and young children involved in peaceful non-violent protest."
On what people will get out of this anniversary
"It is my hope that when all these events are concluded, that another generation of people — young and not so young — say, 'Now it's my time. It is my opportunity to do something, to make a contribution, so we will never see anything like this ever again in America or in any part of our world.' "