METROFOCUS: April 5, 2021

Almost three years ago Mayor Bill de Blasio with First Lady Chirlane McCray officially lit the Washington Square Park Arch with striking images of Dr. King projected onto its two marble columns facing into the park. Tonight we’ll take you back to the public ceremony that replayed an audio recording of his final speech, “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop.” And we’ll give you an up close look at a City Of New York exhibit that traced MLK’s encounters in NY from the 1950’s to his assassination in 1968 in commemoration of his life and activism in the Empire State.

In 1955, John Lewis first heard Martin Luther King Jr. on the radio, and he closely followed King’s Montgomery bus boycott later that year. At age 15, Lewis preached his first public sermon. At 17, Lewis met Rosa Parks, and he met King for the first time at the age of 18. And when longtime U.S. congressman Lewis passed away earlier this year at the age of 80, America lost a giant. Throughout his life he was an icon of the fight for civil rights who endured repeated imprisonment and physical beatings in his relentless pursuit for justice. And his fearlessness during the violent early years of the civil rights movement cemented his place in history. Pulitzer prize-winning author and historian Jon Meacham celebrates that fearlessness in a biography “His Truth Is Marching On: John Lewis And The Power Of Hope.”

TRANSCRIPT

> THIS IS 'METROFOCUS' WITH RAFAEL P. ROMAN, JACK FORD AND JENNA FLANAGAN.

'METROFOCUS' IS MADE POSSIBLE BY -- SUE AND EDGAR WACHENHEIM III, SYLVIA A. AND SIMON B. POYTA PROGRAMING ENDOWMENT TO FIGHT ANTI-SEMITISM.

THE PETER G. PETERSON AND JOAN GANZ COONEY FUND.

BERNARD AND DENISE SCHWARTZ, BARBARA HOPE ZUCKERBERG, THE AMBROSE MONELL FOUNDATION AND BY -- JANET PRINDLE SEIDLER, JODY AND JOHN ARNHOLD, CHERYL AND PHILIP MILSTEIN FAMILY, JUDY AND JOSH WESTON, AND THE DR. ROBERT C.

AND TINA SOHN FOUNDATION, THE JPB FOUNDATION.

> GOOD EVENING.

JENNA FLANAGAN.

OUR FRONT PAGE FORECAST WILL BE BACK TOMORROW NIGHT.

TONIGHT WE'RE TAKING A LOOK AT THE LIFE AND LEGACY OF TWO OF THE MOST PROMINENT CIVIL RIGHTS LEADERS IN OUR NATION'S HISTORY, DR. MARTIN LUTHER KING JR. AND CONGRESSMAN JOHN LEWIS.

DR. KING'S DEATH SPARKED ED A REVOLUTION TOWARD EQUALITY.

WATCH AS MAYOR de BLASIO AND HIS WIFE REFLECTED ON HIS LIFE AND LEGACY AS THEY LIT THE WASHINGTON SQUARE PARK ARCH IN HIS IMAGE ALMOST THREE YEARS AGO.

THE SKIES ARE CRYING TONIGHT BECAUSE WE MARK A VERY SOLEMN, PAINFUL, POWERFUL OCCASION.

50 YEARS AGO THIS EVENING, IT WAS THE LAST NIGHT OF MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR.'S LIFE.

THAT EVENING HE GAVE A SPEECH THAT DEFINED HIS LIFE'S JOURNEY.

I WANT TO THANK ALL OF YOU FOR BEING HERE, BECAUSE YOUR PRESENCE IS PART OF CONTINUING HIS DREAM.

LET US RISE UP TONIGHT WITH A GREATER READINESS.

LET US STAND WITH A GREATER DETERMINATION AND LET US MOVE ON IN THESE POWERFUL DAYS, THESE DAYS OF CHALLENGE TO MAKE AMERICA WHAT IT OUGHT TO BE.

WE HAVE AN OPPORTUNITY TO MAKE AMERICA A BETTER NATION.

LAST NIGHT, NEW YORK CITY HONORED THE 50th ANNIVERSARY OF DR. MARTIN LUTHER KING JR.'S FINAL SPEECH.

MAYOR de BLASIO WAS ON HAND TO LIGHT THE ARCH IN WASHINGTON SQUARE PARK AS AUDIO OF HIS SPEECH PLAYED THROUGHOUT THE SQUARE, ADDRESSING INJUSTICES TO AFRICAN-AMERICANS, WHILE CALLING FOR UNITY AND NONVIOLENT PROTESTS ACROSS THE COUNTRY.

