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What Congressman Lewis Taught Me About the Value of Causing “Good Trouble”

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It never fails to amaze me how U.S. Congressman John Lewis can find fresh ways to inspire hope with his message of causing “good trouble.”

On June 22, in Washington D.C.,  Rep. Lewis, a former aide to Martin Luther King, Jr., returned to his civil rights roots of peaceful protest, for which he is so well known from the 1960s. At Lewis’ urging, the congressman and other House Democrats organized a “sit in” inside of the House of Representatives in order to force a vote on passing stricter gun control laws in light of the shooting last month at Pulse nightclub in Orlando.

Working in his congressional office here in Atlanta as an intern, I got to know Congressman Lewis pretty well. During my time there I was constantly reminded to never be afraid to do what I believe is morally correct, even if the act itself may not be completely correct. This was not just something I heard from him but from everybody in his office. I clearly recall my final day in Congressman Lewis’ office, as I walked out the front door, the last thing I was told was to get into trouble — “good trouble.”

Photo from Rep. Lewis’ Twitter, showing him sitting on the U.S. House floor.

The sit-in lasted a total of 25 hours, during this time the participants were given care packages from the supporters, but were also threatened to have the lights turned off on them. With major media outlets covering the action, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan ordered the House cameras turned off. In return, House Democrats turned to social media and broadcast the sit in live via the streaming video app Periscope. Media outlets, including CNN, began airing the streaming Periscope video live as the sit-in went into the wee hours of the morning.

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Congressman Lewis also took to his official Twitter account to express his belief of “moral obligation.”

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During the post sit-in press conference on June 23, Congressman Lewis proclaimed that House Democrats would return to the sit-in on July 5 to continue the fight for a gun control bill vote and used the hashtag #NewBillNoBreak.

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Additionally, I’d like to add that on the day of the sit-in, Elizabeth Warren celebrated her birthday sitting on the House floor as part of the protest.

Photo of Elizabeth Warren's Twitter, showing her view from the House floor.

My five months of working in Lewis’ office left an unmistakable impact in my life, one that only working under a living legend could have. My view on challenges I face in my personal life are no longer the one of fear but one of knowing that the impossible is possible. And I know that getting in trouble can be good trouble — like that of civil rights movement — and can change you and the world forever.

Manuel, 19, believes in breaking the patriarchy and will attend Oglethorpe University this fall. 

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