The Stand

‘The arc of the moral universe is long, but bends towards justice’

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By JEFF JOHNSON


OLYMPIA (Jan. 17, 2017) — Yesterday the labor movement celebrated Martin Luther King Day with rallies, discussions, and working the State Legislature for policy changes to strengthen our communities. I have to think that the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. would have greatly approved of people working for economic and social justice on this day that we honor his life and work.

In light of the ignorant and uniformed comments by president-elect Donald Trump towards civil rights leader and Congressman John Lewis of Georgia, I began MLK Day by reading a short passage from John Lewis’ autobiography that I would like to share with you today.

In the prologue to his autobiography Walking With the Wind, John Lewis starts by describing the events of a summer day on his father’s farm in rural Georgia.

“…it was a Saturday and about 15 of us children were outside my Aunt Seneva’s house playing in her dirt yard. The sky began clouding over, the wind started picking up, lightning flashed far off in the distance… as the sky blackened and the wind grew stronger, she herded us all inside. Her house was not the biggest place around, and it seemed even smaller with so many children squeezed inside… The wind was howling now, and the house was starting to shake. We were scared. And then it got worse. Now the house was beginning to sway. The wood plank flooring beneath us began to bend. And then a corner of the room started lifting up… The storm was actually pulling the house toward the sky — with us inside it. That was when Aunt Seneva had us clasp hands and walk as a group toward the corner of the room that was rising. And so it went, back and forth, fifteen children walking with the wind, holding that trembling house down with the weight of our small bodies.

“More than a half century has passed since that day, and it has struck me more than once over those years that our society is not unlike those children in that house, rocked again and again by the winds of one storm or another, the walls around us seeming at times as if they might fly apart.

“It seemed that way in the 1960s, at the height of the civil rights movement, when America itself felt as if it might burst at the seams — so much tension, so many storms. But the people of conscience never left the house. They never ran away. They stayed, they came together and they did the best they could, clasping hands and moving toward the corner of the house that was the weakest.

“Children holding hands, walking with the wind. That is America to me — not just the movement for civil rights but the endless struggle to respond with decency, dignity and a sense of brotherhood to all the challenges that face us as a nation, as a whole.”

Congressman John Lewis has led a life of struggling for social and economic justice for all and he has done so with decency and dignity and a profound sense of community. President-elect Trump has not. And for him to claim that John Lewis is “all talk and no action” is not only ignorant and repugnant, but again reveals that president-elect Trump does not have the common decency, dignity, nor demeanor to be considered a legitimate president of our great country.

One can be elected to the Office of President of the United States, either by the people or the Electoral College, but the presidency has to be earned.


15-Jeff-JohnsonJeff Johnson is President of the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO, the largest labor organization in the Evergreen State, representing the interests of more than 600 local unions and approximately 450,000 rank-and-file union members.

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