Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Get into 'good trouble,' civil rights icon urges Stetson law graduates

Rep. John Lewis of Georgia shakes hands Saturday at Stetson University’s law school after delivering a commencement speech before more than 250 in the class of 2009.

EDMUND D. FOUNTAIN | Times

Rep. John Lewis of Georgia shakes hands Saturday at Stetson University’s law school after delivering a commencement speech before more than 250 in the class of 2009.

GULFPORT — Civil rights icon John Lewis urged graduates at Stetson University College of Law to put aside the quest for wealth, get off the sidelines, get in the way and get into "good trouble."

"To make our country a better place, you must do it," Lewis said Saturday. "You must make our society a better place."

Lewis, now a Democratic member of the U.S. House from Georgia, was preaching what he had practiced.

Born in Alabama the son of sharecroppers, Lewis was intimately familiar with what he called "the bitter fruit of segregation," from signs that separated whites from blacks to being refused a library card because the books were "not for coloreds, (they were) for whites only." He would ask his parents why there was segregation and racial discrimination.

He was told, "That's the way it is. Don't get in the way. Don't get in trouble."

Lewis didn't take that advice. Inspired by Rosa Parks and the rhetoric of Martin Luther King Jr., he joined the civil rights movement and organized sit-ins at segregated lunch counters in Nashville, Tenn., while a student at Fisk University. He joined the Freedom Rides and spoke at the March on Washington.

Then, in 1965, he and Hosea Williams led more than 600 people on a march for voting rights. As they crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala., they were beaten by state troopers in what became known as Bloody Sunday and led to the passage of the Voting Rights Act.

Parks and King "inspired me to find a way to get in the way," Lewis said. "I got in trouble. It was good trouble, necessary trouble."

Lewis said much has changed, but change is still necessary, and courage is still needed. He told the graduates that they should not wait for President Barack Obama to do it alone. They should not wait for Congress or other people. They should get off the sidelines, Lewis said, and get involved in the lives of others.

"Be not afraid," Lewis said. "Be of good and raw courage and find a way to get in the way."

Lewis received an honorary doctor of laws degree from Stetson for his lifelong advocacy of civil liberties. More than 250 law students received their degrees Saturday.

Anne Lindberg can be reached at alindberg@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8450.

Get into 'good trouble,' civil rights icon urges Stetson law graduates 05/16/09 [Last modified: Saturday, May 16, 2009 9:47pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Video shows naked man who stole swan sculpture in Lakeland, deputies say

    Crime

    The Polk County Sheriff's Office is searching for a naked man who stole a large black and white swan sculpture from a Lakeland storage facility last weekend.

    The Polk County Sheriff's Office says this naked man stole a large black and white swan sculpture, upper right, from a Lakeland storage facility last weekend. Surveillance video showed the man walking into Lakeland Cold Storage. [Polk County Sheriff's Office]
  2. Fennelly: Dirk Koetter's apology no way to keep this fidget spinning

    Bucs

    TAMPA — It all began with a fidget spinner.

    This tweet from the Bucs, mocking the Falcons' 28-3 lead they lost in the Super Bowl against the Falcons, prompted a public apology from head coach Dirk Koetter, who called it "unprofessional and not smart."
  3. Jeb money trickles into Putnam's bid for governor

    Blogs

    Money from a Jeb Bush super PAC has made its way into Florida’s 2018 governors race.
     
    A year ago, Bush’s Right to Rise PAC put $1,171 in money

  4. Men have body image issues too

    Health

    I have lost and gained weight several times in my adult life. It wasn't a problem when I was younger and working construction. An "ideal" office job 30 years ago started the yo-yo effect. I don't have any more weight to lose, but the potential of gaining it back is always there.

    Andrew Meacham, September 2005
  5. Health officials outline their plan for writing medical marijuana rules

    Blogs

    Florida health officials are taking the very earliest steps toward rolling out rules to let patients use medical marijuana after state lawmakers failed to resolve the issue during the final hours of their session earlier this month.

    Medical marijuana