The Selma Civil Rights March (March 21, 1965) – From left: U.S. Representative John Lewis (D-GA), an unidentified nun, Ralph Abernathy, Martin Luther King, Jr., Ralph Bunche, former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Rabbi Heschel and the Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth
President Obama presents Rep. John Lewis with the 2010 Medal of Freedom
AP: Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga. Lewis was chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and helped organize the first sit-ins at lunch counters that refused to serve blacks. In 1965, he led a march for voting rights from Selma to Montgomery, Ala., and was nearly beaten to death along with others in what became known as “Bloody Sunday”.
President Obama said Lewis “knew that change could not wait for some other person or some other time.” Lewis speaks often and loudly in his booming voice on issues of justice and equality, and is known as the “conscience” of Congress.
He told reporters later that the award was all the more special coming from Obama, the nation’s first black president.
“If someone had told me that one day I would be standing in the White House and an African-American president would be presenting me the Medal of Freedom I would say, ‘Are you crazy? Are you out of your mind?'” Lewis said. “It’s just an impossible dream.”