When I first heard of the death of Representative John Robert Lewis last week, it left me with a large lump in my throat and an overwhelming sense of loss. While I wasn’t necessarily shocked after hearing of his passing – he’d announced several months earlier that he had stage IV pancreatic cancer – I just could not stop thinking about the tremendous void his physical absence will have in the continued efforts for equity and parity for disenfranchised people around the globe, especially for African Americans.
His death is very personal to me. Like so many others in Washington, I had the privilege to work with Representative Lewis – first as the communications director for the Congressional Black Caucus and then as an association lobbyist. I started reflecting on the numerous times I’d taken people into his office to advance a particular issue.
During meetings, Mr. Lewis treated us as if we were family or old friends. He was generous with his time and never rushed us out of the office. I remember him as always engaged, offering help and support where needed. During meetings with him I would privately chuckle, because my clients were in such awe of him, they would often not get around to discuss “the why” they were there to meet. The conversations would automatically pivot to the Civil Rights Movement and the fight for equality and justice. He wouldn’t use words like “I” and “me”, but would speak about “our” and “we.”
His entire life was devoted to racial justice and to building bridges where non existed before. His tireless work and legacy has left an indelible mark on the importance of diversity in every aspect of our lives. As the world, our personal lives and business communities undergo rapidly evolving change, a commitment to the ideal of opportunity for all and an inclusive workforce that represents the colorful mosaic of our local communities is key.
NADA continues to make steps promoting diversity. We are committed to creating strategic partnerships with diverse constituencies to educate them on the positive impact dealerships have in local communities across the country, and supporting opportunities, where available, to continue to diversify the dealership workforce.
While there is more to be done, I am thrilled that my work with NADA will be influenced by the legacy envisioned by Representative John R. Lewis.