Before U.S. Rep. John Lewis took the stage in a Miami school auditorium Tuesday, local Pastor Carl Johnson led the assembled students in a prayer. He thanked God for Lewis' civil rights work and also addressed a more recent struggle: Lewis' back-and-forth with President-elect Donald Trump.
"Thank you for allowing him to speak his conviction to President-elect Donald Trump," Johnson prayed.
But when Lewis took the stage, he did not mention his feud with Trump, which was sparked when the civil-rights legend and Democratic congressman from Georgia said in a pre-taped "Meet the Press" interview Friday that he did not see Trump as a legitimate president. Trump responded Saturday, Tweeting that Lewis “should spend more time on fixing and helping his district, which is in horrible shape and falling apart (not to mention crime infested) rather than falsely complaining about the election results. All talk, talk, talk — no action or results. Sad!”
Lewis did, however, tell the students assembled at iTech @ Thomas A. Edison Educational Center, a magnet high school in Little Haiti, about the excitement he felt eight years ago when President Barack Obama was inaugurated. Lewis said he cried that day, bittersweet tears for the people who never lived to see an African-American president.
"I was crying for our mothers and our fathers, our grandmothers and our grandfathers," Lewis said as the students cheered. "I was crying for those little girls that were killed in the church in Birmingham. I was crying for Dr. King and many others...people that didn't live to see that day."
Lewis shared stories from the civil-rights movement with the students, including the famous march in Selma, Alabama, during which he suffered a skill fracture. He also encouraged the students, who are part of the 5000 Role Models of Excellence Project, a mentoring and scholarship program founded by U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson, to stay away from gun violence and to stand up for what they believe is right.
"As young men, you have an obligation, a mission and a mandate, you have a legacy to uphold," he said.
After the speech, Lewis took a few questions from reporters, but refused to address the feud with Trump. He did confirm that he had also skipped Bush's inauguration in 2001, despite saying on "Meet the Press" that Trump's would be the first inaugural he'd boycott.
"We didn't attend it like so many other members of Congress did," Lewis said.