A Study in Opposites
While watching the funeral of John Lewis I was struck by how different in background, motivation, actions, and character John Lewis and Donald Trump have been. The two men, six years and four months apart in age, who both have had an enormous impact on America, could not be more opposite in almost every aspect of their being.
John Robert Lewis was born in 1940 into a family of dirt poor sharecroppers in then segregated Alabama. As a black child, he was not allowed to borrow books from the local public library. Initially planning to be a Baptist preacher, he graduated from the American Baptist Theological Seminary in Nashville, Tennessee and was ordained as a Baptist minister. He then received a bachelor’s degree in religion and philosophy from Fisk University.
Lewis met Rosa Parks when he was 17. He met Martin Luther King, Jr. when he was 18. Personally familiar with the evils of “Jim Crow” segregation he was inspired by their example to dedicate his life to ending it. As a student, he was committed to the civil rights movement by nonviolent means. He organized sit-ins at segregated lunch counters in Nashville and took part in many other civil rights activities as part of the Nashville Student Movement. In 1961, Lewis became one of the 13 original Freedom Riders and later helped found the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) which helped bring the plight of southern blacks to national attention.
Lewis was the youngest speaker, aged 23, at the 1963 March on Washington. He became nationally known during his prominent role in the Selma to Montgomery marches when, on March 7, 1965 — a day that would become known as “Bloody Sunday” — at the risk of their lives, Lewis and fellow activist Hosea Williams led over 600 marchers across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, where they were attacked by baton wielding state troopers and tear gas. The courage, fortitude, and dedication of Lewis and his peers directly led to the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which finally broke the total control of segregationists over voting rights and government in the South.
In 1986, Lewis was elected to the U. S. House of Representatives and served continuously until July 17, 2020 when cancer forced him to retire. Through his whole career, John Lewis worked tirelessly for fairness and opportunity for all Americans, regardless of race.
Donald John Trump was born in 1946 into the family of a millionaire real estate developer in New York City. In 1964, he enrolled at Fordham University. Two years later he transferred to the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. He graduated in May 1968 with a B.S. in real estate management (not the prestigious Wharton MBA he pretends to have). Profiles of Trump published in The New York Times in 1973 and 1976 erroneously reported that he had graduated first in his class at Wharton, when he had never once made the school’s honor roll. Throughout his college career, Trump was classified as “fit for service” but received the standard student draft deferment. Upon graduation, he was re-classified as “unfit to serve” after his family doctor certified that he had “bone spurs” on his feet.
Trump “was a millionaire by age 8”, borrowed at least $60 million from his father, largely failed to reimburse him, and has received $413 million (adjusted for inflation) from his father’s business empire over his lifetime. Trump’s entire life has been spent promoting himself and his business schemes, regardless of the consequences to others. His businesses in Atlantic City and New York filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection six times between 1991 and 2009, leaving employees, subcontractors, and creditors unpaid. His participation in the Trump University fraud would have put many people in jail.
In 2016, Trump won the Republican nomination for President and won an Electoral College victory, with a minority of the popular vote, to become the 45th President of the United States. Unless you get all your information from Fox and Fox News — or subscribe to one or more Alt-Right conspiracy theories — you have seen what damage the failures of an incompetent, self-serving, prevaricating, narcissistic, would-be autocrat can do to kill 150,000 Americans while making America the pitiable laughingstock of the rest of the world.