103+ Best John Lewis Quotes: Exclusive Selection

John Robert Lewis was an American statesman and civil rights leader who served in the United States House of Representatives for Georgia’s 5th congressional district from 1987 until his death in 2020. He was the chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee from 1963 to 1966. Profoundly inspirational John Lewis quotes will challenge the way you think, and make your life worth living.

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Famous John Lewis Quotes

When growing up, I saw segregation. I saw racial discrimination. I saw those signs that said white men, colored men. White women, colored women. White waiting. And I didn’t like it. — John Lewis

If someone had told me in 1963 that one day I would be in Congress, I would have said, ‘You’re crazy. You don’t know what you’re talking about.’ — John Lewis

The vote is the most powerful nonviolent tool we have. — John Lewis

We are one people; we are only family. And when we finally accept these truths, then we will be able to fulfill Dr. King’s dream to build a beloved community, a nation, and a world at peace with itself. — John Lewis

Many young people, many children, are being abused, being put down, being bullied because of their sexual orientation. — John Lewis

Rosa Parks inspired me to find a way to get in the way, to get in trouble… good trouble, necessary trouble. — John Lewis

You have to be persistent. — John Lewis

You have to be optimistic in order to continue to move forward. — John Lewis

Following the teaching of Gandhi and Thoreau, Dr. King, it set me on a path. And I never looked back. — John Lewis

I do not agree with what Mr. Snowden did. He has damaged American international relations and compromised our national security. He leaked classified information and may have jeopardized human lives. That must be condemned. — John Lewis

If you ask me whether the election of Barack Obama is the fulfillment of Dr. King’s dream, I say, ‘No, it’s just a down payment.’ — John Lewis

We are one people with one family. We all live in the same house… and through books, through information, we must find a way to say to people that we must lay down the burden of hate. For hate is too heavy a burden to bear. — John Lewis

What I try to tell young people is that if you come together with a mission, and its grounded with love and a sense of community, you can make the impossible possible. — John Lewis

I grew up very poor in rural Alabama. — John Lewis

I believe in forgiveness; I believe in trying to work with people. — John Lewis

Without the Sisters of St. Joseph, I might not be standing here. — John Lewis

We need comprehensive immigration reform. Dr. King wouldn’t be pleased at all to know that there are millions of people living in the shadow, living in fear in places like Georgia and Alabama. — John Lewis

If it hadn’t been for that march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge on Bloody Sunday, there would be no Barack Obama as President of the United States of America. — John Lewis

The party of Kennedy is also the party of Eastland. The party of Javits is also the party of Goldwater. — John Lewis

Comics, in a sense, the style, the images – it’s almost like music. They say music is a universal language, but when the eyes behold something, a figure, somebody moving; it’s real, and it cannot be denied. — John Lewis

I couldn’t say no to A. Philip Randolph and no to Martin Luther King, Jr. These two men, I loved them, I admired them, and they were my heroes. — John Lewis

Listening to Dr. King on the radio inspired me. Coming under the influence of Jim Lawson inspired me to think that I, too, could do something. — John Lewis

I always felt growing up that in the South there was evil but also good – so much good. — John Lewis

I don’t think Trump really believes in all this stuff. But he thinks this would be his ticket to the White House – at least to get the Republican nomination. — John Lewis

I travel all the time, but when I come back to the South, I see such progress. In a real sense, a great deal of the South has been redeemed. People feel freer, more complete, more whole, because of what happened in the movement. — John Lewis

In the past the great majority of minority voters, in Ohio and other places that means African American voters, cast a large percentage of their votes during the early voting process. — John Lewis

I grew up in rural Alabama, 50 miles from Montgomery, in a very loving, wonderful family: wonderful mother, wonderful father. We attended church; we went to Sunday school every Sunday. — John Lewis

I believe that you see something that you want to get done, you cannot give up, and you cannot give in. — John Lewis

It’s not just Barack Obama, but I doubt Jimmy Carter or Bill Clinton would have made it to the White House without Selma. — John Lewis

A few days after Bloody Sunday, there was demonstration in more than 80 American cities. People were demanding that the government act. — John Lewis

The scars and stains of racism are still deeply embedded in the American society. — John Lewis

I say to people today, ‘You must be prepared if you believe in something. If you believe in something, you have to go for it. As individuals, we may not live to see the end.’ — John Lewis

We must continue to go forward as one people, as brothers and sisters. — John Lewis

I’m very hopeful. I am very optimistic about the future. — John Lewis

Without our faith, we wouldn’t have been able to succeed. On many occasions, before we’d go out on a sit-in, before we went on the freedom ride, before we marched from Selma to Montgomery, we would sing a song or say a prayer. Without our faith, without the spirit and spiritual bearings and underpinning, we would not have been so successful. — John Lewis

