Archived: John Lewis, Barack Obama Share MLK's Legacy with Young Leaders

“Fifty years ago today, I was with Robert Kennedy in Indianapolis when we heard that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had been shot and killed,” Congressman John Lewis (D-Ga.) wrote in a message released Wednesday morning.

“The leader of our movement for civil rights was gone, assassinated on April 4, 1968, in Memphis. And I believe something died in all of us that day. Something died in America.

“But I’ve also always held the belief that what he left us — the way of hope, the way of peace, the way of love, a philosophy and discipline rooted in nonviolence — cannot be taken away. These things are eternal.”

During a Monday meeting, Lewis and former President Barack Obama participated in a My Brother’s Keeper Alliance roundtable with students from Ron Brown College Preparatory High School in Washington, D.C.

Lewis and Obama discussed King’s legacy to commemorate the 50 years since he was assassinated. They also talked about how King’s mission remains relevant, despite the current state of the U.S.

A Ron Brown College Preparatory student asks Congressman John Lewis (D-Ga.) about Dr. King’s assassination.

“I’m sorry about the assassination of Dr. King. How do you cope with his assassination” a student asked Lewis in a video released on Wednesday.

Lewis responded, “It was a very sad and dark time for me. He was my leader, he was my inspiration.”

He continued, “When he was assassinated, I said to myself, I said, ‘Listen self, you can not get down. You have to pick ’em up and keep going.'”

Lewis said he regretted not spending enough time with King.

“I thought he’d be around a long time,” he said.

Another student asked, “In what way can being controversial be a benefit and a disadvantage”

“In 1963, I was 23 years old and I was one of the speakers at the March on Washington,” Lewis said.

Obama interjected, “You’re the only living speaker left.”

“I’m the only one of the 10 people that spoke,” Lewis replied. “Dr. King spoke number 10 and I spoke number six.

“There were some people who suggested that my speech was too extreme. That it was too radical.

“But I thought what I had to say was important to be said. Black people in the South couldn’t register to vote simply because of the color of their skin.”

Obama added, “If you are speaking on behalf of social justice, then by definition there’s going to be some controversy.

“Dr. King was controversial, but he studied and thought and crafted what he had to say. And he knew what he spoke. He was expressing a truth as well as he could know it.”

Bernice A. King, daughter of King and his wife, Coretta Scott King, is the CEO of the King Center.

On Wednesday morning, King tweeted a photo of her father and said conscious efforts need to be made to “eradicate poverty, militarism and racism.”

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