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Congresswoman Frederica Wilson

Representing the 24th District of Florida

The boy from Troy' addresses local youth

Jan 19, 2017
In The News

The sold-out breakfast turned into an impromptu tribute to civil rights icon, John Lewis

No one said the name “Donald Trump” at the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Scholarship Breakfast Monday but it was clear that most of the speeches supported the keynote speaker, Congressman John Lewis, who is in a feud with Trump.

“We are in the presence of a true American hero,” U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio told the 5000 Role Models of Excellence Project young men.

“This is history, history written with sacrifice, pain and blood … history that is right and righteous, the right history,” Miami-Dade County Superintendent of Schools Alberto Carvalho said.

That was the tone of the annual scholarship breakfast, a fundraiser that supports the mentoring program as well as honors civil rights legend, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. 
No one mentioned the feud that erupted after Lewis said last Friday that Trump’s president was illegitimate, and that he would not be attending Trump’s inauguration Jan. 20.
Instead speeches focused on Lewis’ role in the civil rights movement.

Lewis was beaten during the march in Selma, Alabama, in 1965. He was the youngest speaker at the March on Washington in 1963. Lewis, who is from Troy, Alabama, recalls when he presented himself to King.

‘”Are you the boy from Troy,’” King asked?

‘“My name is John Robert Lewis, sir,”’ he told King.

‘“You are the boy from Troy,’” Lewis remembered King saying.

The 5000 Role Models of Excellence Project had long time ago booked Lewis, D-Ga., as the keynote speaker at Monday's breakfast. But attention to the speech by Lewis heightened after his comment sent Trump to Twitter Saturday, who tweeted that Lewis should spend time “fixing and helping his district,” and that he is “all talk … no action or results.”

Since Trump’s Twitter response, bipartisan condemnation of his comments surfaced. And, as of Monday, more than 50 house Democrats plan to skip Trump’s inauguration as well.

"By disrespecting @repjohnlewis, @realDonaldTrump dishonored Lewis' sacrifice & demeaned the Americans & rights, he nearly died 4. Apologize," demanded NAACP President Cornell Brooks.

"Let us remember that many have tried to silence @repjohnlewis over the years. All have failed," tweeted House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif, who will attend the inauguration.

"John Lewis is an American hero," Rep. David Cicilline, D-R.I., said in a tweet directed at Trump. "You're a fake billionaire who won't release his taxes. Put down Twitter and get serious about governing."

Congresswoman Frederica Wilson invited the 16-term congressman to speak at the sold-out event. Wilson and Lewis, who both attended Fisk University, are longtime friends.

"I have always wanted John Lewis to come and speak at the breakfast but he was always booked," Wilson said Saturday. He is the only surviving activist who spoke at the March on Washington with Dr. King. He was also the youngest. He tells a very interesting story about a very fiery speech that he wanted to give and King and the other elders told him to tone it down a bit. They cautioned him about what he should say. When it was his time to speak he said what he wanted to anyway.”

Lewis told the youth that they shouldn’t stay silent when they see something wrong.

“So I say to you role models, never give up, never give in, stand up, speak up. If you see something that is not right, that is not fair, you have a moral obligation to do something, to say something,” Lewis said.

The outspoken Lewis questioned Trump’s presidency because the U.S. Intelligence community confirmed that Russia interfered with the U.S. presidential election.

The confirmation came in form of a Jan. 6 report entitled “Russia’s Influence Campaign Targeting the 2016 Presidential Election.”

“We assess with high confidence that Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the U.S. presidential election, the consistent goals of which were to undermine pubic faith in the U.S. Democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton and harm her electability and potential presidency,” the declassified report read.


Trump challenged the report, but has accepted that the Russians hacked the Democrats.

"I think the Russians participated in helping this man get elected. And they helped destroy the candidacy of Hillary Clinton," Lewis said Friday.

Clinton received 2.9 million more votes than Trump but lost the Electoral College vote.

At the breakfast about 54 youth received scholarships.

Jonell Williams said Lewis’ speech motivated him to move forward and never give up on his dreams. The senior at William H. Turner Technical Arts High School wants to be a football player or an optometrist.

“All the obstacles he showed you, you can overcome,” Jonell said.

Lewis spent Tuesday at iTech @ Thomas A. Edison Educational Center as part of the Role Models' Conversation with a Legend Series.

Trump's assertion that Lewis' district is "falling apart" and "crime infested" is hard to prove.

Georgia's 5th Congressional District includes the Atlanta metro region, which has a large African-American population. The district is considered one of the nation's fastest growing areas, but its crime and poverty rates are higher than the national average.

The district has an 8.2 percent unemployment rate and the median household income is about $48,000, according to the Census Bureau.

The area also covers part of the upscale Atlanta neighborhood of Buckhead, along with the headquarters for Fortune 500 companies such Coca-Cola and Delta Air Lines, Emory University, Georgia Tech, several historically Black colleges and universities and the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, one of the world's busiest.

The Associated Press and USA Today contributed to this report.