To the editor: This week our nation pays respect to a small, soft-spoken man of great courage, Congressman John Lewis. Over the course of 60 years, in his lifelong devotion to securing civil rights, including the right to vote, for all U.S. citizens, John Lewis repeatedly risked arrest and his life to make real the promise of our Declaration of Independence and our Founders’ highest ideals. In his later years, Lewis often spoke of passing the baton to new generations. He knew that there was still work to do despite the advances won through his and others’ willingness to risk physical harm to stand strong for their beliefs.
How can we in Interior Alaska honor his courage? Thanks to him we do not need to take blows to our bodies or be arrested over and over again as he did. Here are some simple things that we can do to march forward in memory of John Lewis:
1. Read about his life in books at the public library like his memoir “Walking with the Wind” and share with young people the comic-style series “March,” books one, two and three, where Lewis and his fellow activists are true superheroes armed only with their superpower of nonviolent civil disobedience.
2. Help a friend or coworker register to vote for the October local elections or the November general election by going to the Alaska Division of Elections website.
3. Write to Sen. Dan Sullivan to ask him to support the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Act to update the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that opened elections to many who have faced barriers to voting, including many Alaska Natives. (Senator Murkowski is already a cosponsor of the bill.)
4. Vote! If you are already registered, your next opportunity will be in the Alaska primary election on Aug. 18. If you have health concerns and are hesitant to go to your polling place that day, you can still apply online for an absentee ballot by mail by Saturday, Aug. 8 or you can visit the State Office Building to vote early in person beginning Monday, Aug. 3.
RIP John Lewis (1940-2020)