The essay, which Lewis asked The New York Times to publish on the day of his funeral, was titled: “Together, You Can Redeem The Soul Of Our Nation.” It was read by Freeman on request from MSNBC host Lawrence O’Donnell, who played it on “The Last Word.”
“While my time here has now come to an end, I want you to know that in the last days and hours of my life you inspired me. You filled me with hope about the next chapter of the great American story when you used your power to make a difference in our society,” Lewis’ message began.
He urged readers to continue carrying out his mantra of getting into “good trouble,” to study and learn lessons from history and to harness the “most powerful nonviolent change agent” in a Democratic society ― the vote.
“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.”
Lewis, who died of cancer on July 17, was buried on Thursday after a memorial service in Atlanta, where he was eulogized by family and former presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush. The New York Times’ acting editorial page editor Kathleen Kingsbury said Lewis sent the essay to the newspaper just two days before his death.
When Lewis died, Freeman said: “The world lost a true American hero today. A man who fought for all of us.”
Listen to his reading below: