In an interview with Roll Call, Lewis, 71, swatted down the idea that his civil rights work only mattered decades ago.
“Forty-six years ago, I led the march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma for the right to vote and, you know, I gave a little blood there,” Lewis said.
“Fifty years ago, during the Freedom Rides, when I was 21, 22, I was putting my life on the line,” he added. “In order to know what a person will do in the future, you have to look at their past.
“If it hadn’t been for what I and others did 45 and 50 years ago, he wouldn’t be able to run,” Lewis said of his rival, who also is black.
“If it wasn’t for the bridge in Selma, there wouldn’t be a Barack Obama,” Lewis added, noting that he travels around the country talking to groups, white and black, Republican and Democratic, about his experiences in the civil rights movement.
Johnson had implied – indirectly – that Lewis was past his prime. While that criticism may or may not be accurate, Lewis’s response is a clear indication that he’s not taking this particular challenge lightly.
Nor should he. Johnson is young, well-connected, respected in the community and possesses a stellar record of public service. Arguably, Lewis is the front-runner, but Roll Call is right that this is going to be a generational election.