WHILE MUCH OF DR. KING'S ACTIVIST WAS CONCENTRATED IN THE SOUTH, FROM MONTGOMERY, ALABAMA, WHERE THE HISTORICAL BUSB BOYCOT TOOK PLACE, MARTIN LUTHER KING JR. ALSO MADE AN IMPACT ON NEW YORK CITY.

THANKS TO A WELL-CURATED EXHIBIT AT THE MUSEUM OF THE CITY OF NEW YORK, THAT IMPACT IS NOW TANGIBLE THROUGH A COLLECTION OF PHOTOGRAPHS TITLED 'KING IN NEW YORK' THAT TRACES THE CIVIL RIGHT'S LEADER'S ENCOUNTERS WITH THE BIG APPLE FROM THE 1950s UNTIL HIS ASSASSINATION IN 1968.

I'D LIKE TO WELCOME THE CURATOR OF THE EXHIBIT, SARAH SIDEMAN.

HOW DID YOU GUYS COME ACROSS SOME OF THESE PHOTOS?

WE WANTED TO DO A SHOW TO COMMEMORATE KING ON THE 50th ANNIVERSARY OF HIS DEATH.

WE HAD A HUNCH THAT HE HAD A CLOSE RELATIONSHIP TO NEW YORK, THAT HE WAS HERE A LOT.

AND THEN WE STARTED DIGGING IN A LOT OF DIFFERENT PLACES, A LOT OF PRESS PHOTOGRAPHS, PRIVATE COLLECTIONS, AS WELL AS OUR OWN COLLECTION AT THE MUSEUM.

YOU KNOW, WHAT WE FOUND WAS HE WAS HERE A LOT, AND HE DID -- HIS PRESENCE IN NEW YORK REALLY PROVIDES AN INTERESTING LENS THROUGH WHICH WE CAN VIEW HIM IN A KIND OF BROADER WAY.

HIS CIVIL RIGHTS WORK, OF COURSE, BUT HOW HE RELATED IT TO GLOBAL ISSUES.

HE SPOKE OUT AGAINST THE VIETNAM WAR ON SEVERAL OCCASIONS IN NEW YORK CITY, REALLY USED THE CITY AS A STAGE TO DO SO, TALKED TO LABOR UNIONS HERE.

SO WE BEGIN THE SHOW WITH A SERMON HE GAVE AT ST. JOHN THE DIVINE IN 1956 DURING THE MONTGOMERY BUSBOY COT WHEN HE WAS JUST BECOMING A NATIONAL FIGURE AND HE SPOKE TO 12,000 PEOPLE THERE AND SORT OF JUST TAKE IT FROM THERE, HOW NEW YORK PROVIDES GREAT MEDIA OPPORTUNITIES FOR KING AND AS THE KIND OF GATEWAY TO THE WORLD AND PROVIDES A PLATFORM FOR HIM TO SPEAK ABOUT A RANGE OF ISSUES, BOTH LOCAL AND GLOBAL.

I THINK THAT DOES SPEAK TO THE WAY THAT WE'RE SORT OF RELOOKING AT HIS LEGACY, BECAUSE THERE WAS A LOT OF UNION WORK AND THINGS THAT WORKED IN CONJUNCTION WITH THE CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT.

ABSOLUTELY.

I THINK AS HISTORIANS HAVE DONE JUST AMAZING WRITING AND RESEARCH IN THE LAST 10-20 YEARS ABOUT THE BLACK FREEDOM STRUGGLE AND WORK THAT HAS SHAPED ME AS A HISTORIAN AND A CURATOR, I WANTED TO REPRESENT THAT IN VISUAL FORM, HOW THE CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT HAD A GLOBAL SCOPE AND HOW KING DENOUNCED NOT JUST RACISM BUT MILITARISM AND MATERIALISM AND TO REFLECT SO MUCH OF THAT IMPORTANT WORK THAT HAS BEEN TAKING PLACE IN THE LAST SEVERAL YEARS.

HOW BIG IS THIS EXHIBIT THAT WE'RE TALKING ABOUT?

THIS ISN'T JUST A FEW PHOTOGRAPHS, CORRECT?

NO.

IT'S OVER 40 PHOTOGRAPHS.

WE KIND OF PACKED THEM IN.

IT STARTS IN 1956 AT ST. JOHN THE DIVINE.

