If you missed the opportunity to hear Georgia Congressman John Lewis, my hero, speak out at a Senate confirmation hearing last week, explaining why he cannot vote “yes” in favor of Senator Jeff Sessions for Attorney General of the nation, and why he will not participate in Donald Trump’s inauguration — well, you owe it to yourself to watch his remarkable speech in its entirety.
There is never an ounce of bitterness when John Lewis speaks, even when he talks about the vicious beating he received while peacefully marching from Selma, Alabama, to Montgomery, some 50 years ago, asking for voting rights. The right to participate in the democratic election process of the country he calls “home.”
But he knows all about suppression of voting rights, and he almost paid with his life when he marched peacefully in 1965 to try to gain the right to vote in Alabama. Several times I have had the privilege of being in Congressman Lewis’ company and I asked him how he could possibly avoid even a trace of bitterness when he recites his horrendous experiences in the segregated South.
His answer is always the same: He believes in non-violence.
Senator Cory Booker was also impressive on that second day of Senate hearings into the confirmation of Senator Jeff Sessions as Attorney General. Booker made history as the first sitting Senator to speak out against the confirmation of a colleague of his in the Senate.
But his concern, like Lewis’ concern, was for having an Attorney General who would speak up and speak out for the rights of minorities, of poor people of those without a voice.
And then there was also on the panel Congressman Cedric Richmond, of Louisiana, the head of the Congressional Black Caucus, respectfully but sadly pointed out that having an icon like John Lewis testify at the very end of the hearings was like consigning “to the back of the bus” the six African Americans who testified.
And even though Senator Sessions was not required to sit through the many hours of testimony, it was a glaring omission that he absented himself from the hearing room when John Lewis et al were testifying.
My mother could not understand why three of the people who testified were in favor of Sessions, until I explained that those three had once worked for Senator Sessions and been on his payroll when he served as Attorney General of Alabama.
Neither Booker nor Redmond nor Lewis was the slightest bit vitriolic. They were just heartbroken that the highest legal officer in the land should be someone who had never spoken up for civil rights in the decades of his service in various positions. The three of them had no expectation that Sessions would suddenly turn into a champion for civil rights, especially since Donald Trump does not seem to be interested in the rights of people of color.
Lewis announced that he would not, could not participate in the Inauguration on Friday, as he did not consider Donald Trump the “legitimate President,” with everything that has been unearthed by the Intelligence community about the role played by Russian hackers. The tension between Trump and the various intelligence agencies has both Republicans and Democrats concerned, especially in these challenging times.
Lewis is like the conscience of the Congress, and some two dozen colleagues have followed his lead and bowed out of attendance on Friday at the White House ceremony. If they follow Congressman Lewis’ lead, they are doing this not out of spite, or vengeance, but because they are saddened by the prospect of someone’s assuming the Presidency who has not shown either respect or concern for people who are heroes in American history.
Perhaps you were as fortunate as I was to have seen Congressman Lewis in person most recently at the National Constitution Center a few months ago, when he was awarded the Liberty Medal. His voice is always gentle, but he always speaks passionately about his search for justice, for equality. He does respect the Office of the President, but he just believes that illegitimate means were employed either by Donald Trump or on Trumps’ behalf in order to secure the office.
Some day we will know the extent to which Russian hacking and Vladimir Putin meddled in our democratic process. In the meantime, though, I hope that President Trump will cease vilifying heroes like Congressman John Lewis simply because they disagree with him.
And because I, too, love America and value our democracy, I am praying that Donald Trump turns into a good President and respects the rights of all Americans. If Senator Jeff Sessions does become the Attorney General, I pray that he, too, will fight for the rights of all Americans.
Reprinted with permission from The Main Line Times.Since the deadline for my column was a few days before the third and final presidential debate, there was no way that I could be up-to-the-minute with the latest developments. But then, with bombshells dropping seemingly every 15 minutes, even the 24-hour cable channels have had trouble keeping up with developments. [Read more…]
The award-winning actress Natalie Portman made several stops in the Philadelphia region as she campaigned for Hillary Clinton, on Monday, October 10th. At the Lower Merion-Narberth Democratic Committee headquarters in Ardmore, a large crowd gathered, including State Senator Daylin Leach and his daughter Brennan.
I got to ask the last question and Ms. Portman gave an insightful and extensive answer.
Earlier in the day Mike Pence, Trump’s running-mate, had held a press conference, avowing his acceptance of Jesus. He pressed his Christian faith, and accepting grace and forgiveness. He called Trump’s “apology” sincere.
