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Congressman and Civil Rights Icon Tells Ohioans They Carry A Heavy Burden In This Election

Rep. John Lewis (center) of Georgia.
Howard Wilkinson
Rep. John Lewis (center) of Georgia.

PHILADELPHIA - Rep. John Lewis, the long-time congressman from Georgia who is an icon of the 1960s' civil rights movement, came to the Ohio delegation's breakfast Monday morning for a speech that was brief but to the point.

Ohio controls the fate of the nation, Lewis said.

"It is Ohio; it is Ohio; it is Ohio,'' Lewis said to deafening applause from the delegates, both those supporting Hillary Clinton and those supporting Bernie Sanders.

"Remember this  - you know it – that the other party has never won a national election without winning your state," said Lewis. "So it is all on you."

Lewis was in the news last month when he staged a sit-in on the floor of the U.S. House to try to force Republicans to bring gun control legislation to a vote. The effort failed, but Lewis had as many as 170 members participating in his sit-in.

Lewis talked about growing up as the son of a sharecropper in Alabama who saved up money and bought 110 acres for a farm of his own.

Among other things, Lewis said, they raised chickens on that farm.

"When I was eight or nine years old, I wanted to be a minister," Lewis said. "So I'd get up and preach in front of all the chickens. Some of them would shake their heads, like they were paying attention."

Then, he delivered a punch line that had the crowd roaring in laughter.

"Those chickens, they listened to me better than my Republican colleagues in Congress," Lewis said. "And at least the chickens produced eggs."

The Republican Party, led by Donald Trump, "is trying to take us back. We must send a message – we're not going back. With our nominee, we will go forward," Lewis said, as the crowd rose to its feet and applauded.

"Together, we will create an America where no one is left behind."

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Howard Wilkinson joined the WVXU News Team after 30 years of covering local and state politics for The Cincinnati Enquirer. A native of Dayton, Ohio, Wilkinson has covered every Ohio governor’s race since 1974 as well as 12 presidential nominating conventions. His streak continued by covering both the 2012 Republican and Democratic conventions for 91.7 WVXU. Along with politics, Wilkinson also covered the 2001 Cincinnati race riots; the Lucasville Prison riot in 1993; the Air Canada plane crash at the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport in 1983; and the 1997 Ohio River flooding. The Cincinnati Reds are his passion. "I've been listening to WVXU and public radio for many years, and I couldn't be more pleased at the opportunity to be part of it,” he says.