HE SPOKE AT CARNEGIE HALL IN FEBRUARY 1968 TO COMMEMORATE THE BIRTHDAY OF AN ACTIVIST.

IT WAS A VERY INTERESTING SPEECH.

AND THEN WE GO BEYOND HIS DEATH ON APRIL 4th, 1968 AND LOOK AT THE RECEPTION OF HIS MURDER IN NEW YORK CITY AND HOW NEW YORKERS GRIEVED, BUT ALSO CAME TOGETHER TO PROTEST AND COMMEMORATE HIM.

FOR PEOPLE WHO MIGHT BE, YOU KNOW, STUDENTS OF DR. KING BUT MIGHT NOT BE ABLE TO GET TO THIS EXHIBIT, WILL THERE BE A WAY TO SEE THIS PERHAPS ONLINE OR IF YOU COME TO THE CITY AT SOME LATER POINT?

RIGHT NOW IT'S ONLY ON THE WALLS OF THE MUSEUM, SO WE'LL HAVE TO BRING EVERYONE IN THAT WE CAN.

I DO THINK THERE HASN'T BEEN OTHER EXHIBITIONS ON THIS TOPIC, SO I THINK IT HAS BEEN REALLY EXCITING TO BRING TOGETHER THESE PHOTOGRAPHS FROM REALLY DISPARATE SOURCES.

IT WOULD BE AMAZING FOR THEM TO LIVE ON TOGETHER.

ABSOLUTELY.

ESPECIALLY IF IT ADDS TO WHAT WE UNDERSTAND OF AN INCREDIBLY GREAT AND COMPLEX MAN.

THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR JOINING US ON THE PROGRAM AND ESPECIALLY THANK YOU FOR THIS EXHIBIT OF KING IN NEW YORK.

THANK YOU SO MUCH.

THANK YOU.

> WELCOME TO 'METROFOCUS.'MET' I AM JACK FORD.

WHEN CONGRESSMAN JOHN LEWIS PASSED AWAY, THE NATION LOST AN ICON OF THE CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT, A MAN WHO ACCORDING TO MANY, INCLUDING BOTH SIDES OF THE POLITICAL AISLE, WAS ALSO VIEWED AS THE CONSCIENCE OF THE CONGRESS.

MANY OF US RECALL VIVIDLY THOSE STRIKING, STARTLING AND FRIGHTENING PHOTOGRAPHS AND VIDEOS OF JOHN LEWIS BEING BEATEN ON THE EDMOND PET TIS BRIDGE IN ALABAMA.

WE ALSO REMEMBER THE PHOTOS OF A YOUNG JOHN LEWIS STANDING WITH MARTIN LUTHER KING JR. AND OTHER LUMINARIES.

WHAT DO WE KNOW OF HIM, WHERE HE CAME FROM, LITERALLY AND FIGURATIVELY, HOW HIS BELIEFS WERE FORMED?

AND IN HIS LAST DAYS, WHAT DID HE BELIEVE ABOUT THE FUTURE OF THAT MOVEMENT THAT HE HAD CHAMPIONED BEGINNING MORE THAN A HALF CENTURY AGO?

IN A NEW BOOK JON MEACHAM DEVILS INTO JOHN LEWIS'S LIFE, TAKES US ON HIS JOURNEY.

THE BOOK IS TITLED 'HIS TRUTH IS MARCHING ON, JOHN LEWIS AND THE POWER OF HOPE.'

WE ARE DELIGHTED TO HAVE JON MEACHAM JOINING US NOW TO TALK ABOUT THE BOOK.

NICE TO SEE YOU.

THANKS, JACK.

APPRECIATE IT.

LET'S TALK ABOUT YOUR DECISION TO WRITE ABOUT JOHN LEWIS, A BEST-SELLING AUTHOR PULITZER PRIZE FOR YOU BOOK ON ANDREW JACKSON.

YOU WROTE ABOUT THE UNIQUE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN FRANK LIVE ROOSEVELT AND WINSTON CHURCHILL.

WHY DID YOU DECIDE TO DELVE INTO JOHN LEWIS'S LIFE?

BECAUSE HE'S A BETTER CHRISTIAN AND AMERICAN THAT I AM IN ANY DANGER OF BECOMING.

WE COULD PROBABLY SAY THAT ABOUT ALL OF US OR MOST OF US.

WE TRY.

AND THAT'S THE POINT, RIGHT?

