Jon Ossoff walks Edmund Pettus Bridge, tributes mentor John Lewis in ‘Selma’ ad
The Georgia US Senate candidate credits his political mentor and vows to fight for a new Civil Rights Act
In the final weeks before his Georgia Senate run-off election, Jon Ossoff tributes the late Congressman John Lewis in a new campaign ad released Thursday called, Selma.
In the ad, Ossoff is seen walking along the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, the site of the bloody 1965 protest for voting rights in which Lewis and others were brutalized by law enforcement.
Lewis, a stalwart of the Civil Rights movement who served as a Georgia U.S. representative for over three decades, took a teen Ossoff under his wing when he hired him as an intern over a decade ago. As the story goes, a 16-year-old Ossoff wrote to Rep. Lewis after reading his memoir, Walking With the Wind, and went on to work for the congressman after asking him for a job.
The pair developed a strong bond over the years until Lewis’ death in July.
Ossoff, a 33-year-old investigative journalist, evokes the spirit of Lewis in his new ad as he walks the bridge, where Lewis and other protesters were beaten and bloodied so badly by police that the day in history became known as Bloody Sunday.
He speaks of the physical sacrifices Lewis and others made to achieve the passings of the Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act in the 1960s.
“Daring to demand the right to vote for Black Americans in Selma, Alabama 55 years ago, John Lewis was nearly killed as he and hundreds marched across this bridge,” Ossoff said.
The young Senate hopeful said he intends to reinvigorate those laws at a time when Black Americans are still disenfranchised. “The promise of equal justice in America remains unfulfilled, so together we’ll fight for a new Civil Rights Act and a new Voting Rights Act,” he continued.
“To ensure equal justice for all no matter the color of our skin, to end racial profiling and police brutality, and to stop anyone from suppressing the sacred right to vote.”
In 2013, key sections of the Voting Rights Act were gutted by the Supreme Court decision Shelby county v Holder, as reported by The Guardian. The partial undoing of that law, made possible by the work and sacrifices of Lewis and countless others, has been detrimental to Black voters as it gave way to the enactment of voter suppression tactics throughout the country, particularly the South.
As millions all over the world marched in the streets this year in the name of justice for Black men and women like George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, who were killed by white police officers, Ossoff intends to take the baton passed on by his mentor to ensure equal rights for all Americans.
“Congressman Lewis gave me my first job. He instilled in me the conviction to fight for justice,” Ossoff said toward the end of his ad. “He said to never give in. Never give up. Keep the faith, and keep our eyes on the prize.”
The ad concludes with a video clip of Lewis speaking: “Too many people struggled, suffered, and died to make it possible for every American to exercise their right to vote.”
Before his death, Ossoff sat down with Rep. Lewis for an interview for a campaign ad earlier this year. Lewis had shared with Ossoff that even when compared to the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s, today’s social climate in 2020 was something he hadn’t seen before.
“These are times that try men’s souls,” Lewis said. The older statesman said that he was counting on Ossoff and America’s youth to lead the country toward the promised land he and figures like Dr. Martin Luther King. Jr. fought so hard to achieve.
“We need you and your leadership now more than ever before to get out there and push and pull and help lead the American people to higher heights,” Lewis said.
As previously reported by theGrio, former President Barack Obama disclosed that during their last conversation before his death, Lewis said he was “proud” of the young activists in the Black Lives Matter movement trying to provoke change in the country.
“I told him that all those young people — of every race, from every background and gender and sexual orientation — they were his children,” President Obama said.
If elected, Ossoff would become the youngest Senator in the nation. Currently, Josh Hawley of Missouri is the youngest sitting Senator at age 40.
Much is at stake with the Georgia runoff elections on Jan. 5. Currently, Republicans have 50 Senate seats while Democrats currently have 46. If Ossoff and Rev. Raphael Warnock, another Democratic U.S. Senate candidate in Georgia, win their runoff races, the Republican Party will not meet the 51-seat threshold required to have a Senate majority.
A party split in the U.S. Senate would prove helpful for the forthcoming Democratic administration of President-Elect Joe Biden and Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris, as Harris would be the deciding vote in the event of a tie on the Senate floor.
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