Barack Obama Sits Down With John Lewis to Discuss MLK’s Legacy and the Power of Activism

“When you see something that’s not right, not fair, not just, you have a moral obligation to do something.”

Former President Barack Obama recently joined Rep. John Lewis and a group of high school students for a roundtable discussion on Martin Luther King Jr.’s enduring legacy and the moral necessity of social justice movements today.

In a six-minute video released Wednesday, on the 50th anniversary of the civil rights leader’s death, Lewis revealed how he coped with the devastating news of King’s assassination. He also shared that one of his life’s greatest regrets was not having spent more time with King. “I thought he’d be around a long time,” Lewis said in a poignant moment.

Obama and Lewis also shared advice with a student who asked about the benefits and risks of being controversial.

“If you are speaking on behalf of social justice, then by definition there’s going to be some controversy, because if it wasn’t controversial, then somebody would have already fixed it,” Obama said. “Dr. King was controversial, but he studied and thought and crafted what he had to say.”

“I said to young people especially students, when you see something that’s not right, not fair, not just, you have a moral obligation to do something, say something,” Lewis added.

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Corrupt leaders the world over can (and will) try to shut down the truth, but when the truth has millions of people on its side, you can't keep it down for good. And there's no more powerful or urgent argument for your support of Mother Jones' journalism right now than that. We need to raise about $450,000 to hit our online fundraising budget in these next few months, so please read more from Monika and pitch in if you can.

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