I MET JOHN 28 YEARS AGO, THIS NOVEMBER.

I REMEMBER EXACTLY WHERE I WAS.

I KEPT MY NOTES FROM IT.

I WAS A BABY REPORTER FOR THE CHATTANOOGA TIMES.

ON I ELECTION NIGHTS THE CURREN OF POWER IS NOT TO BE SEEN BECAUSE YOU'RE SUPPOSED TO BE OFF IN A ROOM CALCULATING VOTES OR SOMETHING.

I WALKED INTO A RUNOFF CELEBRATION DOWN IN ATLANTA, THERE WAS JOHN LEWIS AND LILLIAN LEWIS JUST TALKING TO THE PEOPLE, NO PRETENSE, NO STAFF, NO MAJESTY.

THEY WERE OF US.

AND I ASKED HIM ABOUT THE MOVEMENT AND HOW IT'S GOTTEN MORE COMPLICATED SINCE THE JIM CROW SIGNS CAME DOWN.

AS HE DID WITH THOUSANDS UPON THOUSANDS UPON THOUSANDS OF OTHER PEOPLE, HE COMMUNICATED A QUIET PERSISTENT, REALLY TRANSFORMATIVE CHARISMA.

I USE THAT WORD ADVISEDLY, CHARISMA, GIFT OF THE GODS.

AND THERE WAS A MORAL FORCE THAT WAS NOT A REBUKE, BUT WAS AN ENCOURAGEMENT.

YOU WANTED TO BE A BETTER PERSON, BECAUSE YOU WERE WITH HIM.

AND I ALWAYS KNEW I'D WRITE ABOUT HIM AT SOME POINT.

WHEN HE GOT THE CANCER DIAGNOSIS LAST YEAR, I STARTED WORKING ON IT A LITTLE BIT.

AND THEN I WAS STANDING ON THE PET TIS BRIDGE IN MARCH WITH MY FAMILY AND ABOUT 1,000 OTHER PEOPLE WHO WERE THERE, PART OF THAT ANNUAL TRIP HE DID.

I JUST REALIZED THIS WAS THE MOMENT, BECAUSE THE THING AMERICA NEEDS NOW MORE THAN EVER IS THE SPIRIT AND SUBSTANCE OF JOHN LEWIS.

WHAT DID HE THINK ABOUT YOU WRITING THIS?

YOU MENTIONED THAT ABSENCE OF PRETENSE.

CERTAINLY HE WAS MARKED BY AN ABSENCE OF PRETENSE, AN ABSENCE OF A SENSE OF SELF-MAJESTY.

WHAT DID HE SAY WHEN YOU SAID TO HIM, I WANT TO DO THIS BOOK ABOUT YOU?

IT'S A TRICKY QUESTION FOR ME TO ANSWER.

FORGIVE ME.

I THINK HE WAS PLEASED.

I MADE THE CLEAR POINT THAT I WANTED TO WRITE ABOUT HIM IN A WAY, THAT IT WASN'T A FULL BIOGRAPHY.

THIS IS WHY HE WAS IN THE STREETS AND WHAT HE MEANT AND WHAT THAT CAN MEAN FOR US.

SO I TOLD HIM I WAS GOING TO DO IT.

HE WAS TERRIFIC.

WE SPENT, BECAUSE OF THE PANDEMIC AND BECAUSE OF THE CANCER, WE SPENT MOST OF THAT TIME ON THE PHONE, REALLY STARTING IN MARCH.

AND I TALKED TO HIM UNTIL FAIRLY LATE.

I MEAN, IT WAS MID JUNE, I THINK, WHEN WE HAD OUR LAST CONVERSATION.

HE READ IT, HE READ THE BOOK, HE READ WHAT I SENT.

AND THAT PLEASED ME ENORMOUSLY.

IT'S HARD TO TALK ABOUT IT IN THE FIRST PERSON, SO FORGIVE ME FOR MY STUMBLING AROUND A LITTLE BIT, BECAUSE HE DIDN'T TALK IN THE FIRST PERSON.

BUT WHAT I DO THINK WAS PROBABLY IN HIS MIND AND HEART, TO SOME EXTENT, IS HE BELIEVED IN THE POWER OF STORY, RIGHT?

HE HAD GONE INTO THE MOVEMENT BECAUSE OF HIS INNATE REVULSION TO THE SEGREGATED ORDER HE GREW UP WITH IN TROY, BUT ALSO BECAUSE HE HAD READ THE STORIES OF PEOPLE WHO WERE TRYING TO CHANGE IT.

