House Speaker Nancy Pelosi joined a bipartisan delegation in a ceremony christening the USNS John Lewis ship one year after the death of the late lawmaker and civil rights activist.
The USNS John Lewis, which is 746 feet long, was built as the first in a new class of ships operated by the Navy’s Military Sealift Command. The Navy plans to buy 20 of the new John Lewis-class of ships.
The ship was built at the General Dynamics NASSCO shipyard in San Diego, where the lawmakers gathered with top military brass and local officials for the christening.
Speakers at the event including Pelosi praised the late John Lewis, the son of sharecroppers who became a Freedom Rider during the civil rights movement before he was elected in 1986.
‘Officially as House Speaker, it is my privilege to bring greetings from the Congress of the United States where our colleague John Lewis served for over 33 years,’ Pelosi said during her speech.
‘Personally, it is my honor to honor our dear friend and I know in saying that that I speak for all my colleagues who are here.’
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi joined a bipartisan delegation in a ceremony christening the USNS John Lewis ship one year after the death of the late lawmaker
Pelosi also praised the military and members of the military who attended the event on Saturday
Pelosi, pictured center with the bipartisan delegation, also thanked the ‘the men and women of labor who built the ship with great skill and great patriotism’
In her speech, Pelosi also said it was ‘fitting’ to honor John Lewis with the ship ‘because John Lewis was a warrior’
The ship was built at the General Dynamics NASSCO shipyard in San Diego, where the lawmakers gathered with top military brass and local officials for the christening
Pelosi also praised the military and members of the military who attended the event on Saturday.
‘All who serve our country in uniform, thank you for the inspiration you are for us in congress to build a future worthy of your sacrifice,’ Pelosi said.
She also thanked the ‘the men and women of labor who built the ship with great skill and great patriotism.’
‘This is a ritual and we have to recognize all that goes into it, intellectually, personally, and in a constructive way in every way,’ she continued.
In her speech, Pelosi also said it was ‘fitting’ to honor John Lewis with the ship ‘because John Lewis was a warrior.’
‘One of the mottos of the Navy is semper fortis, always courageous. John Lewis was indeed always courageous. How perfect it is that the motto of the ship bearing his name is ‘unremarkable perseverance’,’ she said.
‘This ship will be a beacon to the world reminding all who see it of the persistence and courage of John Lewis – and the finest Navy and Merchant Marines in the history of the world that this ship is a part of.’
Pelosi noted in her speech that under former Navy Secretary Ray Mabus for the symbolism in naming the new ships after civil rights leaders, including Harvey Milk, Earl Warren, Sojourner Truth, Lucy Stone and Robert F. Kennedy.
John Lewis, the son of sharecroppers who went on to become a Freedom Rider, was elected to Congress in 1986
Rodney Crowell, right, performs in the Ryman Auditorium during a celebration of life marking the one-year anniversary of U.S. Rep. John Lewis’s death on Saturday in Nashville, Tennessee
‘It’s fitting that we honor John Lewis with this formidable ship because John Lewis was a warrior,’ said Pelosi.
She added: ‘John’s great courage made him revered in the congress. In the halls of the capitol, he was fearless in a pursuit of a more perfect union – whether fighting to defend voting rights or the LGBTQ from discrimination and stopping the gun violence epidemic, everything you can name.’
‘My colleagues and I will never forget his presence as he led a sit-in on the floor of the house to end gun violence while it was thought he would be arrested for that and everyone was lining up to be arrested with John Lewis,’ she said.
Pelosi also praised John Lewis for the photos of him leading then-President Barack Obama over the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma.
‘On the 50th anniversary, the presence of John Lewis and Barack Obama linking arms while retracing John’s steps over the Edmund Pettus Bridge was an iconic picture of progress,’ Pelosi said.
‘Barack Obama would not have been in that capacity without the sacrifice, courage and perseverance and the presence of John Lewis.’
She added: ‘While John was a man of great courage and a fighter, he was always about nonviolence.’
During her speehc, Pelosi also praised John Lewis for the photos of him leading then-President Barack Obama over the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma in 2015
A state trooper swings a billy club at John Lewis, right foreground, chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, in Selma in 1965
John Lewis (light coat, center), attempts to ward off the blow as a burly state trooper swings his club at Lewis’ head during the attempted march from Selma to Montgomery in 1965
A commemorative march was led March 8 in 1975 across the Edmund Pettus Bridge. Lewis is pictured with a number of activists including Coretta King, wife of the Dr. Martin Luther King
Barack Obama, center, walks as he holds hands with Amelia Boynton Robinson, who was beaten during ‘Bloody Sunday’
U.S. Rep. John Lewis, center, talks with those gathered on the historic Edmund Pettus Bridge during the 19th annual reenactment of ‘Bloody Sunday’ in 2012
People walk across the historic Edmond Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama
Barack Obama also praised civil rights icon C.T. Vivian, pictured, in a tweet on the one year anniversary of his death
Obama tweeted about Lewis and his fellow civil rights activist C.T. Vivian who died July 17, 2020 after the event on Saturday.
‘John Lewis and C.T. Vivian loved this country so much that they risked their lives so that it might live up to its promise,’ Obama tweeted.
‘They gave all of themselves to the cause of freedom and justice, and inspired generations to follow their example. Now it’s up to us to continue the work.’
He added a second tweet, like Pelosi and other Democratic lawmakers calling on their colleagues to pass the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act.
‘As Republican legislatures across the country deliberately try to make it harder to cast a ballot, we need to keep fighting to make sure every citizen has a voice and a vote. The future of our country is at stake,’ Obama tweeted.
Former President Barack Obama tweeted about John Lewis after the ceremony on Saturday
Obama is pictured giving John Lewis the Medal of Freedom in 2011
Lewis’ nephew Marcus Tyner also spoke at the event on Saturday, while quoting his late uncle. He was joined by five other members of the Lewis family.
‘When you see something that is not fair, not right, not just, you have to speak up. You have to say something. You have to do something,’ Tyner said.
Actress and political activist Alfre Woodard Spencer, the ship’s sponsor, also spoke at the event praising Lewis’ legacy even after his death.
‘John Lewis stood for his country. He took blows for his country,’ she said. ‘We miss him on this platform, but we will never be without him.’
Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock, who presided over Lewis’ funeral, called Lewis a ‘national hero’ in a post made to Twitter.
‘A year ago we lost a national hero, and I lost a friend and parishioner. John Lewis spent his life fighting to ensure our country lived up to its founding creed, and I’m so honored for the opportunity to carry on his legacy,’ Warnock tweeted.