Magazine article published March 19, 2009.
U. S. Rep. John Lewis, an icon of the Civil Rights Movement, and a victim of violent police, described the Egyptian movement as “nothing short of a nonviolent revolution.”
Lewis said in a statement, “The peacefulness of this transition on the streets of Cairo is a testament to the people of Egypt — to the discipline of the protestors and the military — who resisted any temptation to descend into brutality. They demonstrated so eloquently the power of peace to persistently broadcast their message of change.”
Lewis continued, “Especially this nation which found its own beginnings in a revolutionary movement, we must always try to find ourselves on the just side of budding movements of non-violent change. We must always give credence to any effort that leads to a more truly democratic world society that values the dignity and the worth of every human being. We must always nurture and empower movements which respect freedom of the press, freedom of worship, freedom of assembly, and the inalienable right to dissent.”
As the transition began this week, the Egyptian military, an ally of the American military, announced on Sunday that it had dissolved Parliament and the Egyptian constitution as it has been known. The tensions are high because of the unknown future, but the Egyptian military is seen as a friend of the Egyptian people and is expected to work with civilians toward building a democracy.
Congressional Black Caucus Chairman Emanuel Cleaver II (D-Mo.) recalled a diversity of people who stood for the quick change and the empathy of American people as they watched.
“For nearly three weeks we have watched with baited breath as Egyptians took control of their political destiny. Young and old, rich and poor, religious and secular, men and women flooded the streets demanding their voices be heard,” he recalled. “As the Congressional Black Caucus we understand the fight for freedom and equality, as well as the hard work that ensues to build a better future.”
The reform in Egypt, which has just begun, will be tedious but can and must be done, reminds Obama.
“By stepping down, President Mubarak responded to the Egyptian people’s hunger for change. But this is not the end of Egypt’s transition It’s a beginning,” President Obama said. “I’m sure there will be difficult days ahead, and many questions remain unanswered. But I am confident that the people of Egypt can find the answers, and do so peacefully, constructively, and in the spirit of unity that has defined these last few weeks. For Egyptians have made it clear that nothing less than genuine democracy will carry the day.”