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Civil rights legend John Lewis is the voice in Jon Ossoff’s head and heart

Photo provided by Team Ossoff (photographer Kevin Lowery)

If Jon Ossoff unseats Republican David Perdue in January’s run-off election, the 33-year-old Atlanta native will be the youngest member of the Senate and the only millennial. And he’ll look up to thank one man — his mentor and hero, civil rights legend John Lewis.

In an interview with rolling out, Ossoff said Lewis has had the most profound impact on his philosophy and worldview.

“He instilled in me a conviction to fight for justice. He instilled in me a belief in the power of the people to unite and fight for justice. He instilled in me a belief that we can build the Beloved Community here on Earth,” Ossoff said.

Lewis has been the voice inside Ossoff’s head and heart, for more than half his life. When he was 16, after reading the late Congressman’s memoir Walking With the Wind, about his involvement in the fight for the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Act, Ossoff picked up the phone to call Lewis and landed himself an internship.

“He took me under his wing at a very young age and guided me through my career,” Ossoff said, passionately expanding on how Lewis’ influence sparked the flame for his political career and platforms.

“We can end poverty, racism and war. They are not inevitable. We’ve allowed ourselves to be persuaded that those high-end visions of building a world at peace with itself and societies free of racism and violence are somehow naive. It’s not naive. It’s necessary. We need to elevate our eyes again and dream about what we can achieve. The way we achieve it is by exercising our rights at the ballot box because that is how we as citizens have power. So, to anyone out there reading this article who doesn’t believe progress is possible, it is possible,” Ossoff said.

Ossoff told rolling out he’s committed to passing a new Civil Rights Act and criminal justice reform that puts an end to economic, social and criminal disparities for people of color. “We will look back on the peaceful mobilization of last summer after George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor were murdered as our generation’s march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge on Bloody Sunday in Selma, Alabama 1965,” he said.

Ossoff says he’ll also work to make health care a human right for all Americans, pass infrastructure and jobs and a clean energy program that creates millions of jobs, raise the minimum wage to $15, make four-year degrees at public colleges and HBCUs debt-free, and help relieve the burden of student loan debt.

“I’m ready to fight for progress and I expect to be held accountable to the commitments I make. I ask the people to get out and vote because otherwise, we’ll continue to be led by people who are corrupt, self-interested and who do not care about Black and Brown people,” he said.

Early voting is underway for the Jan. 5 run-off races. Find your polling location on My Voter Page.

–karen araiza
Karen Araiza’s award-winning work as a journalist includes a National Emmy for work on struggles facing law enforcement and a National Murrow Award for documentary and storytelling on the opioid crisis.”