SO WHETHER IT WAS HEARING DR.

KING ON THE RADIO, READING ABOUT DR. KING IN HIS GRANDFATHER'S NEWSPAPER, READING ABOUT THE BUS BOYCOTT IN A COMIC BOOK CALLED 'THE MONTGOMERY STORY' PUT OUT BY THE FELLOWSHIP FOR RECONCILIATION.

READING ABOUT EMITT TILL AND THOSE PHOTOGRAPHS.

HE UNDERSTOOD STORY, HE UNDERSTAND WHY IT WAS IMPORTANT TO TELL THIS STORY AGAIN AND AGAIN.

AS YOU KNOW, AS A HISTORIAN, IT'S THOSE WHO CAN TELL THE STORY THAT HELP US UNDERSTAND IT.

WHEN YOU LOOK AT HIS ABILITY TO TELL THE STORY, I WAS STRUCK A LITTLE BIT BY SOME OF HIS DEVELOPMENT AS A VERY YOUNG MAN.

THERE'S TALK ABOUT HOW HE WAS LEARNING TO PREACH WHEN HE WAS A CHILD.

TALK A LITTLE BIT ABOUT THAT.

WELL, HE PREACHED TO THE CHICKENS.

THERE ARE TWO GREAT STORIES OUT OF THAT.

HE TOOK CARE OF THE FAMILY'S CHICKENS.

HE WOULD MARRY THEM AND BAPTIZE THEM.

THE FAMILY TOOK A CHICKEN TO HAVE FOR DINNER AND HE REFUSED TO EAT IT.

THE SECOND WAS HIS COLLEAGUES IN CONGRESS LISTENED TO HIM ABOUT AS CLOSELY AS THE CHICKENS DID.

BUT WHAT'S IMPORTANT ABOUT IT IS THAT THE GOSPEL MEANT SOMETHING TO HIM FROM THE VERY BEGINNING.

HE HAD A GREAT POINT.

I DIDN'T KNOW THIS AT ALL, BUT FOLKS ONLY WENT TO CHURCH TWICE A MONTH IN RURAL ALABAMA IN THOSE YEARS.

THIS IS THE '40s AND '50s, BECAUSE IT WAS SUCH AN ORDEAL.

IT WAS HARD TO GET THERE.

IT WAS HARD TO RECOVER FROM THE WEEK, SO THEY COULD ONLY DO IT ONCE EVERY TWO WEEKS.

BUT WHEN HE WAS THERE, IN THE SAME WAY HE KIND OF REVOLTED AGAINST THE WHITE ONLY, COLORED ONLY SIGNS HE SAW IN TROY, HE DIDN'T LIKE MINISTERS WHO PREACHED ABOUT A FUTURE REWARD.

HE WAS VERY FOCUSED ON HOW DO WE BRING THE KINGDOM TO BE NOW.

AND THAT WAS AN INTUITIVE THING.

AND SO HE HAD THIS RELIGIOUS IMPULSE, HE HAD THIS RELIGIOUS ORIENTATION, PREACHED HIS FIRST SERMON TO PEOPLE, AS OPPOSED TO CHICKENS, WHEN HE WAS 16 YEARS OLD.

WHEN HE WAS 17 HE GOES OFF TO AMERICAN BAPTIST THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY, ABOUT TEN MILES FROM WHERE I'M SITTING.

IT'S CALLED THE HOLY HILL, THREE LITTLE BRICK BUILDINGS LOOKS OUT OTHER SEGREGATED NASHVILLE.

ONE OF THE THINGS THAT UNFOLDED IN THIS -- AND HE WAS A LITTLE EMBARRASSED BY THIS, BUT I INSIST ON IT -- THERE'S A LOT OF THE BIBLICAL IN LEWIS'S STORY.

HE GOES TO A HILL, HE GOES TO A MOUNTAIN TO RECEIVE A COMMISSION.

HE WAS CALLED ROBERT OR BOBBY HIS FAMILY UNTIL HE WAS IN COLLEGE HERE IN NASHVILLE AND HE BECAME JOHN.

HE'S JOHN ROBERT LEWIS.

ABRAHAM ELIJAH, PETER ALL RECEIVED DIFFERENT NAMES WHEN DIFFERENT WORK WAS MADE AVAILABLE TO THEM.

