john lewis quotes

25 Best John Lewis Quotes: Voting, Education, Good Trouble!

John Lewis recently died at age 80 after devoting his life to the struggle for equality and equal rights. After many years as an activist and organizer, John Lewis served in the House of Representatives from 1987 to 2020. John Lewis organized the March on Washington with MLK, served on the Atlanta City Council, and was a founding member of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee.

John Lewis was one of the most inspiring voices of his generation, and his words often inspired action for justice. Here are some of John Lewis’ best and most famous quotes on voting, good trouble, and “if you see something.”

John Lewis Quotes: Best | Civil Rights | Voting | See Something | Good Trouble | Quotes About John

Best John Lewis Quotes:

“I appeal to all of you to get into this great revolution that is sweeping this nation. Get in and stay in the streets of every city, every village and hamlet of this nation until true freedom comes, until the revolution of 1776 is complete.” – John Lewis, 1963 March on Washington

“To those who have said, ‘Be patient and wait,’ we have long said that we cannot be patient. We do not want our freedom gradually, but we want to be free now! We are tired. We are tired of being beaten by policemen. We are tired of seeing our people locked up in jail over and over again.” – John Lewis, March on Washington speech

Freedom is not a state; it is an act. It is not some enchanted garden perched high on a distant plateau where we can finally sit down and rest. Freedom is the continuous action we all must take, and each generation must do its part to create an even more fair, more just society.” – From John Lewis’ memoir, Across That Bridge

1. Quotes on Faith, Civil Rights

• “Faith is being so sure of what the spirit has whispered in your heart that your belief in its eventuality is unshakable.” – John Lewis quote from his book Across that Bridge

john lewis if not us quote

“If not us, then who? If not now, then when?” – John Lewis

“The civil rights movement was based on faith. Many of us who were participants in this movement saw our involvement as an extension of our faith. We saw ourselves doing the work of the Almighty. Segregation and racial discrimination were not in keeping with our faith, so we had to do something.” – John Lewis quote

“We have been too quiet for too long. There comes a time when you have to say something. You have to make a little noise. You have to move your feet. This is the time.” – John Lewis quote, 2016 House sit-in soon after Pulse shooting in Orlando

john lewis quote education

“Despite real progress, I can’t help but think of young Emmett [Till] today as I watch video after video after video of unarmed Black Americans being killed, and falsely accused. My heart breaks for these men and women, their families, and the country that let them down – again.”

2. Quotes on Voting:

john lewis voting rights act quote

“My dear friends: Your vote is precious, almost sacred. It is the most powerful nonviolent tool we have to create a more perfect union.” – John Lewis quote on voting, 2012 speech in Charlotte, North Carolina

“Sometimes you have to not just dream about what could be—you get out and push, and you pull, and you preach. And you create a climate and environment to get those in high places, to get men and women of goodwill in power to act. — John Lewis on his continuing dedication to nonviolence while reflecting on the March on Washington with Bill Moyers

john lewis quote time chosen

“We may not have chosen the time, but the time has chosen us.” – John Lewis

3. Quotes About Selma

“I say to people today, ‘You must be prepared if you believe in something. If you believe in something, you have to go for it. As individuals, we may not live to see the end.” – John Lewis

john lewis edmund pettis bridge
Photo credit: Joe Raedle / Getty

Selma is a place where we injected something very meaningful into our democracy. We opened up the political process and made it possible for hundreds and thousands and millions of people to come in and be participants.” – John Lewis quote on Selma

• “Fifty years later, those of us who are committed to the cause of justice need to pace ourselves because the struggle does not last for one day, one week, or one year, but it is the struggle of a lifetime, and each generation must do its part.” – John Lewis

john lewis quote voting
Photo credit: Alex Wong

• “If you’re not hopeful and optimistic, then you just give up. You have to take the long hard look and just believe that if you’re consistent, you will succeed.” – John Lewis

