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EDITOR’S NOTE: The Rural Assembly and the Daily Yonder are projects of the Center for Rural Strategies, a nonprofit organization.

In honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the Rural Assembly shares this reading of the last letter from the late Representative John Lewis (D-Georgia). 

The letter ran in the New York Times after Lewis’ passing in summer 2020 under the headline: “Together, You Can Redeem the Soul of The Nation.”

We believe the words bear repeating today.

The letter is read by Julius Johnson, of Athens, Tennessee. Johnson is the creator and co-host of Spark in the Valley, a current events podcast that explores the political landscape between morals and reality, dedicated to facilitating conversation among adversaries.

He first recorded the Lewis’ letter for his community’s Civic Saturday in October. 

A program of Citizen University, Civic Saturday began in Seattle, and is now in 30 cities across the country, including Athens. Its purpose: to gather friends and strangers together to nurture a spirit of shared purpose, to connect around the values and practices of being an active citizen, reckon with and reflect on our nation’s creed, and build relationships that create new civic traditions that are joyful and communal.

Today we lift up the thread of hope running from King and Lewis to Julius Johnson — and extend it to you, that together we can, as Lewis wrote, answer the highest calling of our hearts and stand up for what we truly believe.

“Though I may not be here with you, I urge you to answer the highest calling of your heart and stand up for what you truly believe. In my life I have done all I can to demonstrate that the way of peace, the way of love and nonviolence is the more excellent way. Now it is your turn to let freedom ring,” Representative John Lewis, 1940-2020

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