EVENTUALLY, HE WENT INTO A KIND OF EXILE AFTER STOKELEY CAR MICHAEL DEFEATED HIM IN 1966.

HE SPENT TWO YEARS IN NEW YORK REALLY PRETTY MUCH ALONE, THINKING ABOUT THINGS AND REALIZING THAT POLITICS AND PUBLIC LIFE WOULD BE THE NEXT ARENA FOR HIM.

SO AGAIN AND AGAIN, THERE'S A BIBLICAL THEME IN HIS LIFE.

AND THAT MAY SOUND SENTIMENTAL TO FOLKS.

IT MAY SOUND LIKE WE'RE TRYING TO MAKE HIM INTO SOMETHING HE'S NOT.

YOU CAN WRITE HAGIOGRAPHY IF THE PERSON IS HAGIOS.

I'M ALWAYS CURIOUS ABOUT HOW AUTHORS START THEIR WORKS.

IN THIS, YOU START WITH HIM AT THE PET TIS BRIDGE IN 2020.

WHY DID YOU DECIDE THAT WOULD BE THE JUMPING OFF POINT FOR THE STORY?

PASRTLY BECAUSE I KNEW IT WOULD BE THE LAST MARCH AND PARTLPART LY BECAUSE OF WHAT HE SAID.

HE'D LOST A LOT OF WEIGHT.

HE WAS BACK TO ALMOST HIS COLLEGE WEIGHT AT THE END.

YOU SAW THAT IN THE PICTURE AT BLACK LIVES MATTER PLAZA.

SO HE LOST A LOT OF WEIGHT BECAUSE OF CANCER.

AND THIS WAS TRUE EVEN WHEN HE WAS KIND OF CHURCH SUPPERED UP.

HIS WIFE USED TO SAY HE'S BEEN TO TOO MANY CHURCH BANQUETS.

HE WAS SMALL.

AS BARACK OBAMA SAID, HE WAS A LITTLE GUY.

BUT HE TOOK THE MICROPHONE STANDING NEXT TO NANCY PELOSI AND JIM LAWSON, AND SUDDENLY HE BECAME JOHN LEWIS IN THIS DEEP AND THUNDEROUS VOICE, THE VOICE WE HEARD AT THE MARCH ON WASHINGTON, THE ANNIVERSARY OF WHICH IS COMING UP AT THE END OF THE WEEK.

HE SHOUTED.

AND AGAIN, BIBLICAL, SHOUTS IN THE BIBLE OFTEN SIGNIFY DIVINE INTERVENTION, A MIRACULOUS ACTION.

IT WASN'T ANYTHING HE HADN'T SAID BEFORE, BUT IT WAS THE LAST TIME HE WAS GOING TO SAY IT.

SAID THERE'S SOME OF US WHO SHED A LITTLE BLOOD ON THIS BRIDGE TO TRY TO REDEEM THE SOUL OF AMERICA AND KEEP THE FAITH, KEEP THE FAITH.

YOU ALL LOOK SO GOOD.

AND HE'S DOING IT IN THIS VOICE.

AND YOU KNOW THAT IT'S TAKING EVERYTHING IN HIM, BECAUSE THESE ARE HIS PEOPLE.

THESE ARE THE PILGRIMS WHO HAVE COME NOT JUST TO HONOR HIM, BUT TO HONOR THE I ENUMERABLE PEOPL WHO MADE THE MOVEMENT POSSIBLE.

SO WATCHING HIM ON THAT BRIDGE FOR WHAT WOULD BE THE LAST TIME, SECOND-TO-LAST TIME, BECAUSE THEY TOOK HIM OVER, OF COURSE IN THE CORTEGE.

IT SEEMED TO ME TO BE NOT A CULMINATION, RIGHT, BECAUSE THE WORK IS NOT DONE, BUT IT WAS A POETIC MOMENT OF A LION OF AMERICAN LIFE IN THE PART OF THE COUNTRY, THE PLACE IN THE COUNTRY THAT, IF WE CAN TRY TO RECOVER AGAIN THE SPIRIT AND SUBSTANCE OF THAT, PARTICULARLY GIVEN WHAT WE FACE IN THIS ELECTION, WE'LL BE BETTER OFF.

ONCE AGAIN, I'M TALKING WITH JON MEACHAM, PULITZER PRIZE WINNING AUTHOR AND HISTORIAN ABOUT HIS NEW BOOK TITLED 'HIS TRUTH IS MARCHING ON, JOHN LEWIS AND THE POWER OF HOPE.'

