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Is your generation doing its part to strengthen our democracy?



As my time here now ends, I want you to know that in the last days and hours of my life you inspired me. You fill me with hope about the next chapter of great American history when you use your power to make a difference in our society. Millions of people motivated solely by human compassion carried the burden of disunity. Around the country and the world you set aside race, class, age, language and nationality to demand respect for human dignity.

That’s why I had to visit the Black Lives Matter Plaza in Washington, DC, even though I was hospitalized the next day. I just had to see and feel for myself that, after many years of silent testimony, the truth is still going on.

Emmett Till was my George Floyd. He was Rayshard Brooks, Sandra Bland and Breonna Taylor. He was 14 when he was killed, and I was only 15 at the time. I will never forget the moment when it became so clear that he could easily be me. In those days, fear gripped us like an imaginary prison and the disturbing thoughts of possible brutality committed without any comprehensible reason were the bars.

Although I was surrounded by two loving parents, many brothers, sisters, and cousins, their love could not protect me from the sacred oppression that lay just outside this family circle. Uncontrolled, unbridled violence and government-sanctioned terror had the power to turn a simple walk into the store for some Skittles or an innocent morning jog on a lonely country road into a nightmare. If we are to survive as a united nation, we must discover what so deeply ingrained in our hearts can rob Mother Emanuel Church in South Carolina of its brightest and best, hunt down unwanted concertgoers in Las Vegas, and to drown the hopes and dreams of a talented violinist like Elijah McClain.

Like many young people today, I was looking for a way out, or some might say a way to get in, and then I heard Dr.’s voice. Martin Luther King Jr. on an old radio. He was talking about philosophy and discipline not violence. He said we are all collaborators when we tolerate injustice. He said it is not enough to say it will get better from scratch. He said that each of us has a moral obligation to stand up, speak and speak. When you see something that is not right, you have to say something. You have to do something. Democracy is not a state. It is an act and each generation must do its part to help build what we called the Beloved Community, a world nation and society at peace with itself.

Ordinary people with extraordinary vision can redeem the soul of America by taking what I call good trouble, necessary trouble. Voting and participation in the democratic process are essential. The vote is the most powerful agent of nonviolent change you have in a democratic society. You should use it because it is not guaranteed. You can lose it.

You should also study and learn the lessons of history because humanity has been involved in this existential spiritual warfare for a very long time. People on every continent have stood in your shoes, decades and centuries before you. The truth does not change and that is why answers processed long ago can help you find solutions to the challenges of our time. Continue to build unity among the movements that stretch across the globe because we must remove our will to benefit from the exploitation of others.

Although I may not be here with you, I urge you to respond to the highest call of your heart and stand for what you truly believe. In my life I have done everything I can to demonstrate that the way of peace, the way of love and not violence is the most excellent way. Now it is your turn to let freedom ring.

When historians take pens to write 21st century history, let them say that it was your generation that finally put the heavy burdens of hatred and that peace finally triumphed over violence, aggression and war. Wherefore I say unto you, Walk in the wind, brethren, and sisters, and be your guide in the spirit of peace, and the power of eternal love.

  • Which lines from this part stand out to you? Why

  • What the words do Democracy is not a state. Is it a low act for you? How is this idea applicable to the challenges you see today?

  • Citing the moral and political lessons he learned from Martin Luther King, writes Mr. Lewis, He said we are all collaborators when we tolerate injustice. He said it is not enough to say it will get better from scratch. He said that each of us has a moral obligation to stand up, speak and speak. When you see something that is not right, you have to say something. You have to do something. Do you agree? What roles have you seen ordinary people play in deepening our democracy recently? Have you ever stood, talked or talked, as he describes? What were the circumstances?

  • Do you think your generation is growing in the challenges that Mr. Lewis here? What actions, whether small or large, can you or others your age take now to help strengthen democracy in your local community, state, nation or world?

  • In general, what does democracy mean to you? I mean, what does it look like, specifically? Which aspects of democracy are most important to you, be it the free press; free and fair elections; respect for human rights and the rule of law; a tolerance for disagreement and disagreement; or something else?

  • How strong do you think our democracy is today? What do you think are the biggest challenges and threats for him?

  • If you are an American, do you think that democracy is taken for granted? What is at stake for you if American democracy is weakened or destroyed? For our country?

  • Our Friends in Dealing with History and Ourselves are also participating in International Democracy Day and have this related lesson plan, Evaluation of the Force of Democracy.

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