Eleven years ago, Rep. John Lewis stood on the stage of the Wang Theatre and told the graduates of the Class of 2009 they needed to “get in trouble.”
Lewis — a 17-term Democratic congressman from Georgia, protégé of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and a hero of the civil rights movement, who died July 17 of pancreatic cancer – was that year’s commencement speaker.
He spoke about his childhood on a farm outside of Troy, Alabama; the first time he heard King speak on the radio and the impact it had on his life, his arrests and beatings at the hands of police during the civil rights movement, and his time in Congress.
“I made up my mind as a young child to get into trouble,” Lewis told the graduates. “I decided to get in the way. It was good trouble. It was necessary trouble.
“I appeal to you as graduates: Get in trouble. Good trouble. Necessary trouble. I appeal to you to be good and raw courage. Be not afraid.”
Note: This story has been updated to correct the name of the theater where Lewis spoke.