Washington, D.C. – House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy will present the Bipartisan Policy Council’s Congressional Patriot Award to John Lewis tonight at the Library of Congress. This award is given to those who have performed patriotic duties worthy of remembrance, and the Leader will honor Representatives John Lewis and Sam Johnson for their fight to make America a more perfect union.
Below are Leader McCarthy’s remarks as prepared:
“John Lewis and Sam Johnson are extraordinary people. They both suffered for this country—enduring what would have easily broken other men—all for freedom and rights that are forever one generation away from extinction.
“I am here, in particular, to honor John Lewis with this Congressional Patriot Award, and I hope you will forgive me if I reflect for a moment on what that word ‘patriot’ means.
“People say patriots are people who love their country. That’s true. But there’s something more to it. Patriots love their country enough to sacrifice for it. They are people who put their own interests, their own safety, and even their own lives at risk to protect their country or to make their country a place that much more worth loving.
“In John Lewis’s time, there was a lot he couldn’t love about his country. Racism. Segregation. Discrimination. These words weren’t history. They were everyday life. His enemies had tear gas, nightsticks, dogs, and whips. He confronted handcuffs and imprisonment, death threats and fallen brothers, all for the crime of wanting to vote.
“I remember, just a few years ago, I was walking with John through Selma, Alabama on the same path of the Selma-to-Montgomery March that John led. We crossed that bridge in peace that day, but when John led the march across that same bridge in 1965, he was beaten by a mob of state troopers and deputized citizens.
“He can’t remember who carried him, but wounded and bloodied, John was taken away to a church with a head injury. He did not know if he would live. So, yes, there was a lot he couldn’t love. But John wasn’t just a patriot on sunny days. After all, it’s easy to love your country when it’s right. It’s much harder when it’s wrong. John loved his country even when his country was wrong. And that love, that patriotism, urged him forward.
“Despite all of America’s shortcomings, Lewis stood with those demanding that the promise of America not be discarded, but instead realized in full by being purified in practice. As he said to the crowds in 1963 during the March on Washington, he wanted the people to protest across the nation, quote, “until true freedom comes, until the revolution of 1776 is complete.”
“The designs and principles of our Founders are good. John Lewis knew that. He saw that our country is beautiful, that the American project was not lost, and that our principles are worth fighting for. John fought for our country with nonviolence. He defended our country with peacefulness. And he loved our country profoundly, even in the darkest of days. That is the mark of a true patriot.
“So I congratulate my friends, John Lewis and Sam Johnson, on this award. By their courage and by their patriotism they made America a more perfect union.”