YOU TALK ABOUT THE IDEA OF BEING JOHN LEWIS IN THE BOOK.

DID HE EVER TIRE OF THE BURDEN, DO YOU THINK, OF BEING JOHN LEWIS AND WHAT THAT MEANT AND HOW HE HAD TO BE CONSTANTLY BECAUSE OF THAT?

THAT'S A TERRIFIC QUESTION.

I THINK NOT BUT BECAUSE OF THIS, HE KNEW NO OTHER WAY TO BE, RIGHT.

HA HE WAS A KIND OF LIVING MON MONUMENT.

WHEREVER JOHN WENT, THE MEMOMEMORIES OF THE MOVEMENT WERE WITH THEM.

I DO THINK THERE WAS A TENSION IN THIS SENSE.

I DO THINK HE BELIEVED IN LOOKING BACK, BUT HE WANTED TO LOOK BACK FOR A VERY PARTICULAR PURPOSE.

IT WAS A UTILITARIAN VIEW OF HISTORIAN.

IT WASN'T TO LOOK BACK AND SAY, WE'RE ALL GREAT, GIVE ME AN AWARD.

IT WAS TO LOOK BACK AND SAY I'M A SHARECROPPERS SON FROM ALABAMA AND -- HE WOULD NEVER PUT IT THIS WAY -- WE CHANGED A COUNTRY.

THAT MEANS THAT ANYONE COULD CHANGE A COUNTRY.

I DON'T THINK HE BELIEVED THAT.

I THINK HE AND THAT GROUP OF FOLKS WERE INCREDIBLY UNIQUE.

BUT I DO THINK THE SPIRIT IS THERE.

WHEN PEOPLE SAY, OH, THINGS HAVEN'T CHANGED ENOUGH, HE WOULD SAY IN THAT SHOUT, COME WALK IN MY SHOES, COME TELL ME THINGS HAVEN'T CHANGED.

AND I THINK THAT THE BURDEN OF BEING JOHN LEWIS WAS ONE THAT HE TOOK UP REALLY WHEN HE WAS 17 YEARS OLD.

REMEMBER HOW YOUNG HE WAS.

I FOCUS THIS ON THE MOVEMENT BECAUSE IT'S THE CLEAREST EXAMPLE OF WHERE THAT FAITH IN ACTION WAS.

HE WAS 17 YEARS OLD WHEN HE CAME TO NASHVILLE.

HE WAS 18 YEARS OLD WHEN HE STARTED WORKING ON THE SIT-INS AND WAS UNDER TUTELAGE OF JAMES LAWSON.

HE WAS BARELY 21 WHEN HE GETS ON THE BUS FOR THE FREEDOM RIDES.

WHEN HE GOES TO PARCHMENT, WHICH HE DESCRIBES AS DESTINATION DOOM.

AND HE'S 25 WHEN HE'S ON THE PET US BRIDGE.

SO A LITTLE CHILD SHALL LEAD THEM, PERHAPS?

AND PERHAPS IT WAS HIM.

OVER YOUR RIGHT SHOULDER WE CAN SEE PART OF A PORTRAIT.

IT'S A PORTRAIT OF JOHN LEWIS.

BELOW THAT ALSO A PORTRAIT OF PRESIDENT GEORGE HERBERT WALKER BUSH.

I WAS STRUCK BY WHAT YOU TOLD ME BEFOREHAND, WHERE THAT PORTRAIT OF JOHN LEWIS IS NOW GOING TO BE.

MY FRIEND MICHAEL SHANE NEIL, A GREAT PORTRAITIST REALLY IN THE BEGINNING OF THE GREATEST OF HIS CAREER, PAINTED CONGRESSMAN LEWIS.

THE NATIONAL PORTRAIT GALLERY HAS ACQUIRED THAT.

THE OTHER THING I'M HONORED TO HAVE IS A PORTRAIT OF GEORGE H.W. BUSH 41 PAINTED BY HIS SON GEORGE W. BUSH.

IF I MAY, PART OF WHAT MAKES THE COUNTRY GOOD WHEN WE ARE GOOD IS THAT YOU DON'T HAVE TO AGREE ALL THE TIME, AND YOU DON'T HAVE TO BE PERFECT.

WE'RE ALL SINFUL, WE'RE ALL FALLEN, WE'RE ALL FRAIL, WE'RE ALL FALLIBLE.