I asked Ms. Portman, on the eve of Kol Nidre and Yom Kippur, what she felt about Pence’s pulling the “Jesus Card.” Ms. Portman looked pained as she rattled off all the different ethnic groups and women whom Trump has offended, insulted and threatened. She does not believe religion should be used as a club to beat anyone or any group. And she is really looking forward to having Hillary Clinton as the first woman President.
At another area event, also on October 10th, Ms. Portman’s talk was video recorded. She started by talking about being a mother. (She did not let her five year old son watch the Clinton-Trump debate Sunday night!) Then she reminded audience members that Tuesday, Oct. 11th is the last day to register to vote in Pennsylvania. She ended with questions from the audience. Video credit: Splash News and the Daily Mail.
Lewis began his own political career as a member of the Atlanta City Council, and since 1986, he has represented Georgia’s Fifth Congressional District in the United States House of Representatives. For 13 years, he worked to promote the federal legislation that created the new Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture on the Mall in Washington.Phladelphia Mayor Jim Kenney calls Lewis “an inspiration to people all over the world.” Jeffrey Rosen, president and CEO of the National Constitution Center, describes Lewis as having “helped to extend the blessings of liberty and equality to all Americans.”
Among the attendees at the Liberty Medal Ceremony were elected officials as well as other civic and philanthropic leaders. The Liberty Medal itself was sponsored by Ira Lubert, trustee of the National Constitution Center and co-founder of the firm Lubert-Adler.
Photos by Bonnie Squires.
Channel 6 ABC will air the Liberty Medal Ceremony on Sunday, October 2, at 5:30 p.m. and on Sunday, October 23, at 1:30 p.m.
— by Bonnie Squires
The Philadelphia Jewish Voice celebrated its 11th anniversary with an award reception on September 27 in honor of Dan Segal, Esq., an outstanding attorney with the Hangley Aronchick Segal Pudlin & Schiller law firm and a well known Jewish community advocate.
A crowd of over 80 people gathered at the home of Kathy and Jeff Pasek in Ardmore. They represented the many different strands of Segal’s life and activities. [Read more…]
Sen. Barbara Boxer visited public media station WHYY in Philadelphia to launch her latest book, “The Art of Tough,” a memoir of her decades of service in both Congress and the Senate. For the first time since 1976, she may not be running for election, but she doesn’t plan on going away. She represented California in Congress from 1983 to 1992. Then in ’92, she entered the U.S. Senate. Next on her agenda as a private citizen is to create a political action committee (PAC).
Sen. Boxer announced that she will be a speaker at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. Then she launched into a spirited defense of Hillary Clinton, saying, “Hillary is authentic, the smartest person in the room. She’s shy. But she is just herself, ever since she was in college.” While she had a few choice words about Donald Trump, she repeatedly described Hillary as “authentic.” [Read more…]
Ira Forman’s job is to identify and pursue anti-Semitism around the world. As a result, he knows where the trends are particularly disturbing and where there is reason to have hope. Recently, he brought this knowledge and experience to Philadelphia when he served as the keynote speaker for the closing board meeting of the local Anti-Defamation League (ADL).
Forman works in the State Department’s Office of Religion and Global Affairs in the position of Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism. He was appointed to this position three years ago by Secretary of State John Kerry. Forman has an extensive resume, which, among other things, includes his work as Jewish outreach director for the Obama campaign, CEO and executive director of the National Jewish Democratic Council (NJDC), and — very early in his career — political director and legislative liaison for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).
At the meeting in Philadelphia, Forman gave a run-down of the Jewish communities he has visited and discussed what the future may hold for Jews in those countries. For example, he pointed to a particularly disturbing survey of French Jews — which even pre-dated the Paris attacks — in which 47% said they were considering leaving France. Forman was then asked about the heartening response of thousands of French citizens who marched in support of the victims of the Charlie Hebdo and Hyper Kacher attacks. He said it was believed that if the Charlie Hebdo journalists had not also been killed, the response by non-Jews on behalf of the Jewish community would not have been as strong.
However, Forman did express hope for some smaller Jewish communities. He also emphasized that outside the United States, England seems to be the most secure place for Jews to live.
In order to monitor and combat anti-Semitism, Forman and his staff travel the world. They often work in cooperation with agencies like the ADL, as well as with other nonprofits and non-governmental organizations (NGOs).
Photo by Bonnie Squires