Not one of us can rest, be happy, be at home, be at peace with ourselves, until we end hatred and division. — John Lewis

We all live in the same house, we all must be part of the effort to hold down our little house. When you see something that is not right, not fair, not just… do something about it. Say something. Have the courage. Have the backbone. Get in the way. Walk with the wind. It’s all going to work out. — John Lewis

When you see something that is not right, not fair, not just, you have to speak up. You have to say something; you have to do something. — John Lewis

It was not enough to come and listen to a great sermon or message every Sunday morning and be confined to those four walls and those four corners. You had to get out and do something. — John Lewis

I really believe that all of us, as Americans… we all need to be treated like fellow human beings. — John Lewis

The assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. made me very, very sad, and I mourned and I cried like many of our citizens did. — John Lewis

You cannot be at home with something that you feel that is wrong, is not right. — John Lewis

The March on Washington was a March for Jobs and Freedom. There are still too many people who are unemployed or underemployed in America – they’re black, white, Latino, Native American and Asian American. — John Lewis

There’s nothing wrong with a little agitation for what’s right or what’s fair. — John Lewis

Without prayer, without faith in the Almighty, the civil rights movement would have been like a bird without wings. — John Lewis

To make it hard, to make it difficult almost impossible for people to cast a vote is not in keeping with the democratic process. — John Lewis

The government, both state and federal, has a duty to be reasonable and accommodating. — John Lewis

Too many of us still believe our differences define us. — John Lewis

I was honored to have an opportunity to speak on August 28th, 1963. — John Lewis

We need someone who will stand up and speak up and speak out for the people who need help, for people who are being discriminated against. And it doesn’t matter whether they are black or white, Latino, Asian or Native American, whether they are straight or gay, Muslim, Christian, or Jews. — John Lewis

The civil rights movement was based on faith. Many of us who were participants in this movement saw our involvement as an extension of our faith. We saw ourselves doing the work of the Almighty. Segregation and racial discrimination were not in keeping with our faith, so we had to do something. — John Lewis

You have to tell the whole truth, the good and the bad, maybe some things that are uncomfortable for some people. — John Lewis

Now we have black and white elected officials working together. Today, we have gone beyond just passing laws. Now we have to create a sense that we are one community, one family. Really, we are the American family. — John Lewis

I don’t understand it, how President Johnson can send troops to Vietnam and cannot send troops to Selma, Alabama, to protect people whose only desire is to register to vote. — John Lewis

In Selma, Alabama, in 1965, only 2.1 percent of blacks of voting age were registered to vote. The only place you could attempt to register was to go down to the courthouse. You had to pass a so-called literacy test. And they would tell people over and over again that they didn’t or couldn’t pass the literacy test. — John Lewis

I think Dr. King would be pleased to see the number of elected officials of color – African Americans, Latinos, Asian Americans, and progressive whites. — John Lewis

There may be some difficulties, some interruptions, but as a nation and as a people, we are going to build a truly multiracial, democratic society that maybe can emerge as a model for the rest of the world. — John Lewis

Obama is not an African American president, but a president of all Americans. It doesn’t matter if you are black, white, Hispanic, he’s the president of all races. — John Lewis

What ‘March’ is saying is that it doesn’t matter whether we are black or white, Latino or Asian. It doesn’t matter whether we are straight or gay. — John Lewis

There are still forces in America that want to divide us along racial lines, religious lines, sex, class. But we’ve come too far; we’ve made too much progress to stop or to pull back. We must go forward. And I believe we will get there. — John Lewis

We’re one people, and we all live in the same house. Not the American house, but the world house. — John Lewis

Be hopeful. Be optimistic. Never lose that sense of hope. — John Lewis

When I was a student, I studied philosophy and religion. I talked about being patient. Some people say I was too hopeful, too optimistic, but you have to be optimistic just in keeping with the philosophy of non-violence. — John Lewis

People come up to me in airports, they walk into the office, and they say, ‘I’m going to cry; I’m going to pass out.’ And I say, ‘Please don’t pass out; I’m not a doctor.’ — John Lewis

The vote is precious. It’s almost sacred, so go out and vote like you never voted before. — John Lewis

I am very, very hopeful about the American South – I believe that we will lead America to what Dr. King called ‘the beloved community.’ — John Lewis

In 1965, the attempted march from Selma to Montgomery on March 7 was planned to dramatize to the state of Alabama and to the nation that people of color wanted to register to vote. — John Lewis