*Famous Marcus Garvey Quotes

4. Quotes on God:

“We were beaten, we were tear-gassed. I thought I was going to die on this bridge. But somehow and someway, God almighty helped me here. We cannot give up now. We cannot give in. We must keep the faith, keep our eyes on the prize.” – John Lewis on Selma

john lewis quote divine

“Nothing can stop the power of a committed and determined people to make a difference in our society. Why? Because human beings are the most dynamic link to the divine on this planet.”John Lewis, Across That Bridge

• “You are a light. You are the light. Never let anyone – any person or any force – dampen, dim, or diminish your light. Study the path of others to make your way easier and more abundant.” – Quote from John Lewis’ 2017 memoir, Across That Bridge

john lewis march quote
Photo credit: Ron Harris AP

• “My fellow Americans, this is a special moment in our history. Just as people of all faiths and no faiths, and all backgrounds, creeds, and colors banded together decades ago to fight for equality and justice in a peaceful, orderly, non-violent fashion, we must do so again.” – John Lewis on George Floyd’s death

*Best LeBron James Quotes

5. “If You See Something” Quote

“When you see something that is not right, not just, not fair, you have a moral obligation to say something. To do something. Our children and their children will ask us, ‘What did you do? What did you say?’ For some, this vote may be hard. But we have a mission and a mandate to be on the right side of history.” – John Lewis, Dec. 2019 remarks in the House on the impeachment of President Donald Trump

6. Quotes on Love

• “What I try to tell young people is that if you come together with a mission, and it’s grounded with love and a sense of community, you can make the impossible possible.” – John Lewis

“What I try to tell young people is that if you come together with a mission, and it’s grounded with love and a sense of community, you can make the impossible possible.” – John Lewis quote

*History of the “Death & Taxes” Quote

7. Good Trouble Quote:

“I want to see young people in America feel the spirit of the 1960s and find a way to get in the way. To find a way to get in trouble. Good trouble, necessary trouble.” – John Lewis

• “It was very moving, very moving to see hundreds and thousands of people from all over America and around the world take to the streets to speak up, to speak out, to get into what I call ‘good trouble,’ but to get in the way, and because of the action of young and old, Black, white, Latino, Asian-American, and Native American, because people cried and prayed, people will never, ever forget what happened and how it happened, and it is my hope that we are on our way to greater change.” – on Black Lives Matter protests following George Floyd’s death.

john lewis quote good trouble

“Do not get lost in a sea of despair. Be hopeful, be optimistic. Our struggle is not the struggle of a day, a week, a month, or a year, it is the struggle of a lifetime. Never, ever be afraid to make some noise and get in good trouble, necessary trouble.” – John Lewis tweet, June 2018

“Rosa Parks inspired me to find a way to get in the way, to get in trouble… good trouble, necessary trouble.”John Lewis

Related: Harriet Tubman Quotes

8. Never Give Up

“I believe that you see something that you want to get done, you cannot give up, and you cannot give in.” – John Lewis

“You must be bold, brave, and courageous and find a way… to get in the way.” – John Lewis

“These young people are saying we all have a right to know what is in the air we breathe, in the water we drink, and the food we eat. It is our responsibility to leave this planet cleaner and greener. That must be our legacy.” John Lewis on youth climate activists Sept. 2019

9. Quotes About John Lewis

• After John Lewis’ death, French President, Emmanuel Macron, said of John, “A lifetime of struggle for civil rights. A lifetime of getting into ‘good trouble,’ of fighting for a world that is more just. A true hero. Indeed, ‘because of you, John.”

“Not many of us get to live to see our own legacy play out in such a meaningful, remarkable way. John Lewis did, and thanks to him, we now all have our marching orders — to keep believing in the possibility of remaking this country we love until it lives up to its full promise.”Barack Obama

“Congressman John 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,”Donald Trump tweeted on the weekend of the Martin Luther King Jr. federal holiday.