BUT 51% OF THE TIME OR SO, CAN WE MAYBE LET OUR BETTER ANGELS WIN OUT OF OUR WORST INSTINCTS?

IF WE CAN DO THAT 50% OF THE TIME, WE'RE GOING TO BE CLOSER TO THAT BELOVED COMMUNITY JOHN LEWIS TALKED ABOUT.

THE TITLE OF ANOTHER ONE OF YOUR MARVELOUS BOOKS CALLED 'THE SOUL OF AMERICA, THE BATTLE FOR OUR BETTER ANGELS.'

I HAVE ABOUT 3 MINUTES LEFT, BUT I DO WANT TO BRING UP THE IDEA OF YOUR APPEARING AT THE DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL CONVENTION AND GIVING A MESSAGE.

I TALKED ABOUT ALL OF THE HISTORICAL FIGURES THAT YOU'VE WRITTEN ABOUT.

ALSO SHOULD MENTION THAT YOU HAVE SAID IN THE PAST YOU'RE NOT A REPUBLICAN, YOU'RE NOT A DEMOCRAT.

YOU HAVE VOTED FOR MEMBERS OF BOTH PARTIES AND YOU HAVE ASSIDUOUSLY REMOVED YOURSELF FROM PARTISAN POLITICS, YET YOU DECIDED TO MAKE THIS APPEARANCE.

WHY?

BECAUSE THE CHOICE HAS NEVER BEEN CLEARER.

I WAS BORN FOUR YEARS AFTER THE PET US BRIDGE.

SO I DON'T KNOW WHAT SIDE I WOULD HAVE BEEN ON THE I HAD BEEN BORN EARLIER.

I'D LIKE TO THINK AS A WHITE MALE SOUTHERN EPISCOPALIAN, I WOULD HAVE BEEN ON THE RIGHT SIDE.

I DON'T KNOW THAT.

I DO KNOW WHAT SIDE WE HAVE TO CHOOSE NOW.

AND AT LEAST I KNOW WHAT I DID IN THIS MOMENT.

IT WAS NOT AN EMBRACE OF THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY, BUT IT WAS A VOTE FOR -- AND I'VE OFFERED WHAT HELP MY VOICE CAN BE -- TO JOE BIDEN, WHOM I BELIEVE IS A GOOD AND DECENT MAN, IMPERFECT, BUT HISTORY DOESN'T ALWAYS GIVE US AN INFLECTION POINT LIKE THIS.

AND I THINK FOUR MORE YEARS OF THE INCUMBENT ADMINISTRATION COULD BE CATASTROPHIC.

SO WHATEVER UTILITY THERE IS FOR SOMEONE WHO THINKS HISTORICALLY, THINKS THEOLOGICALLY, I CAN TELL YOU AS A MATTER OF DISCERNIBLE FACT THAT JOE BIDEN WOULD BE A VASTLY BETTER PRESIDENT FOR AMERICA THAN THE ALTERNATIVE.

AND I WAS ASKED TO SAY THAT AND I BELIEVE IT AND I CALL THEM AS I SEE THEM.

I MAY NOT ALWAYS CALL THEM RIGHT, BUT I CALL THEM AS I SEE THEM.

'METROFOCUS' IS MADE POSSIBLE BY -- SUE AND EDGAR WACHENHEIM III, SYLVIA A. AND SIMON B. POYTA PROGRAMING ENDOWMENT TO FIGHT ANTI-SEMITISM.

THE PETER G. PETERSON AND JOAN GANZ COONEY FUND.

BERNARD AND DENISE SCHWARTZ, BARBARA HOPE ZUCKERBERG, THE AMBROSE MONELL FOUNDATION AND BY -- JANET PRINDLE SEIDLER, JODY AND JOHN ARNHOLD, CHERYL AND PHILIP MILSTEIN FAMILY, JUDY AND JOSH WESTON, AND THE DR. ROBERT C.

AND TINA SOHN FOUNDATION, THE JPB FOUNDATION.

Funders

MetroFocus is made possible by Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, the Sylvia A. and Simon B. Poyta Programming Endowment to Fight Anti-Semitism, The Peter G. Peterson and Joan Ganz Cooney Fund, Bernard and Denise Schwartz, Barbara Hope Zuckerberg, The Ambrose Monell Foundation, Janet Prindle Seidler, Jody and John Arnhold, the Cheryl and Philip Milstein Family, Judy and Josh Weston and the Dr. Robert C. and Tina Sohn Foundation.

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