When I was 15 years old and in the tenth grade, I heard of Martin Luther King, Jr. Three years later, when I was 18, I met Dr. King and we became friends. Two years after that I became very involved in the civil rights movement. I was in college at that time. As I got more and more involved, I saw politics as a means of bringing about change. — John Lewis

We must bring the issue of mental illness out into the sunlight, out of the shadow, out of the closet, deal with it, treat people, have centers where people can get the necessary help. — John Lewis

If you’re not hopeful and optimistic, then you just give up. You have to take the long hard look and just believe that if you’re consistent, you will succeed. — John Lewis

We are tired of being beaten by policemen. We are tired of seeing our people locked up in jails over and over again. And then you holler, ‘Be patient.’ How long can we be patient? — John Lewis

Reading the Martin Luther King story, that little comic book, set me on the path that I’m on today. — John Lewis

Before we went on any protest, whether it was sit-ins or the freedom rides or any march, we prepared ourselves, and we were disciplined. We were committed to the way of peace – the way of non-violence – the way of love – the way of life as the way of living. — John Lewis

Black men and women were not allowed to register to vote. My own mother, my own father, my grandfather and my uncles and aunts could not register to vote because each time they attempted to register to vote, they were told they could not pass the literacy test. — John Lewis

My parents told me in the very beginning as a young child when I raised the question about segregation and racial discrimination, they told me not to get in the way, not to get in trouble, not to make any noise. — John Lewis

Sometimes you have to not just dream about what could be – you get out and push and you pull and you preach. And you create a climate and environment to get those in high places, to get men and women of good will in power to act. — John Lewis

Too many people struggled, suffered, and died to make it possible for every American to exercise their right to vote. — John Lewis

We had teachers, we had high school principals, we had people teaching in colleges and university in Tuskegee, Alabama. But they were told they failed the so-called literacy test. — John Lewis

I think my whole life has been one of sort of daring, and sort of sailing against the wind instead of just going with the wind. — John Lewis

The action of Rosa Parks, the words and leadership of Dr. King inspired me. I was deeply inspired. I wanted to do something. — John Lewis

You must be bold, brave, and courageous and find a way… to get in the way. — John Lewis

I would say the country is a different country. It is a better country. The signs I saw when I was growing up are gone and they will not return. In many ways the walls of segregation have been torn down. — John Lewis

I wanted young people to know that I was just a typical child. — John Lewis

We need someone who is going to stand up, speak up, and speak out for the people who need help, for the people who have been discriminated against. — John Lewis

Early on, I wrote a letter to the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. I was 17. I felt called, moved. — John Lewis

I believe race is too heavy a burden to carry into the 21st century. It’s time to lay it down. We all came here in different ships, but now we’re all in the same boat. — John Lewis

We need some creative tension; people crying out for the things they want. — John Lewis

We come to Selma to be renewed. We come to be inspired. We come to be reminded that we must do the work that justice and equality calls us to do. — John Lewis

When I was growing up in rural Alabama, it was impossible for me to register to vote. I didn’t become a registered voter until I moved to Tennessee, to Nashville, as a student. — John Lewis

My mother and father and many of my relatives had been sharecroppers. — John Lewis

I was so inspired by Dr. King that in 1956, with some of my brothers and sisters and first cousins – I was only 16 years old – we went down to the public library trying to check out some books, and we were told by the librarian that the library was for whites only and not for colors. It was a public library. — John Lewis

I never praised Mr. Snowden or said his actions rise to those of Mohandas Gandhi or other civil rights leaders. — John Lewis

I studied the philosophy and the discipline of non-violence in Nashville as a student. And I staged a sitting-in in the fall of 1959 and got arrested the first time in February 1960. — John Lewis

Never become bitter, and in the process, be happy and just go for it. — John Lewis

The documented incidences of voter fraud are very rare, yet throughout the country, forces have mobilized in over 30 states to stop it. These efforts are very partisan. — John Lewis

I want to see young people in America feel the spirit of the 1960s and find a way to get in the way. To find a way to get in trouble. Good trouble, necessary trouble. — John Lewis

Sometimes I hear people saying, ‘Nothing has changed.’ Come and walk in my shoes. — John Lewis

Who gets the bird, the hunter or the dog? — John Lewis

The vote controls everything that you do. — John Lewis

It’s a shame and a disgrace that so few people take part in the political process. — John Lewis

You have to go with your gut sometimes, and how you feel. — John Lewis

Never give up. Never give in. Never become hostile… Hate is too big a burden to bear. — John Lewis

Some of us gave a little blood for the right to participate in the democratic process. — John Lewis

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