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Representative John Lewis, a legendary civil rights leader and member of Congress, died of cancer on 17 July. In a eulogy at his memorial on Thursday, Barack Obama spoke about Lewis’s legacy, especially the importance of continuing his fight to protect voting rights. This is an abridged version of his remarks.

James wrote to the believers: “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing.”

It is a great honor to be back in Ebenezer Baptist church, in the pulpit of its greatest pastor, Dr Martin Luther King Jr, to pay my respects to perhaps his finest disciple – an American whose faith was tested again and again to produce a man of pure joy and unbreakable perseverance – John Robert Lewis.

I’ve come here today because I, like so many Americans, owe a great debt to John Lewis and his forceful vision of freedom.

Now, this country is a constant work in progress. We were born with instructions: to form a more perfect union. Explicit in those words is the idea that we are imperfect; that what gives each new generation purpose is to take up the unfinished work of the last and carry it further than anyone might have thought possible.

John Lewis – the first of the Freedom Riders, head of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, youngest speaker at the March on Washington, leader of the march from Selma to Montgomery, member of Congress representing the people of this state and this district for 33 years, mentor to young people, including me at the time, until his final day on this Earth – he not only embraced that responsibility, but he made it his life’s work.

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